A ginger tea will warm up your immune system. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

A ginger tea will warm up your immune system.

I’ve discovered that a key friend when the runny noses and sore throats come around is also one of my favourite ingredients: ginger. The spicy root, while better known for curing nausea, also has secret anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting powers that make it a handy natural defence against winter germs. With its subtle heat, ginger even gives that extra warmth needed to sustain you in the frigid months. Luckily, there are several easy and delicious ways to incorporate ginger into your diet, so you can give both your immune system and your taste buds that warm fuzzy feeling.

Ginger Immuni-Tea

Try this bright tea to warm up your immune system and clear up your sinuses. Add several pieces of peeled sliced ginger (or a teaspoon of ground ginger) to three cups of water. Bring the water to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of turmeric (another anti-inflammatory immune booster), a pinch of cayenne pepper (decongestant), a tablespoon of lemon juice (vitamin C infusion) and a cinnamon stick (anti-inflammatory, bacteria-fighting, and antioxidant-rich). Simmer 5 more minutes, then strain into a mug and add a spoonful of honey (sweetens the spice). You can adjust measurements – just err on the careful side with cayenne and turmeric, which pack a strong punch.

Prefer a shortcut? Combine the ingredients in a mug and pour boiled water over them, stirring well. Looking to really heat things up? Add rum or whisky – it’s a Ginger Hot Toddy! A bit of a cheat on the health front, but will definitely help you stay warm.

Add ginger to your smoothie for a tasty immunity boost. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Add ginger to your smoothie for a tasty immunity boost.

Ginger Smoothie

This is a great option for when you’re on the run. Fresh ginger infuses refreshingly tart spice into any smoothie. Options include: mixed berries, milk, honey and banana; pineapple, coconut water, yoghurt and cinnamon; mango, orange juice, ice and banana; strawberries, banana, milk and honey; carrot (juice), lemon juice, banana and mint; or kale, apple, lemon juice, blueberries, cinnamon, banana, milk and honey. Go wild with variations. I use frozen berries or banana to thicken, but you can add ice if using fresh fruit. Pick your preferred milk or yoghurt – I go with almond and goat, respectively – and same goes for greens (like substituting spinach for kale). Toss it all in the blender with a few peeled slices of fresh ginger for a smooth and tasty immunity boost.

This Asian-inspired paste, made with ginger, is good for salads or sauces. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

This Asian-inspired paste, made with ginger, is good for salads or sauces.

Ginger-Miso Marinade/Dressing

Here’s a zesty way to incorporate ginger into your lunch or dinner. Combine several peeled slices of ginger in a blender with a few tablespoons of miso, soy sauce, rice vinegar and about 1/4 cup olive or canola oil, a scant teaspoon of sesame oil, a clove of crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and/or orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste (and chopped scallions/spring onion or fresh coriander if desired). After a few minutes you have a mouthwatering, immune-empowering, Asian-inspired paste that can be used as a marinade for meat and veggies, a dressing for your favourite salad, or even a sauce for stir-fry.

Incorporate ginger into granola with berries for a healthy snack. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Incorporate ginger into granola with berries for a healthy snack.

Ginger-Spiced Granola

Granola is the perfect snack: portable, versatile and filling, with lots of protein and flavour. If you’re a granola addict like myself, it just makes sense to create your own. It’s easy and enables you to add all your favourite elements – including ginger!

Here’s a good starting recipe:

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 50 minutes | Total time: 65 minutes
Yield: 6 cups

4 cups oats (substitute other grains, like oat bran or quinoa)
1/4 cup each of your favourite nuts, roughly chopped (I use almonds, walnuts and pecans)
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup each of dried fruit (figs, raisins, cranberries, apples, cherries – or a combination)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup molasses (optional)
1/3 cup maple syrup (substitute agave or honey)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine oats, nuts, coconut, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, salt, ginger and dried fruit in a large bowl.

On medium-low heat, combine coconut oil, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour sauce over dry ingredients and combine.

Lay out granola on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 135°C for 20 minutes; turn the pan; bake 20 to 30 minutes more until golden brown.

Again, feel free to personalise! Don’t like granola too sweet? Scratch the maple syrup and sugar. Wild for luscious clusters? Don’t stir while baking. And if you still need more ginger: Add 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger to the dry ingredients or shave fresh ginger into the saucepan mixture. – Reuters/Zester Daily