Ginger is an incredibly healing food with a wide range of medicinal and culinary uses. It is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories. It is also high in antioxidant activity, and can even selectively kill certain types of cancer cells. But even with its many benefits, if you have never worked with this funny knobly little rhizome (stem), it can be challenging to know what to do with it. Here are a few ways we love to add this versatile superfood to our diets.

Choosing and Preparing Ginger

Fresh ginger is always preferable over dried. It is usually available in the produce section of most grocery stores. If you do have to use dried ginger, get an organic powder to avoid irradiation, and choose one that smells pungent.

If you are able to access fresh ginger, look for a piece that has a relatively soft, thin skin and is free of mold or excessive dirt.

Young ginger has thinner skin and a lighter, fresher flavor, while older ginger will be more bitter and earthy with a thick skin.

Young ginger just needs a rinse to get rid of any debris, while older ginger usually needs to be peeled. If your ginger is not organic, definitely peel it. Then you can slice, chop, or grate ginger any way you like.

1. Chew It

Yes, its that simple. Chew a half-inch piece of ginger for several minutes to improve your breath, support digestion, soothe a sore throat, reduce inflammation in the gums, and ease nausea. It will be strong and spicy, so this method is not for the faint of heart.

2. Drink It

Ginger makes a wonderful tea that is helpful before, during, and after meals to support digestion. Ginger tea can help pregnant mommas get through morning sickness.

Slice an inch of ginger into four or six slices and simmer on low heat, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Add a little honey or a squeeze of lemon for more flavor and belly-helping goodness.

3. Brew It

Make your own ginger ale at home and enjoy the immunity and digestive system boosting effects of probiotics combined with the gingery goodness. It takes a little time and effort but is well worth it to have your own yummy healthy soda.

4. Blend It

Ginger is a great addition to smoothies. It gives a nice flavor to fruit or vegetable-based blended drinks, and is an essential ingredient in our green smoothies. In a high powered blender it will completely pulverize and help unite the flavors of the other ingredients.

5. Juice It

Ginger makes a spicy addition to fresh fruit and vegetable juices. In fruit juice it can help provide a grounding earthiness to balance out the sugar, and in veggie juices it adds a nice flavor. A little goes a long way; you only want to add an inch or two for every serving of juice.

If you feel a cold coming on, a shot of fresh ginger juice with a squeeze of lemon is a good way to nip it in the bud.

6. Stew It

Ginger is a vital addition to many soup stocks. It helps bring out the flavors in the vegetable and makes the soup more digestible over all.

7. Fry It

Ginger is a critical component in stir-fries and many other Asian-inspired dishes. It is also one of the base ingredients in classic curries. To make curry like a pro, saut some grated ginger with whole cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds in organic coconut oil for a few minutes, just until the seeds start to pop. This will make your kitchen smell fantastic.

Then add the lentils, rice, mung beans, or whatever grain or legume you like (hopefully you have soaked it overnight first) a little sea salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir the mixture very well for a couple minutes, then reduce the heat, add water, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

8. Just Toss It In

The beauty of ginger in the kitchen is that it can go with almost any dish, sweet or savory. Adding ginger when you first heat the water or oil will impart a milder flavor to the dish, while waiting until near the end will make the flavor stronger. Heat and oxygen destroy some of the medicinal benefits, so it you are eating the ginger for health reasons it is better to toss it in when the dish is nearly done cooking.

Ginger is an extremely versatile food, both for its medicinal value and culinary uses. You can eat or drink it in a variety of ways, and each is appropriate at different times and for different effects. Add ginger to your diet as a part of a healthy lifestyle, and enjoy the zing and warmth of this ancient healing food.

Check out this quick video to find how to make ginger tea