Ginger is among the healthiest (and most delicious) spices on the planet. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for your body and brain. There are a wealth of healthful compounds packed into ginger – in fact, 400 different naturally occurring chemical compounds have been identified with the main bioactive compound in ginger being ‘Gingerol‘.
However, not all ginger is created equal.
The composition of these constituents varies depending on the source, where they are grown, how they are grown, curing methods, drying methods and storage, buying a trusted and organic source of ginger is very important.
The chemical make-up also differs depending on whether you’re choosing dried, powdered or fresh. Fresh is always the best way to go as it contains a higher level of gingerol. When looking for supplements, it’s always important that you choose those that are all natural.
Health Benefits :
1. Has anti-inflammatory properties
Gingerol is an anti-inflammatory compound, which may explain why people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. This is because gingerols have an effect on the chemical messengers of the immune system.
Osteoarthritis is a common health problem. It involves degeneration of the joints in the body, leading to symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.
Gingerdiols have been found to have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects through modulating the biochemical pathways involved in chronic inflammation. They also suppress the formation of leukotrienes – inflammatory chemicals released by the body – therefore contributing to a reduction in inflammation.
One group of researchers concluded that taking ginger by mouth is “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
2. Improves digestion
There’s a reason people take ginger to settle their stomach – ginger encourages food to move from the stomach to the small intestine by stimulating the action of digestive juices, and has also been shown to ease bloating and flatulence. It may be particularly beneficial for those with chronic indigestion, known as dyspepsia.
The gingerols and -gingesulfonic acid in ginger root accelerate gastric emptying and also relieve gaseous distension. Some research indicates that enzymes in ginger can help the body break up and expel this gas, providing relief from any discomfort. Ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which are important for digestion.
3. High in antioxidants
Ginger is a broad spectrum antioxidant and it helps in reducing cell damage. Ginger root contains very high levels of antioxidants, surpassed only by pomegranate and certain types of berries. The antioxidant properties of -gingerol has been extensively studied and it helps reduce free radical activity, therefore reducing cell damage and promoting healthy ageing.
4. Reduces heart disease risk
The anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. This is because ginger can lower blood pressure and decrease blood lipids (fats) levels, both of which help protect against heart disease.
One review found that a dosage of 5 g or more can cause significant, beneficial antiplatelet activity.
The authors acknowledge that many investigations included in their analysis did not involve human participants or that participant numbers were too small to ensure reliable results. However, they suggest that, with further research, ginger could prove to be a safe form of treatment for cardiovascular disease.
The spice also helps to reduce cholesterol levels. A small study conducted on 85 participants with high blood pressure by Babol University of Medical Sciences revealed that supplementing with three grams of ginger powder per day caused significant reductions in most cholesterol markers.
5. High in vitamins and minerals
Ginger is a nutrient powerhouse, which contains a wide range of vitamins – including Vitamin C and B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin – along with minerals such as iron, calcium and phosphorus.
Gingerol is the most abundant of the three, and this oily liquid gives ginger its pungent taste. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects too.
6. May help to prevent cancer
The cell-protecting properties of ginger can lower the long-term risk of certain cancers. That’s because it may reduce cellular activity that causes DNA changes, cell death, and proliferation of cancer cells. It could also help sensitise tumours to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
These potential effects make ginger ‘a potent agent in preventing or suppressing cancer growth in lymphoma, hepatoma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, liver cancer, and bladder cancer– though more controlled human studies are needed.
Ginger does not provide protein or other nutrients, but it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Studies have shown that, for this reason, ginger can reduce various types of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress happens when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors.
The body needs to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage that can lead to a range of diseases, including cancer. Dietary antioxidants help the body get rid of free radicals.
7. Reduces nausea
There are multiple digestive benefits that have been linked to ginger, specifically acting on parts of your GI tract responsible for feelings of nausea, stomach upset, and vomiting. Ginger significantly reduces nausea. It is a potent anti-emetic and used to prevent motion sickness.
