Root for Ginger
By Fiona Breslin
Ginger—that funny-looking brown root that you’ll find near potatoes in your supermarket produce section–delivers healing properties and a distinctive flavor that defy its humble, bulbous appearance. The Asian root is pungent, sweet and spicy, and rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. Advocates of natural medicine promote its use as an aid for upset stomachs and loss of appetite. The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that some people with cancer find beverages and foods made with ginger help to soothe their nausea, hence the popularity of drinks such as ginger ale and ginger tea during treatment. The ACS also reports that laboratory studies have shown ginger may help slow tumor growth in animals, although these effects have not been proven in humans.
Gingerol, the main compound in ginger, gives the root its spicy kick. It’s a relative of capsaicin, the hot, cancer-fighting chemical in chili peppers. Ginger root is also a source of heart-healthy nutrients such as magnesium, copper and folate.
Besides the fresh root, ginger can be bought in dried, powdered and extract form. For general cooking purposes, fresh ginger root is the best buy. Choose roots with a lustrous beige skin. They should be firm and plump, with bulbous buds and no wrinkly patches. If you use ginger a lot, buy a large piece; otherwise, buy small pieces about 3 to 4 inches long—you can break off what you need in the store. Ginger will keep in the fruit drawer of the fridge for 10 days to 2 weeks.
It’s important to remember that powdered ginger is no substitute for the fresh root. The fresh kind is featured in many Cook for Your Life recipes, such as Gingery Carrot and Lentil Soup, a tasty and easy-to-prepare dish that combines red lentils, savory caramelized carrots, and thinly sliced ginger root. Or try our Fish En Papillotte with ginger for a quick, nutritious meal of fish fillets, fresh veggies, and ginger baked in a parchment packet. For an easy way to get some ginger, try our Ginger Tea, a soothing option if your stomach is feeling upset.