Everything you need to know about ginger
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) is a sweet-spicy spice and can be eaten fresh, dried or canned. In addition, it is a natural remedy against nausea and stomach problems. Ginger is rich in vitamins (C, Bs, E), minerals, (potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, phosphorus, calcium) and antioxidants (gingerol).
Ginger root has appeared in recent years in almost all supermarkets and is no longer a novelty for housewives in Romania or for people passionate about natural remedies. When it comes to ginger, the Internet is full of videos that teach you how to quickly clean it with a spoon or articles about ginger tea, ginger for pregnant women, candied or pickled ginger.
We set out to tidy up the existing information and write an article to find out everything you need to know about it: an overview, nutritional information (for 100 g of ginger root and powder), the benefits of this root, which is the way of administration, storage and use, but also the answer to many questions about ginger. Discover them all below!
Ginger (in its Latin name, Zingiber officinale) is related to turmeric and cardamom and from the plant we can consume the rhizome (underground stem). It is believed that the botanical name of this plant is derived from the Sanskrit name ("srngaveram", which in translation means “horn-shaped”). It has a white, yellow or red pulp, with a streaked texture and covered with a light brown shell, thicker or thinner (depending on how mature the root was at harvest).
Ginger root is a versatile spice, which is used for thousands of years, in various cultures and for medicinal purposes. Therefore, it is considered to be a „superfood”: this term was created in the early twentieth century and refers to all those foods that offer maximum nutritional benefits with a minimum number of calories. Ginger root is a superfood duet o the hundreds of substances it contains – among them the volatile and antioxidant oils gingerol, shogaol and zingerona.
Short history of ginger
Originally from the islands of SE Asia, ginger is mentioned in ancient texts from China, India and the Middle East, being appreciated for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. The Romans imported it from China almost 2,000 years ago, this spicy root becoming popular in the Mediterranean area and, after the Middle Age, in other countries of the old continent, despite the high price (in the XIII-XIV centuries, 450 g of ginger cost as much as a sheep).
In the 16th century, Spanish explorers introduced it to the agriculture of the East Indies, Mexico and South America and these areas became exporters of ginger. Today, the main commercial producers of this spice and natural remedy are India, Jamaica, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.
Ways in which ginger can be consumed
Ginger can be eaten fresh, dried, pickled, canned, candied, crystallized, as a whole, in the form of powder or food supplements. In the fresh version, it can be eaten grated, diced or julienne, with / without shell, in Asian dishes or sweet recipes. In the ground version, it can be used in desserts and curry mixes. Pickled ginger (in sweet vinegar) is served with sushi. The preserved one (in a mixture of sugar and salt) is consumed as a dessert, especially in combination with watermelon. The crystallized one (cooked in sugar syrup) and the candied one (in sugar) are also sweet variants of ginger.
What does ginger taste like?
In its natural (fresh) state, this root is sweet-spicy, similar to pepper, with a strong spicy aroma. Like garlic, cooked ginger loses its intense taste and becomes bitter if left on the fire for too long. Ginger powder does not have an equally intense aroma, being sweeter and less spicy.
The concentration of essential oils increases as the rhizome matures. Therefore, 5-month-old ginger has a thin skin, a light aroma and is deliciously fresh or preserved; the one harvested after 9 months has a hard skin, a strong taste and is used for oil extraction, drying and grinding.
