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Ginger and Turmeric: How Do I Use Them and What Are Their Health Benefits?

September 20, 2016 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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What are the health benefits of ginger and turmeric? How to cook with these spices?

Ginger and turmeric originate from Asia and are used in Asian cuisine, adding a fragrant flavour to dishes. Ginger offers a sweet and spicy zing to dishes. Turmeric provides a golden yellow colour and a warm and bitter taste with a peppery aroma.  Turmeric is one of the main ingredients in Indian curry. Besides adding a tasty twist to dishes, do these spices have reported health benefits too?

Health Benefits of Ginger and Turmeric

Ginger and turmeric have traditionally been used to treat conditions such as coughs, colds, indigestion and body aches. What is the current scientific evidence?

  • Ginger: is reported to be useful in relieving nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy. NOTE:  Health Canada states it is unsafe for pregnant women to drink more than three cups of ginger tea per day. It is unclear whether ginger is helpful for nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy or surgery.
  • Turmeric: there is little reliable scientific evidence to show that turmeric has health benefits. The chemical compound in turmeric, curcumin, may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antioxidant properties. But more research is required.  

ginger and tumeric in whole and ground form
Ginger and turmeric in foods are safe to eat. However, if you are thinking about taking turmeric or ginger supplements, speak with your health care provider first. These supplements can cause side effects and may interact with other medications or supplements.

Cooking with Ginger and Turmeric

Adding ginger and turmeric to your meals can boost the flavour of your dishes and can reduce the amount of salty seasonings and high sodium sauces you may normally reach for. Here are some tips to help you add some spice to your cooking:

  Where to Buy Ginger and Turmeric:

  • Ginger: fresh and ground ginger is available in most grocery stores. You can find fresh ginger in the produce section while ground ginger is usually found in the herbs and spice aisle. Choose fresh ginger that is plump and has smooth and shiny skin. Older roots will look wrinkly and cracked.
  • Turmeric: ground turmeric is available in many ethnic grocery stores or in the ethnic spice aisle of most mainstream grocery stores. Fresh varieties may also be available but can be harder to find.

  How to Prepare and Use Fresh Ginger and Turmeric:

  • Peel the skin off using the edge of a small spoon or vegetable peeler, then grate or finely slice it. Mince it before adding it to your cooking. Wrap the unused portion tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for two to three weeks (for fresh ginger) or up to 10 days (for fresh turmeric). You can also safely store unused and wrapped portions in the freezer, indefinitely.

Recipes that Use Ginger and Turmeric:

  • Turmeric:
    • Try this easy vegetarian curry. You can even make your own curry powder if you’re feeling inspired.
    • Sprinkle turmeric in scrambled eggs, quiche or omelettes to introduce this spice to your family. The bright yellow colour is familiar and blends well into the eggs.
    • Add some zing to your veggies by tossing them with ground turmeric, cumin, minced fresh ginger and garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for 20 minutes. Add to soups to give it a golden colour and warm taste.

Do you add ginger and turmeric to your cooking? Tell us more, below.


Photo credit: kathrynlinge, photo title: Ginger
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