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Food in focus: ginger

Ginger – you might find it raw, dried, pickled, preserved, crystalised, ground or as an oil. With an unmistakable fragrance and flavour that’s both peppery and sweet, it’s used in everything from savoury dishes to sweet treats to smoothies.

This versatile spice also packs a health punch. Ginger – the underground stem of the Zingiber officinale plant - has a rich history of healing and has been traded as a valuable spice since the first century.

So, what is it that makes ginger so special? Here are three health benefits modern science backs.

Relieving nausea 

For centuries ginger has been used to counteract the effects of nausea and vomiting and Western science continues to support this, with studies showing benefits for relieving morning sickness during pregnancy, motion sickness and even nausea caused by some cancer treatments. It has also been found to be an effective remedy against indigestion, as ginger may help your stomach empty faster leaving less time for foods to cause problems.

Reducing pain from inflammation

With powerful anti-inflammatory properties, consuming ground powdered ginger may help reduce joint pain from osteoarthritis and ease muscle pain after intense exercise. Research has also found topical ginger ointment may help ease inflammation, with relief found from applying ginger extract to the skin of painful joints.  Ginger may also help reduce the intensity and duration of severe period pain.  

Fighting germs

Ginger may help fight viruses. Eating fresh ginger has been linked to antiviral benefits, thanks to a high concentration of potent plant compounds that may help prevent respiratory infection. While more research is needed to determine exactly what impact ginger has on our immune function, including ginger as part of a healthy plant-based diet rich in fruit, veggies, wholegrains and legumes is may help your body fight off those winter ills and chills.  

There’s more to come on the health benefits of this tasty spice. Research into ginger and its health benefits is an area that continues to attract a lot of interest. One area to watch is ginger and cancer. There is some research to show ginger is effective in controlling the extent of colorectal, gastric, ovarian, liver, skin, breast, and prostate cancers, but more research is needed in this area.

Our favourite ways to spice things up with ginger

A great one for winter, we love a warming ginger tea while the weather’s cool. You could also try infusing water with ginger or adding some to your morning smoothie. Add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to your stir-fry or noodles for some zing. Or if you’re after something a little sweeter, why not try a spiced gingerbread cake.