Nutritional information (100 g)
100 g of fresh ginger root- 80 kcal
- 17,8 g carbohydrates (6% of RDD),
- 2 g fiber (8% of RDD),
- 1,8 g protein (4% of RDD),
- 0,7 g of total fat (1% of RDD),
- 0,2 g of saturated fat,
- 0,6 g of unsaturated fat,
- 5 mg Vitamin C (8% of RDD),
- 0,3 mg Vitamin E (1 % of RDD),
- 0,7 mg Vitamin B3 (4% of RDD),
- 0,2 mg Vitamin B5 (2% of RDD),
- 0,2 mg Vitamin B6 (8% of RDD),
- 11 mcg Vitamin B9 (3% of RDD),
- 16 mg calcium (2% of RDD),
- 0,2 mg copper (11% of RDD),
- 0,6 mg iron (3% of RDD),
- 34 mg phosphorus (3% of RDD),
- 43 mg magnesium (11% of RDD),
- 0,2 mg manganese (11% of RDD),
- 415 mg potassium (415% of RDD),
- 0,7 mcg selenium (1% of RDD),
- 13 mg sodium (1% of RDD),
- 0,3 mg zinc (2% of RDD)
100 g of dried ginger (powder)- 347 kcal - 70,8 g carbohydrates (24% of RDD),
- 12,5 g of fiber (50% of RDD),
- 9,1 g protein (18% of RDD),
- 5,9 g total fat (9% of RDD),
- 1,9 g saturated fat,
- 2,3 g unsaturated fat,
- 147 UI Vitamin A (3% of RDD),
- 7 mg Vitamin C (12% of RDD),
- 18 mg Vitamin E (90% of RDD),
- 0,8 mcg Vitamin K (1% of RDD),
- 0,2 mg Vitamin B2 (11% of RDD),
- 5,2 mg Vitamin B3 (26% of RDD),
- 0,8 mg Vitamin B6 (42% of RDD),
- 39 mcg Vitamin B9 (10% of RDD),
- 116 mg calcium (12% of RDD),
- 0,5 mg copper (24% of RDD),
- 11,5 mg iron (64% of RDD),
- 148 mg phosphorus (15% of RDD),
- 184 mg magnesium (46% of RDD),
- 26,5 mg manganese (1.325% of RDD),
- 1.343 mg potassium (38% of RDD),
- 38,5 mcg selenium (55% of RDD),
- 32 mg sodium (1% of RDD),
- 4,7 mg zinc (31% of RDD).
Benefits and properties
People have been using ginger root for cooking and medicinal purposes since ancient times. This is a traditional folk remedy for nausea, stomach and menstrual cramps, inflammations, skin burns and more. The aroma and taste of the rhizome come from the natural oils it contains, the most important being gingerol. This bioactive substance has strong anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Ginger has been and is being studied by researchers in humans, animals and in the laboratory, to understand its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic (which encourages perspiration), carminative (which promotes intestinal gas removal) and spasmolytic (which relaxes the intestinal tract), to determine what is ginger is good for and to clarify its limits.
In this regard, it is still studying whether it can reduce the symptoms of hangover, hypertension, time spent under intubation (in case of respiratory failure), pain and healing time (at children operated for tonsils), if it can treat colds and flu, irritable bowel syndrome, mosquito bites, migraines and menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding) or if it can help obese people lose weight.
In order of their importance, below you can discover what benefits the inclusion of ginger in your diet brings to you!
Ginger can reduce nausea
This root is effective in preventing nausea (note a 2000 analysis), having applicability in case of motion sickness (especially water, according to a 1994 study), post-operative nausea, anti-HIV / AIDS treatments and chemotherapy (research from 2006 and 2011 proves), morning sickness during pregnancy (according to studies from 2014 and 2019). If you are pregnant and want to eat ginger, always ask your doctor for advice on the right dose for you!
Ginger can calm the stomach
Thanks to ginger enzymes, it is an excellent carminative: it helps the elimination of excess gas from the digestive system, accelerates digestion, calms the intestinal tract and can treat bloating, colic, dyspepsia (chronic indigestion), constipation and stomach pain, according to studies from 2008 and 2011.
Ginger can relieve menstrual pains (dysmenorrhea)
Ginger seems to be very effective against menstrual pain when consumed at the beginning of the menstrual cycle, according to a 2009 study. The doses studied were 1-2 g / day for a period of 3 days. In addition, ginger tea can be a reliable adjuvant in this regard.
Ginger has antioxidant properties
Free radicals are toxic results of chemical processes in the body, unstable atoms in drugs, pollutants, pesticides and cigarettes, which damage human cells and tissues by oxidation. Free radicals cause premature aging, overload immunity and lead to chronic diseases (heart, cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s).
Oxidative stress can be combated with antioxidants, such as those found in ginger. Research from 1992, 1993, 1994, 2000 (1 and 2), 2001, 2002 (1 and 2), 2008 (1 and 2) and 2009 show that ginger reduces oxidative stress and has an antioxidant role. Raw ginger root contains a very high level of antioxidants: it has an ORAC score of 14,840 μ mol TE / 100 g (these units measure the antioxidant capacity in vitro), being surpassed only by pomegranates and some types of berries.
Ginger is antibacterial
Gingerol, the bioactive substance in it, can reduce the risk of infections, can stop the development of different types of bacteria (according to studies from 2008 and 2012 – 1 and 2) and can fight against respiratory syncytial virus / RSV (according to a 2013 study).
