Nuts, honey, warming spices: people used to eat gingerbread to strengthen themselves. Anyone who bakes them themselves today can do something particularly good for themselves. This is revealed by a close look at the ingredients and ingredients.
No Christmas market or Advent plate is missing it: gingerbread. If you look at the list of ingredients, they are, alongside butter cookies and Christmas stollen, a really nutritious and healthy delicacy. Nuts, almonds, honey, dried fruit, eggs, warming spices – all of this is good for you and can be found in fitness bars or so-called energy balls in a similar way. Just like in meals that are intended to strengthen through the combination of valuable foods: for example the mixture of nuts and honey, which is used as a strengthening agent in many cultures; or the “heavy sweet dishes” that were traditionally brought as gifts to women who had recently given birth. In the past, gingerbread was by no means a pastry for every day – it was intended for strengthening, for building up, perhaps for convalescence.
Lebkuchen are so nutritious that one would like to attribute the term “gingerbread cake” to “life”. However, the origin of the syllable “Leb-” is unclear. It probably comes from loaf or Latin libum (flat cake). So gingerbread would mean something like bread cake or flat cake.
Gingerbread: What ingredients make them so healthy?
On the one hand, the high-quality ingredients – especially if you bake the gingerbread yourself:
Nuts and almonds: No matter what diet you follow today, whether whole food, vegan or low-carb – nuts and almonds are on the list everywhere. They provide valuable fatty acids and are plant-based, almonds are also alkaline. Possible problems with nuts include possible allergies and mold formation due to improper storage.
Honey: Honey is a good source of energy; it contains around 80 percent different types of sugar, namely fructose, glucose and malt sugar; In addition, 16 to 18 percent water, various vitamins, minerals and trace elements. In addition, there are the substances that are added by the bees, which metabolize the nectar and excrete the honey. You have to remember: Honey is primarily bee food – for bees in the hive, which live in a small space in a warm, humid climate. We humans can also benefit from the enzymes and antibacterial substances added. With regard to gingerbread, the following certainly applies: enzymes and some vitamins are destroyed by the heat during baking, but this does not apply to many minerals. And the nutritional value – viewed as a whole – remains clearly higher than when using industrial sugar. Important when it comes to honey: the quality is crucial. To support regional beekeepers, purchasing locally is ideal.
In traditional medicine it is Honey is also a versatile healing and preservative. It is used, for example, to process spices or to “extract” medicinal plants, for example as cinnamon, fennel or plantain honey. It is a very helpful ingredient in tea or on its own, especially for coughs and sore throats: If you let it slowly melt in your mouth or drink the tea in sips, it soothes the irritated mucous membrane in the throat. Traditionally, this type of application was used much more intensively. There were so-called “licking remedies” (electuria) for coughs: “extracted” or ground spices were dissolved in honey, it improved the taste, and the whole thing could be “licked” directly from the spoon. Antibacterial or anti-inflammatory medicinal plants such as thyme or licorice were administered to reduce the entry of germs through the mouth and throat.
Dried fruit: Lebkuchen are usually prepared with lemon peel and orange peel. When baking yourself, you can also replace the candied citrus fruits with finely chopped dried apricots and thereby reduce the sugar content.
Eggs: They are pure energy food, the egg yolk in particular is particularly rich in vitamins (vitamins A, E and D). It is not for nothing that in the past an egg was cracked and mixed with sugar for the sick and old; or the beaten egg was also whisked with red wine. The eggs should be fresh, especially when the dough is nibbled on.
Added to this are the spices:
Orange and lemon peelwhich taste Christmassy and have a harmonizing and mood-enhancing effect thanks to the essential oils they contain.
Anise: The essential oil has a mild antispasmodic, antibacterial effect and makes it easier to cough up. It also has a digestive effect, as we know it from Ouzo, Sambuca, Arak or Pastis. Not bad if you eat a lot at Christmas time.
Cardamom fruits are described in herbal medicine textbooks as being digestive, especially for the bile. They are considered “virustic”, i.e. inhibiting the growth of viruses.
cloves contain essential oil, flavonoids, plant acids and small amounts of phytosterols – they have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects (against diseases caused by fungi). It is therefore not surprising that they were used in the kitchen, not least to disinfect food.
nutmeg has an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and – in high doses – intoxicating effect, so be careful with nutmegs lying around and small children.
pepper has an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, circulation-stimulating, appetite-stimulating effect; it stimulates bile flow and liver activity.
- Vanilla is not an official medicinal plant. In aromatherapy, vanilla oil is used to reduce stress in cases of nervous tension, depression and sleep disorders. So why not add a piece of sliced vanilla bean to your tea or warm (vegetable) milk during Christmas stress?
In traditional European and Chinese medicine and in Ayurveda, the winter spices described are considered to be warming.
Scientific studies on gingerbread
And what does the research say? In fact, there is an older one just for gingerbread, whose wonderful title should not be ignored here: “Christmas gingerbread (gingerbread) and Christmas cheer – review of the potential role of mood elevating amphetamine-like compounds formed in vivo and in forno”. The study authors therefore investigated the question of whether the allylbenzenes and their isomers contained in cinnamon, anise, nutmeg and cloves can act as precursors of amphetamines and whether baking in the oven (“in forno”) has an influence on this.
A conclusion of the study, loosely translated: People can be exposed to amphetamines, which are formed from these precursor substances during baking and cooking, for example when preparing gingerbread or Christmas cookies. It’s possible that this is partly responsible for brightening our mood in the winter. However, the role of aromatic substances, which simply act as a smell and bring back old memories of past winters, cannot be neglected. Whether spices actually have a pharmacological effect or whether they act as aromatherapy still needs to be clarified through clinical and laboratory studies.
I’m Caroline, a journalist and author for 24 Hours Worlds. I specialize in health-related news and stories, bringing real-world impact to readers across the globe. With my experience in journalism and writing in both print and online formats, I strive to provide reliable information that resonates with audiences from all walks of life.