You are what you eat

August 23, 2006

You are what you eat- Ginger

Filed under: Spices,Uncategorized — nanditaiyer @ 3:15 pm

You are what you eat. Some of the gravest health problems can be caused by food and yet, food can also be a cure for many an ailment. This column is all about food that will work towards your good health. Each week I’ll take a common food item from your kitchen, and show you the wonders  it can do for you. 

Ginger tea. Ginger fried rice. Ginger bread. Aromatic and spicy, ginger can add that zing to any recipe. Ginger is indeed the star of this week.

The botanical name, Zingiber officinale, is said to be derived from its Sanskrit name-‘Singabera’ which means ‘shaped like a horn’.


Ginger has a long, rich history of culinary and medicinal use, throughout Asia as well as the Roman Empire and then to the European countries colonised by

This spice was the mainstay of traditional Indian home remedies to treat ‘cold’ conditions like nausea, cough, colic, loss of appetite, and rheumatism. It was also applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headache. Practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine traditionally use ginger to expel cold and restore depleted yang.

Ginger in Ayurveda

  • Ayurveda recommends eating a couple of thin slices of ginger before a meal to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Traditional Ayurvedic texts recommend ginger for joint pains, morning sickness, motion or airsickness
  • It is also believed to facilitate better absorption of nutrients and better elimination of wastes.

Proven health benefits 

  • Morning sickness experienced in the 1st trimester of pregnancy can be safely relieved by eating fresh ginger root. This natural remedy has no significant side effects or harmful effects on pregnancy.
  • Ginger contains a very potent anti-inflammatory substance called gingerol. This is responsible for its positive effect on rheumatic and arthritic pains. It has been clinically proven that in patients with painful, swollen knees- ginger reduced both the pain and swelling.
  • Gingerol is also seen to selectively destroy the ovarian cancer cells due to its anti-inflammatory effect. Ovarian cancer is often detected very late due to absence of symptoms till the later stages. Regular consumption of ginger could well be the mode of prevention for this hidden cancer.
  • Reaching out for a cup of ginger-tea during the rains and cold wintry evenings is nature’s own way of strengthening our immunity. Our grannies didn’t give us a weekly dose of ‘inji chaar’  (ginger juice) for no reason.

Ginger is highly concentrated with active substances, so you need very little quantities to benefit from it.  Ginger tea made by steeping two 1/2-inch slices of pounded fresh ginger in a cup of hot water, relieves nausea. In arthritic conditions, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger in food, although studies show that patients who consumed more ginger reported quicker and better relief. 

Gingery tips

  • In India, fresh ginger is available in most vegetable markets. Select the dry root as against the moist soft root. The former will stay fresh longer.
  • If the skin is not too tough, the ginger can be washed thoroughly and chopped finely with the skin intact to suit your requirement. The skin can be peeled with a paring knife in case it is very tough.
  • You can grow ginger in your backyard!  Buy fleshy gingers with many buds. Soak them in warm water overnight, and then set them just under the soil surface with the buds facing up. Water lightly at first, then more heavily when growth starts.  Expect plants to reach maturity, and a height of 2 to 4 feet, in 10 months to a year. Dig up new, young sprouts that appear in front of the main plants (they form their own tubers), use what you need, and freeze or replant the rest.

More ways to use ginger in your diet

  • Sprinkle salt and lime juice on slices of ginger. Eat a couple of thin slices before each meal.
  • Add freshly grated ginger with toasted sesame seeds in salad dressings.
  • A Tbsp of finely chopped ginger, sautéed with green chillies and green peas can be mixed with leftover rice to make ginger fried rice.
  • Make herbal tea using ginger slices and tulsi (Holy Basil) or mint leaves steeped in hot water.

Recipe for your health-food file

Adapted from a recipe originally published in the book –Foods that fight pain by Dr.Neal Barnard.

Guilt-free Gingerbread

This recipe is extremely simple. It has all the flavour and goodness of ginger without the use of oil or butter.


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (chapatti flour)

1/2 cup semolina (rava)

3 Tbsp sugar

3 T grated jaggery

3 T honey

Handful of pitted, chopped dates

Handful of raisins

1 generous Tbsp of grated fresh ginger root

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 tsp clove powder

Pinch of salt

1 3/4 cup water

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder


1. Combine the raisins, dates, sugar, salt, spices, and water in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and cool completely (This is important).
2. Once thoroughly cool, preheat oven to 350°F / 175 C. Stir the flours, baking soda, and baking powder together.

3. Add to the cooled fruit mixture and stir to mix. Spread into a 9- x 9-inch pan lined with non-stick foil bake for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

4. Makes a 9 X9 inch cake. Cut into thick slices once cooled and save in an air-tight container.

You can have this as an after-dinner bite or add it to your kind’s tiffin box as a healthy treat.

Disclaimer:The contents of this column such as text, images, recipe recommendations, and other materials are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider for any health problem or medical condition. 

© Nandita Iyer



  1. Hi. I currently have a virus that is making me feel kind of motion sick, and I also have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I didn’t realize that it had anti-inflamitory properties… That’s great. I’ll try anything before I have to take plaquenil. I ate about a tablespoon worth of fresh ginger once when going on a trip, and the stuff really burns! So I see you’re telling people that they can eat it daily before meals, but was I maybe eating the wrong kind? Or should it be more dry? It was quite moist inside with a shimery skin. And thats what I bought again. I just can’t imagine chomping on it everyday it packs quite a punck. Haha
    And ideas?

    Comment by Stephanie Z — March 21, 2007 @ 5:38 am

  2. punch*

    Comment by Stephanie Z — March 21, 2007 @ 5:39 am

  3. Can I eat or cook with the leaves of the ginger plant? They are so tender and smell lovely. Love to cook.

    Comment by Barbara — July 3, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  4. is ginger good for stomack reflux

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