More than just herb and spice

Daniel Lim

While the thought of healthy eating and living might entail fruits and vegetables, health benefits can also come from unlikely ingredients that are easily sourced from local supermarkets.

Certified health coach Preety Tyagi from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York recently shared her knowledge on such sources and ingredients that have surprisingly major health benefits.

One such ingredient she pointed out was the locally abundant ginger. “Ginger has been well known for its health benefits in reducing nausea, aiding digestion, helping to fight common flu and cold etc. But there is a lot more to this powerful herb.”

She explained how the unique flavour and smell in the ginger comes from its natural oils, the most prominent one being gingerol. “Gingerol is the main compound that is present in ginger and that makes it so potent and healthy.”

“Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory which contains a lot of anti-oxidants which makes it excellent for protecting people from infections, viruses and bacteria. It is an anti-bacterial and anti-viral food to be included in one’s daily diet to boost immunity.”

Ginger also helps eliminate the feeling of nausea and morning sickness, which aids pregnant women significantly while also helping people deal with motion sickness. “Just to have the aroma and a bit of taste of ginger on the tongue can help people greatly,” Tyagi said.

“It also plays a great role in weight loss diets. Ginger is a herb that can be used to enhance the waist and hip ratio in women who are undergoing hormonal health issues, lower the blood sugar levels greatly by lowering the blood insulin levels in maintaining a good body mass index (BMI), as well as helping in people suffering from osteoarthritis as it is found to be significant in reducing the aches and pains for people suffering from osteoarthritis greatly,” she said.

“Because it helps in maintaining blood sugar levels, it’s crucial for a good heart health, and as such, it aids in having a healthy heart and even for people suffering from thyroid imbalances. Include some source of raw ginger in your diet and see your symptoms reducing greatly,” Tyagi said.

She highlighted that ginger is highly efficient in improving indigestion, noting how anyone suffering from a weak gut health or a weak digestion must include ginger in their diet to make it easier to digest foods. “A glass of water with ginger in it early morning can help people detoxify themselves.”

Another source of healthy eating that she discussed was moringa, also known as Horseradish tree or Drumstick tree, which is a type of medicinal herb.

“It is native to India and other tropical and subtropical countries. Moringa’s incredible medicinal usage, which is claimed by many cultures and communities, are now being confirmed by science.”

Tyagi explained how through research, the moringa leaves were found to contain many essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and anti-inflammatory agents.

“Research shows that just about every part of the moringa plant can be utilised in some way, be it the fruits, seeds, leaves, bark or roots, everything is used in treating various conditions.”

She also noted how moringa has shown to act as an anti-diabetic agent, as research has demonstrated that a single dose of four grammes of moringa leaves powder capsules significantly increased insulin secretion in healthy people without any adverse effects on liver and kidney function.

Apart from diabetes, moringa has been studied to possess potential therapeutic effects to fight cancers, arthritis and even reduce tumors. “A study published in 2011 by the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention showed that administration of moringa powder reduced the incidence and multiplicity of tumours by a significant rate hence establishing the beneficial effects of moringa as a potential chemo-preventive agent.”

“Such high antioxidant content of moringa leaves is because of polyphenols, phytochemicals and flavonols, making it an effective anti-inflammatory agent. They help in fighting by suppressing inflammatory enzymes and proteins in the body and therefore reduce inflammation in body.” Inflammation can lead to chronic diseases like diabetes, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and obesity.

Tyagi also mentioned that moringa works as a great anti-ageing agent by balancing hormones and improving skin health. “The antibacterial and antifungal properties help in protecting the skin from various conditions such as acne breakouts, removing dandruff and healing burns and wounds.”