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Let's Talk All Things "GINGER"... (not to be confused Ginger from Gilligan's Island)

Written by Coach Cathy Barry Schadskaya - Head Coach from Eclipse Track & Field Club Inc.

I still remember my first encounter with Ginger. It was my first time eating sushi and with it came this thinly sliced pink salmon looking thing and right beside that, this bright green creamy paste. I was told the pink salmon looking thing was "ginger" and it was a great pairing with sushi and wasabi (the green paste). Little did I know that this "ginger" is not meant to be placed on top of my sushi but rather ginger is meant to be eaten between sushi servings to cleans the palate. You can thank me later for saving you from future embarrassing situations with your sushi and you can now come across as an astute connoisseur of all things ginger.

My second encounter with Ginger was at the grocery store. I saw what looked like a strange light brown root vegetable and as I read the label, I saw it was called ginger. I was dumbfounded because I thought ginger was pink and thinly sliced and resembled raw salmon or even pink trout. Again, the things I thought I knew but really I had no clue whatsoever. At least I'm grateful that my education on ginger has definitely been fruitful and my perception of this weird looking root has changed for the better. Ginger, as it turns out, has way many more uses than just to place on your sushi because that's what people do or for those that are now in the know, we only use it to cleans our palate.

So let's talk about its origin and history first:

Ginger comes from a perennial plant with tubercles. The root of ginger appears in the from of a twisted rhizome which are harvested after flowering. "Rhizomes, also called creeping rootstalk, horizontal underground plant stem capable of producing the shoot and root systems of a new plant. Rhizomes are used to store starches and proteins and enable plants to perennate (survive an annual unfavourable season) underground." (Encyclopedia Britannia). Ginger also hails from the same family as turmeric which also has many great medicinal properties.

The history of ginger dates back to about 5000 years ago in Southeast Asia, India and China. The earliest documented evidence of ginger was as medicinal and spiritual uses. Ginger then became a highly sought out spice later in the 14th Century, making its way to Europe as a way to ward off the Plague of the Middle Ages. As time went on, ginger made its way into culinary dishes all over Europe and East Asia.

What's Up with Ginger?

Ginger is versatile. It has long been used in traditional medicine to help with digestive upset and has anti-nausea properties. The medicinal characteristics of ginger come form the abundance of "6-gingerol" which is an oleoresin (essential oil and a resin).

6-gingerol has been found to help with calcium uptake which can benefit those with heart problems and high blood pressure. The evidence also shows that 6-gingerol may help with the management of colitis due to it's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. As well, it has potential uses in the area of arthritic conditions, rheumatism, muscle pain, headaches and cancer risk reduction.

Ginger has long been used in herbal teas with honey and lemon to help digestion and reduce gas as well as stimulating appetite before a meal. For patients who are on chemotherapies or other cancer drugs, Ginger can help stimulate an appetite which is crucial in recovery from cancer killing regimens.

Lastly, Gingerol may also reduce the risk of infections, especially with inflamed gums.

What to do with it once you buy it:

Fresh ginger can be stored for two to three weeks in the refrigerator on a shelf. It is best to avoid the vegetable drawer: excessive moisture can cause it to mold.

It can be stored in the freezer and grated frozen to prevent it from becoming soggy.

It can also be macerated in alcohol such as brandy or sherry, or candied in sugar syrup or maple syrup. And it can be ground up and used in sweets, stews, teas or breads etc...there really is no limit to Ginger's use in the kitchen.

Aside from taking ginger when you are feeling sick to your stomach or nauseated, it is a good idea to incorporate ginger in your daily diet. However, it is recommended to only take in 3-4 grams of ginger per day as more could cause quite the opposite such as reflux, heartburn and diarrhea.

Lastly, ginger has been hailed as the hangover killer. And it's no wonder with its anti-nausea and anti-inflammation properties that it will neutralize some of the effects of alcohol in the system. So next time you think about having a few drinks, try adding ginger to your favourite drink, such as a Moscow Mule made with ginger beer.

Ginger as it relates to Sports Performance:

How ginger can benefit athletes is still being investigated however there is some preliminary evidence which is showing how ginger can promote metabolic flexibility. According to Mission, Ginger may have the ability to help our metabolism through switching muscles to be more fat-depended as opposed to carbohydrate-dependent. This would mean that ginger extract supplementation would improve exercise endurance capacity and also reduce diet-induced obesity. More research needs to be done in this area but it's preliminary findings are exciting.

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