Ginger + your tummy = true love
For the final post for this month's blog theme on holistic health, I thought I'd focus on one of my favorite healing ingredients in the kitchen: ginger! Ginger is renowned in both Eastern and Western medicine as a digestive aid, and as a culinary ingredient, it provides spiciness, juiciness and pungency to all kinds of dishes.
In Ayurveda, ginger is considered a tool to increase agni or "digestive fire" which helps you better break down and assimilate your food comfortably. Now if you just rolled your eyes at "digestive fire," know that scientific research has also indicated that ginger has concrete effects on the digestive process. Ginger is a carminative, which means that it helps both prevent and eliminate gas, and it also relaxes the smooth muscle of the intestines. A study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology also found that ginger stimulates saliva, bile, and gastric enzymes to aid in digestion and that it helps speed the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Here are 3 ways to use this powerful like rhizome throughout the day to improve your digestion.
1. Make a Ginger Tonic before a meal
This recipe is based on a home remedy we learned how to make at my culinary school, The Natural Gourmet Institute. Many graduates--like cookbook author and healing cooking luminary Rebecca Katz--went on to to cook for clients with health issues, particularly cancer patients who suffer all kinds of digestive upset as side effects of their treatment, including nausea, loss of appetite and constipation. This intense tonic is meant to stimulate appetite and get the digestive juices going before a meal. Take a little shot of this before you eat.
To make, mix:
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup
- pinch of cayenne
2. Sip on Ginger Tea between meals
Ginger tea is delicious, affordable and widely available. I generally use a knife to peel my ginger which leaves me with oddly shaped peels that still have plenty of ginger flesh on them. I save these in a glass jar and simmer them in a pot of water for 10-30 minutes to make ginger tea. If you don't have ginger scraps, just slice about 1-inch of clean ginger into thin rounds (peeled or unpeeled) and simmer in water. You could also add spices like star anise, cinnamon or lemon peels to jazz it up, but I like it pretty plain.
When I studied abroad in South India during college, our amazing house cook used to make a super strong ginger tea (long-simmered) and then added a ton of jaggery (basically Indian raw sugar). That was pretty great too.
While I prefer the spiciness of the fresh kind, I also rely on ginger tea bags like Tazo's Organic Spicy Ginger Tea* and Traditional Medicinals Organic Ginger*. I tend to go for the single-ingredient teas so that way I know what I'm getting and avoid sneaky sweeteners and additives like stevia. Consider making your afternoon coffee order a ginger tea, as many major chains will offer it as an option--you can try a chai tea bag or mint tea as good substitutions if you can't find it.
3. Eat Ginger Candy after a meal
Taking one of my favorite foods and covering it in sugar? Yes please! Candied ginger or crystallized ginger is a perfect post-meal bite, when you are craving something a little sweet and want to help your body in digesting your meal. I tend to buy this brand* at Whole Foods and I've also gotten some from The Spice House in Chicago.
Crystallized ginger is actually pretty easy to make (try this recipe from The Kitchn). Basically you simmer slices of ginger in sugar and water and end up with: 1) crystallized ginger and 2) a ginger-flavored simple syrup perfect for cocktails or sweetening tea. If you end up with leftover ginger that's about to go bad, this is a perfect way to preserve it. Although I love my natural sweeteners, I've only made crystallized ginger with cane sugar. Since we are preserving a food, usually a high amount of sugar or salt is necessary so you might not be successful with something like maple syrup. But if you try it, let me know!
Are you craving some ginger now or is it just me? Let me know your favorite ways to use ginger in the comments!
*Note: This is an affiliate link. Affiliate links don't change the price to you--or the fact that these are my true recommendations--but I wanted to make sure that you knew that. Shop through these links if you want to support this blog, skip them if that's not your thing.