Ginger has long been used as a sea sickness remedy, and appears to be especially effective in treating pregnancy-related nausea. One 2018 study found that moms-to-be who consumed 1g of fresh ginger root per day for four days experienced a significant decrease in nausea and vomiting and no risk for the mother or her future baby.”
However, if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking large amounts of ginger.
Some research indicates that ginger can help alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea following cancer treatment. It reported that taking a divided daily dosage of 1,500 milligrams (mg) of ginger extract helped alleviate symptoms of nausea.
8. Has antimicrobial properties
Ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria, including E.coli, proteus species, Staphylococci, Streptococci and Salmonella. In this way, ginger promotes healthy gut flora.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, ginger has also been shown to be effective against the oral bacteria that causes inflammatory diseases in the gums – such as gingivitis and periodontitis – in a lab setting. However, human studies are needed.
9. Good for gut health and immunity
Ginger is high in gut-healthy fibre, and as such, acts as a prebiotic. Gut bacteria utilise the fibre. Ginger can help in reducing the population of bad gut microbes and increasing beneficial gut microbiomes.
The antioxidant properties in gingerol help with improving immunity and can help lower the risk of infections. The rhizome (underground part of the stem) is the part commonly used as a spice. It is often called ginger root, or simply ginger.
In fact, ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria. It is very effective against the oral bacteria linked to inflammatory diseases in the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Fresh ginger may also be effective against the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections.
10. Treats migraines
Consumption of ginger has shown to offer relief from migraine attacks, either by relieving nausea, or pain, or both. A dose 500-600mg of ginger powder administered at the onset of migraine for a period of three to four days at am interval of four hours is reported to provide relief from migraine attack.
11. Relieves menstrual pain
Ginger is useful in relieving menstrual cramps, thanks to its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects. A 2016 review of studies concluded that ginger may help reduce dysmenorrhea — pain right before or during menstruation. However, the authors acknowledge that the included studies were often small or of poor quality.
In a study by the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, 150 women were instructed to take one gram of ginger powder per day, for the first 3 days of their period. Ginger was found to reduce pain as effectively as ibuprofen.
12. Other Benefits
Some other health benefits of ginger include :
- Improved insulin resistance
- Boost in metabolism
- Promoting hair growth
- Easing of cold and flu
- Weight Loss
- May help improve brain functions
The bioactive compound, gingerdiol, is most prominent in fresh ginger. Research shows that gingerdiol is not affected by heat and therefore you can consume this in your cooking, as juice, in your water or raw. It is recommended to use fresh ginger rather than dried ginger for optimal health benefits. Here are some of the ways to incorporate ginger into your day:
- Grate or crush fresh ginger into a glass of boiled water and drink in the morning upon waking.
- Add five or six slices of fresh ginger into a thermos and keep sipping ginger water throughout the day.
- When cooking grains, lentils, legumes, pulses or vegetables, add ½ tea spoon of ground ginger.
- To improve digestion, sprinkle a pinch of Himalayan rock salt on a square of fresh ginger and chew it before meals.
If you’d rather use a supplement, research suggests that the maximum serum concentration of ginger metabolites is reached from the consumption of 1.5g to 2g of ginger. Make sure to take no more than 5g ginger per day – it may end up giving you some nasty side effects such as indigestion and heart burn. Ginger supplements can interact with other medications, so you should speak to your healthcare provider first.
Check out this video by Jeff Cavaliere of athleanx.com who swears by this superfood.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider ginger to be safe to include in the diet, but they do not guarantee or regulate its use as a medicine or supplement.
Before adding more ginger to the diet or taking a ginger supplement, consult a healthcare provider. A supplement may interact with medications or cause other health complications.
For in-depth nutritional profile of ginger click here.
The Bottom Line
Ginger is one of the very few superfoods actually worthy of that term and one you should include in your daily diet.