How to Use Ginger in a Health-Promoting Diet
by Alexandra Rothwell Kelly, MPH, RDApril 2018
Across the globe, millions of people are suffering from preventable chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Yet, health efforts are often focused on managing disease after it has materialized rather than equipping people with the tools to lead disease-free lives.
As a registered dietitian, my goal is to aid in the transition toward healthier diets and lifestyles for increased quality of life and prevention of disease, whenever possible. However, I am often confronted with eager questioning about individual foods or specific diet styles, as media outlets influence us to believe in “magic bullet” ingredients. Unfortunately, there are no quick-fix ingredients without the context of an overall lifestyle, and even specific diet styles that I promote have less than ideal loopholes. I say this because I am a regular advocate for the consumption of ginger, due to its myriad health benefits, but it is important to think about how ginger fits into the greater diet in order to reap its full rewards.
Unlike many “health foods”, the strength of ginger is well researched. Shogaols and gingerols are the phytochemical powerhouses of ginger, which have been found to positively affect multiple physiological systems. Inflammation is a component of many chronic diseases, and in studies, ginger has demonstrated suppression of inflammatory proteins and promise in reducing inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, neurological diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Obesity and poor blood sugar management are other common precursors to more consequential illness. Some studies have found that ginger may aid in the reduction of body fat and help to moderate appetite in addition to controlling blood sugar.
I often joke that my job can be boiled down to helping people eat more vegetables, as diets rich in non-starchy vegetables are key for most health goals – especially those related to preventable disease. Ginger, a root vegetable with all of the benefits mentioned above (and more), easily fits into this recommendation. Though, unlike typical vegetables, ginger’s powerful flavor needs carriers to not overwhelm the palate. Here are a few of my favorite ways to include ginger in a diet that is geared toward overall wellness:
Smoothies can be an incredible way to add plant-based foods to the diet, but I often see them packed with fruit and loaded with sugar. For a truly healthy (and more filling) smoothie, the bulk should come from leafy green vegetables. Include a few tablespoons of coconut, hemp or flax seeds for fat, and limit fruit to no more than one cup, ideally berries. In the absence of extreme sweetness, The Ginger People Ginger Juice or Minced Ginger adds a satisfying pop of spice.
I usually encourage clients to eat a filling salad for lunch most days of the week to check the box of nutrient needs and relieve some pressure from other meals. Here again, the base of the salad should always come from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables with a few tablespoons of fat from organic dairy, nuts, seeds or avocado. Use The Ginger People Minced Ginger or Grated Ginger to flavor the salad or make your own salad dressing from these.
Another vegetable-increasing intake I recommend is to cook in bulk. About once a week, prepare a few sheet pans full of cut vegetables, roast in the oven, store in the refrigerator, and add to meals throughout the week. Try one of The Ginger People sauces for seasoning.