Eating for Life

Ginger is good for what ails you

Photo by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/Food styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA/The Kansas City Star
Gingered Carrot Soup combines the spice’s antioxidants with beta carotene in a pretty pastel package.

When weighing the value of nutrition research, it’s important to look at who funded the study.

But in the case of ginger, it may actually be more revealing to know who didn’t.

An ancient food with medicinal properties, ginger contains gingerol, shogaol and zingiberene, which have antioxidant properties. But, says Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook (Rodale, 2005), “With ginger, there is no one entity that will sit down and say, ‘Oh, my! Look at this!’ ”

And when the research is in, it can take a well-funded marketing campaign to propel a relatively obscure foodstuff into the culinary mainstream.

When studies revealed olive oil was a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat, the olive oil industry was ready to launch a hefty campaign aimed at American consumers. “From the ’80 to the ’90s, the olive oil industry spent a fortune get the word out,” Jacobi says.

Even if ginger never commands the research money or gains the mass appeal it deserves, cooks know it costs just pennies to enjoy the rhizome’s unique culinary zing. The Star’s Gingered Carrot Soup combines the exotic spice with the common carrot.

Carrots are loaded with beta carotene, a pigment found in deep-orange fruits and vegetables. But if you’re expecting an orange pool in a bowl, the pretty, pastel pink color that comes from the addition of fat-free milk will be a surprise. (Pleasant, we hope.) We also sneak in a few parsnips, a root vegetable that is a good source of vitamin C, thiamin, phosphorous, fiber and potassium.

Cooking tip: If a thinner soup is desired, add a little milk.

To keep this soup from becoming too frothy, you will need to use a food processor or an immersion blender; a regular blender whips it up until it’s foamy like a milkshake.

Gingered carrot soup

Makes 5 to 6 servings

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 clove garlic, minced

2 slices fresh ginger, each about 1/4 -inch thick

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 1/2 cups fat-free skim milk, divided

Combine carrots, parsnips, garlic, ginger and water in a saucepan. Cover, heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, pepper and 1 cup milk in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until totally combined and flour has dissolved. Pour flour-milk mixture into a heavy 4-quart saucepan; stir in remaining milk. Cook, stirring constantly, just until mixture comes to a boil. (Watch carefully so boiling milk does not boil up over edge of saucepan.) Remove from heat.

Transfer cooked vegetables and any remaining liquid to work bowl of food processor. Process until it forms a smooth puree. Spoon puree into hot milk mixture and blend well. Heat, over low heat, just until hot. Ladle into bowls or mugs.

Per serving, based on 5: 188 calories (4 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 39 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 233 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

Recipes developed for The Star by home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.

Food styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA/Photo by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/The Kansas City Star