The Nutritional Benefits of Ginger
by Dennis Gordon, MEd, RD
Ginger has long been used in Asian medicine to treat stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea. A common use of ginger is to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, surgery and pregnancy. Ginger has also been used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint and muscle pain, as it is believed to have some anti-inflammatory properties.
Ways to consume ginger are fresh or dried ginger root, tablets, capsules, liquid extracts (tinctures), fresh ginger root tea, ginger tea packets, ginger candies and candied ginger. Ginger ale or ginger snaps contain some ginger, but they most likely will not offer the medicinal amount needed to benefit patients.
Few side effects are linked to ginger when taken in small doses. Reported side effects include gas, bloating, heartburn and nausea, which have most often been reported with powdered ginger.
Results of most clinical trials support the efficacy of ginger as a short-term antiemetic agent for pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, although studies are mixed on whether ginger is effective for nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy or surgery. Other studies suggest that ginger has antiemetic properties with cisplatin or cyclophosphamide induced nausea.
It is not clear whether ginger is effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or joint and muscle pain. The lack of quality human trials on chemotherapy associated nausea makes ginger an uncertain evidence-based treatment. However, its benefit with pregnancy-associated nausea and motion sickness, as well as evidence from animal studies, may make ginger at least a potential tool in helping patients who are not well controlled by other nausea-reducing medications.
Cooking with Ginger
by Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS
For its culinary uses, ginger is sold fresh, dried as powder, pickled in vinegar, preserved and candied. Dried ginger is mainly used in baking, such as in ginger snaps and gingerbread. Pickled ginger is used as a relish or garnish, while preserved and candied ginger may be eaten as confections.
Fresh ginger imparts a very different flavor and is often used in fruit salads, curries, stir-fried dishes and more. Most Asian food stores sell young fresh ginger, which has a pale, thin skin that doesn’t need peeling. However, large supermarkets usually sell mature ginger (also known as raw ginger) with a tough outer skin that you’ll need to peel.
Look for smooth skin – not dried or wrinkled – and use a metal teaspoon to peel the root instead of a knife. Fresh ginger can be sliced, grated or minced (with a garlic press) into soups, stews, curries, chutneys, salads, condiments, stir-fried dishes or teas. You can also extract juice from the root for use in salad dressings, marinades or to add some zip to beverages like lemonade or iced tea.
Using Ginger in Food Service
by Linda Lafferty, PhD, RD, and Stanley Walker
Fresh ginger adds a wonderfully piquant flavor and a texture dimension to the aesthetic appeal of menu items prepared in quantity. Using powdered or candied ginger in a recipe serving 400 is a no-brainer, but using fresh ginger might seem like a daunting task. Not so! Fresh ginger is found in institutional and commercial kitchens across the country. Through major food distributors, fresh ginger for quantity can typically be purchased fresh or as processed fresh ginger in vinegar.
Although the processed fresh ginger is very useful, many chefs prefer to prepare their own fresh ginger to achieve desired texture or flavor characteristics for their menu item. To process fresh ginger, wash it and remove the woody ends and stems, but it does not have to be peeled. The ginger can be put through a food processor, blender or buffalo chopper for desired consistency. If the processed ginger will be stored in a refrigerator for a few days, add vinegar to reduce oxidation.