I was asked during the week how we get Fijians to eat more healthily to reduce diabetes, cancers and heart disease, as it seems the message of eating less processed, packet and tinned foods is not working. The answer is simple - make fresh foods cheaper. If fresh fish, fruits and vegetables were as cheap or cheaper than packet foods, then Fiji could tackle its non-communicable disease problem in the home and not the hospital. Learning to eat for health is a crucial part to understanding that diet and lifestyle impacts on our future health. NCDs just don't happen overnight, we make them happen by what we eat. Tinned and packaged foods may be cheaper and easier to prepare, but to your body, they are nowhere as healthy as fresh produce, vegetables and herbs.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius encouraged his followers to eat ginger everyday as it aided in the digestion of food and was promoted as one of the best preventative herbal medicines against the cold and flu. Thanks to the efforts of Fiji's agriculture department, this country now has some of the best ginger of anywhere in the world with exports to the U.S., New Zealand and Canada on the increase. Only this week, we learned that exports to Australia are not far away with ginger farmers now part of revived $8 million export industry. The world has fallen in love with the unique tropical ginger that our farmers are now producing.
Ginger tops the list of effective natural home remedies for a host of ailments. That is because it is packed with essential nutrients and rejuvenating compounds, as well as being delicious in cooking to spice up your food. For centuries, ginger has been used as an effective cure when it comes to common cough and cold. Even when the symptoms become severe, using this as tea will alleviate sore throat, itchiness, coughing and even blocked nasal passages. But one of the health secrets of ginger is that it is perfect for a running stomach, vomiting and nausea symptoms because it has natural analgesic, sedative and anti-inflammatory properties.
While ginger helps common illnesses, its positive effect on more serious health conditions cannot be ignored. For years, ginger has also been known to provide relief when it comes to some cancers like ovarian and colon cancer as research by the American University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center has discovered. The secret health benefits have also been known by the Chinese for thousands of years, including Sichuan native Kaiming Qiu, who established his ginger processing facility in Navua back in 1996. Kaiming Agro Processing exports its Navua ginger products around the world with the help of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. One of my favourite ginger products produced at the Kaiming plant is Mr Qiu's crystallized ginger in brown sugar which you can find in most Chinese shops and at Wahley's butchers. My staff call them ginger lollies and when eaten as a chaser with yagona, helps to calm the stomach when you drink too much grog; which I seem to be doing lately! The sweet ginger is healthier than lollies or those red monkey's balls from the Chinese shop, and also works as medicine to reduce the nausea feeling from being too grog doped!
There are many ways to introduce ginger into your diet including stir fries, stews, in lovo meats, salad dressings, biscuits, cakes and curries. But my favourite way to get my daily dose of ginger is drinking pure raw ginger prepared Fijian style! Just like making fresh lolo or mixing yagona, you squeeze grated washed ginger with the skin-on through a sulu, muslin cloth or strainer. If the ginger is fresh there is plenty of juice, otherwise just add a little water and squeeze the ginger dry to extract its natural medicine. The taste is temporarily hot and peppery on the throat, but add some lemon juice and honey and you have one of the best and cheapest food medicines for your body. My staff and I drink a cup of fresh ginger juice or ginger tea every day as preventative medicine, just as Confucius and my Chinese ancestors did many thousands of years ago. Fiji's latest export success story will not only help boost the local economy, but might just help every Fijian to live longer through better health.
* Lance Seeto is an International Food & Travel writer, author and Executive Chef based on Castaway Island, Fiji. Follow his culinary adventures on his Facebook page, Fijian Food Safari.