We are getting a rare treat in the Peace Country this year--an early spring, and plenty of warm weather already. There have already been some days where a cool, refreshing treat like this has been very welcome.
One of the things I was most surprised about when I started learning to eat traditionally is that many of our modern, unhealthy foods are based on older, traditional, health-giving foods. The nutrient-stripped, chemically-laden modern equivalents, while designed to hit hard on all the pleasure centres of our brain, are poor replacements for the foods that inspired them.
Soft drinks are a prime example. Many modern soft drinks were based on traditional tonics and beverages designed to replenish electrolytes, improve digestion, and stave off heat stroke.
Ginger ale, according to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, is derived from a combination of traditional ginger beer (fermented, bubbly, may or may not be alcoholic) and ginger water, or "switchel" (non-alcoholic).
Here are some of the prime benefits of the ingredients in ginger ale:
Ginger - aids digestion by calming the stomach and increasing "digestive fire" (e.g. increases our digestive tract's ability to do its job). It reduces inflammation in the digestive tract. It can even reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
Limes - high in Vitamin C, it is a preventative treatment for many illnesses, and also aids digestion and prevent constipation. This site even suggests it can help with arthritis and weight loss.
Maple Syrup - High in antioxidants, zinc, and magnesium, real maple syrup does more than just sweeten--it provides nutrients of its own. If you haven't yet replaced white sugar with this healthful alternative, check out this page for reasons why you should.
Sea Salt - Whether you use Himalayan Pink Salt or Course Grey Sea Salt, both have many benefits, one of which is balancing your electrolytes. They provide essential nutrients in a whole form, without the deleterious effects produced from stripped, processed, and re-iodized table salt. And they both prevent muscle cramps. For more about the benefits of natural salt, check out this article by Dr. Josh Axe. (I use Course Grey Sea Salt. It is much cheaper to buy it in bulk than the small bags typically sold at health food stores. Radiant Life Foods is one source for buying bulk salt.)
Whey - If you make the lacto-fermented version, which provides fizz and a hint of sourness for a more complex flavour, you are also increasing the nutritional value by flooding your system with beneficial bacteria. These help you digest your food, releasing more nutrients for your body to use, and heal your digestive tract by preventing overpopulation by "bad" bacteria that feed on refined sugar and yeasts such as candida. Lacto-fermentation also increases the shelf life of foods.
All in all, this is a perfect drink to both replenish the body after an afternoon in the sun, and to help heal digestion, which is so very important to our overall well-being. Take it in small amounts before or with meals to promote digestion.
The best part? It tastes GREAT!
Old-Fashioned Ginger Ale
Makes 2 L/2 quarts
3/4 cup ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/4 - 1/2 cup maple syrup (can substitute whole brown sugar or even white sugar, but maple syrup is most nutritious)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup whey (optional)
8 cups water (filtered is best)
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Stir well.
If using whey, cover tightly and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days before transferring to the refrigerator. Will keep for several months in the fridge.
If you are not fermenting your ginger ale, chill in the refrigerator. Can be consumed as soon as desired, but it is best after a day or so to chill and blend the flavours. Will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
To serve, strain into a glass. Or, pour unstrained and enjoy the ginger chunks as a way to further improve your digestion.
Happy summer, friends!
This recipe is a variation on the one found in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enigh, Ph.D.