SAMRA NAZIR - Ginger and garlic are underground edible plant portions generally used as spice in South Asia. The commonly used part of the garlic plant is the bulb which is divided into many individual sections called cloves. The distinctive smell and flavor of ginger and garlic is due to inherited phenolic compounds. Fresh ginger root has pungent flavor and peppery taste that hit the palate and nostrils. The most commonly manufactured food products by using ginger include gingerbread, biscuits, cakes, sweet candy, tea, coffee and wine. Ginger also acts as natural food preservative in many applications. Garlic is traditionally used to enhance the flavor of vegetable, meat and seafood preparations. Garlic cloves are mostly used in the preparation of seasonal soups, chutneys, sauces and garlic bread. Ginger and garlic along with onion, tomato and garam masala are used to impart flavor and aroma in many dishes in Pakistan. Both ginger and garlic is available in fresh, dried and powdered form throughout the year in markets. Apart from the flavor and aroma, ginger and garlic also possess excellent nutritional profile and impart numerous health benefits. Ginger root contains functional food ingredients known as gingerol and zingerone. Gingerols helps to improve the intestinal motility and reduces nausea induced by motion sickness or pregnancy. It also has nerve soothing properties and helps to relieve migraine and headache. Likewise, zingerone gives pungent character to the ginger root and is very effective in treating diarrhea especially in children. Garlic contains a sulfur containing compound known as allicin which improve human health from oxidative stress and unwanted inflammation. Chopping or crushing of garlic stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin. For maximum production of allicin, it is suggested that garlic should be used for eating or cooking atleast five minutes after crushing. Ginger and garlic are also an excellent source of essential vitamins like vitamin B1, B5, B6 and vitamin C whereas among the minerals potassium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, iron, calcium and zinc are abundantly present. Vitamin C helps the body to develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The selenium in garlic can become an important part of our body’s antioxidant system. Garlic is able to increase production of ferroportin in our body and in this way helps to maintain iron requirement in blood.The distinctive taste and intense aroma of ginger promotes appetite. Ginger contains lipase and protease enzymes to digest protein and fat. It is quite effective for those who suffer from cramps, caused by stomach gas and blotting. Garlic stimulates the nervous system to release adrenaline hormones that increase the body’s metabolism and helps the body to regulate blood sugar level. Ginger breaks down the high protein foods such as meat and helps to reduce the harmful effects from uric acid present in these foods on human body. Moreover, ginger stimulates the production of saliva and bile which are helpful to overcome toxicity in the liver especially in patients with a history of gall stones. Intake of ginger juice warms up the body resulting in more production of the sweating that contains a potent germ-fighting agent which helps to fight off invading microorganisms including bacteria and fungi. This leads to detoxification of the body, thereby providing a boost to the immune system and strengthens up the natural defense system of the body. The cineole content in ginger acts as mood enhancer. Ginger and garlic are effective to treat respiratory disorders like cold, cough, flu and seasonal allergies. These also possess anticancer properties against stomach and colon cancer. Anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and garlic are beneficial in the reductions of joint pain and improvements in mobility and alleviation of arthritis. Garlic also exhibit anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that give strength to the body to fight against infections. Allicin and other essential volatile compounds also found to have anti-fungal activities. Anti-microbiotic properties of ginger are used to heal wounds and sores. Ginger and garlic help in the management of blood pressure reducing clot formation in blood vessels thus preventing hypertension. Ginger makes the platelets less sticky and is thus, pretty helpful in case of circulatory disorders. Ginger juice provides immediate relief from minor burns and skin irritation. Keeping in view the immense health benefits it is suggested that we should enhance the consumption of ginger and garlic through utilization in breakfast spreads, preserves and social drinks. The writer is student of MSc (Hons) Food Technology under the supervision of Dr Mian Kamran Sharif at National Institute of Food Science & Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 08-Mar-2014 here.