The Health Benefits of Ginger
You've probably sipped ginger ale to remedy a stomach ache, or topped sushi with some pickled slices, but there are even more ways to take advantage of all the health benefits of ginger. It has both a powerful flavor and powerful nutrition.
What Is Ginger?
Ginger comes from the underground root, or rhizome, of the Zingiber officinale plant. It can be dried into a powder or consumed fresh, both with similar health benefits—whether you sip ginger water, turn it into ginger juice, a ginger smoothie, ginger tea, or a ginger stir-fry. The spicy flavor of ginger comes through a bit more when you use the fresh root, so a quarter teaspoon of ground ginger is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger.
The Health Benefits of Ginger
A teaspoon of fresh ginger contains only two calories, but it's no lightweight. In addition to its long history as a remedy for upset stomachs, this spice has some hard science behind it. Here are the health benefits ginger offers.
Act as an anti-inflammatory. "Ginger root contains a number of compounds such as gingerols that are able to prevent or reduce immune cell synthesis of cytokines that cause inflammation," says David W. Hoskin, Ph.D., a professor at Dalhousie University in Canada. Ginger could help people with diseases caused by chronic inflammation, says Hoskin, and those anti-inflammatory properties might also protect against cancer. (Pair ginger with turmeric, which also has anti-inflammatory benefits, for extra defense.)
Aid recovery after intense exercise. Training for a big event that will challenge your muscles? Eating ginger before a tough workout could help you feel stronger afterward, suggests a study published in Phytotherapy Research. People who consumed about four grams (just over two teaspoons) of ground ginger daily for five days before an intense session of resistance exercise were stronger 48 hours post-workout than those who consumed placebos instead.
Reduce LDL cholesterol. Your heart will thank you for adding this spice to your diet. A study review published in the journal Phytomedicine revealed that people who supplemented their diet regularly with more than 2,000 mg per day (just a little more than one teaspoon) of ground ginger reduced their artery-clogging LDL cholesterol by about 5 points.
Help you control your blood sugar. Ginger can help people with type 2 diabetes improve their condition over time, suggests a study review published in the journal Medicine. People with type 2 diabetes who consumed between just under a teaspoon and just over two teaspoons of ground ginger daily for eight to 12 weeks improved their hemoglobin A1C, a marker that indicates average blood sugar level over the past three months.
Soothe nausea during pregnancy. In a study review published in the journal Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers analyzed eight common remedies for nausea in pregnancy and concluded that ginger is the best choice to reduce both nausea and vomiting. Ginger could help you after the baby arrives, too. Women who took a ginger supplement after a C-section recovered their ability to eat sooner than those who popped a placebo, according to research published in Scientific Reports.
Reduce nausea from medical procedures. For people facing cancer treatment or surgery, ginger can help relieve nausea, too. A study review published in BMJ Open suggests that people who are given ginger before a laparoscopic surgery or an obstetric or gynecological surgery have a reduced risk of nausea and vomiting compared to those who are not given ginger. Ginger can also help chemotherapy patients feel better even when experiencing some nausea, accoridng to research published in Nutrients.
Ease symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Ginger's tummy-protecting effects may extend to people with a diagnosed gastrointestinal condition (which, FYI, a lot of women do have). People with ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease) who consumed 2,000mg of ground ginger (just a little more than one teaspoon) per day for 12 weeks experienced a reduction in the severity of their disease and an increase in quality of life, according to a study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
How to Use Ginger Root
When it comes to uses of ginger root, this spicy ingredient does more than just give a kick to your fruit and veggie juices. You can add grated ginger to marinades and sauces.
Make a ginger smoothie: Plop a one-inch chunk of fresh ginger into smoothies, suggests Susan McQuillan, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., a dietitian based in New York City.
Make ginger juice: Try McQuillan's quick trick: Grate ginger root over a half piece of a paper towel, and then gather the edges. Squeeze the bundle of ginger over a small bowl to collect the juice. Then add that to a curry dish, butternut squash soup, or tea.
Use ginger root as a topping. Julienne ginger root and saute it over medium-high heat with a bit of oil in a nonstick pan until crisp and slightly browned, says McQuillan. Sprinkle the crisp shreds over anything you like-its great on stir fries, she adds.
Add ginger to a salad. Add minced ginger root to homemade salad dressings, such as olive oil and apple cider vinegar, suggests Ruth Lahmayer Chipps, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist at Black River Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin.
Hot Ginger Tea
- 3 ounces thinly-sliced ginger root
- 1 cup water
- Add the ginger slices and water to a small pot.
- Boil and then strain. Add honey to taste.
Lime and Ginger Iced Tea
- 6 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 cups water
- 3 limes, zested and juiced
- 3 tablespoons honey
- Boil water, ginger, and lime zest for 6-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in honey, and let steep for 1 hour.
- Stir in lime juice, and serve over ice or chill to serve.