Ginger fights inflammation, joint and muscle pain
Ginger root is rich in volatile oils, whose active ingredient (gingerol) can reduce pain and improve the mobility of people with (osteo) rheumatoid arthritis, notes specialized analyzes from 1992, 2001, 2011 and 2015. And two studies from 2010 (1 and 2) have proven effective in reducing muscle pain caused by sports. This is due to the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, studied in 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2017.
Ginger can reduce the risk of cancer
Cancer – a disease characterized by the uncontrolled development of abnormal cells – could be treated with ginger. Researchers suggest that gingerol from fresh ginger root may reduce markers of inflammation in the colon (2011), tumor development in the lungs (2016) and may be effective in colorectal (2013), pancreatic (2006), ovarian (2007) and breast (2017).
Ginger can fight diabetes and heart disease
Specialized research (since 2005, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2015) suggests that ginger may have an antidiabetic effect: it lowers blood sugar and increases glucose tolerance. In addition to a healthy diet, low in added sugar and saturated fats, the same anti-inflammatory properties if ginger can reduce risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol, triglycerides (1998, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2016) and improving lipid metabolism (2009).
Ginger can help the brain
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate cognitive decline and cause dementia in old age. Ginger can be a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (note studies from 2008 and 2014), helps improve the reaction time and memory of middle-aged women (2012) and maintains brain function at optimal levels also at old ages (2011, 2012, 2013).
- fights nausea
Contraindications and side effects
Ginger is a spice and a safe food supplement for human consumption in normal doses. Side effects that some people who use ginger may have include: chest burns, diarrhea, upset stomach, menorrhagia (after consumption) and irritation (after application to the skin). Ginger can be eaten by pregnant or breastfeeding women (if they get the approval of an obstetrician). Ginger is not recommended for people taking medications for diabetes, hypertension or blood thinning (aspirin, ibuprofen), suffering from gallstones, heart disease. Always seek medical advice before consuming ginger if you already have health problems or are taking medication!
How to choose and how to store ginger
Choose as often as possible to eat fresh ginger, which contains more gingerol and has a superior aroma. Buy firm, smooth ginger roots without mold stains or areas where the skin has wrinkled. Powdered ginger is more concentrated than fresh ginger, but it is not as spicy. Theoretically, 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger is equivalent to ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger, but not every recipe allows such substitutions. If you bought fresh ginger root, then wrap it in a paper towel, put it in a plastic bag and store it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Or peel it, put it in a jar and cover it with Madeira wine or sherry wine for up to 3 months; attention – this ginger will get an aroma of alcohol! Fresh ginger can be frozen, including the shell, for up to 6 months (wrap the root tightly with cling film and aluminum foil , then freeze it).
The dried and ground one is kept in a covered container, in a cool and dark place, for up to 6 months (or up to 1 year, if you put the container in the refrigerator). The pickled and preserved ginger is kept in the jar in which it was bought, in the refrigerator, until the term indicated on the label. The crystallized and candied ginger are kept in a covered casserole, in a cool and dark place, for up to 3 months or until the term indicated on the label.
Way of ussage and administration
When used for food, it can be eaten fresh or ground, in sauces, dishes, salads, baked vegetables, drinks (ginger tea, lemonades, smoothies, latte) and desserts.
When used for medicinal purpose, it can be administered orally or applied directly to the skin. The recommended doses are as follows:
- against nausea caused by anti-HIV / AIDS treatments – 1 g of ginger, in two doses (30 minutes before treatment, for 14 days);
- against menstrual cramps – 500 mg of powdered ginger, three times / day (two days before the start of menstruation and three days during it);
- against morning sickness – 500 – 2,500 mg of ginger, administered in 2-4 doses (for three days, up to three weeks) or 20-40 g of ginger infused in a cup of hot water (ginger tea).
Did you know that…?
- In the middle of the 16th century, Europe imported over 2,000 tons of ginger annually from the East Indies.
- In 19-th century British pubs, bartenders left small bowls of ground ginger at hand, which customers could sprinkle in mugs of beer.
- The British made gingerbread from finely ground almonds, flour, sugar, eggs, rose water and ginger, pressed the paste into wooden shapes and decorated them with white and gold icing.
- Queen Elizabeth I of Great Britain is said to have invented the gingerbread man, impressing the dignitaries who visited her and turning him into a popular Christmas treat.