It’s not just ginger’s intense flavor that makes it famous in the kitchen. It’s also linked to several health benefits.
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The health benefits of ginger are part of what makes it an OG cooking ingredient. It’s a small-but-mighty spice (yes, it’s technically classified as a spice) that’s often used to treat inflammation.
As well as being anti-inflammatory, studies also show that ginger may help prevent cancer, fight nausea, and treat other health ailments. Most of the healing power is due to the compounds known as gingerols, paradols, and shogaols.
First, let’s talk about ginger as an anti-inflammatory. When some level of inflammation helps our bodies regulate and fight disease, too much inflammation means terrible things for our health . It’s linked to everything from arthritis to blindness to cancer and diabetes. But not if ginger has anything to do with it. Studies show that the compound called gingerol, active in ginger, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent .
2) Anti-heart disease
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help improve cardiovascular health in conjunction with a healthy diet. One study found that ginger capsules reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as LDL .
3) Reduces the risk of diabetes
Several studies show that ginger helps control blood sugar levels and therefore, helps manage and prevent diabetes . The process goes a little something like this: By inhibiting certain enzymes, the compounds in ginger help improve metabolism and facilitate insulin release.
However, eating ginger in sugary, baked goods — or, say, ginger candies — won’t do the trick. Stick to fresh ginger and other forms not enhanced with sugar (in one study, powdered ginger supplements showed positive results) .
4) Curbs nausea and helps you digest
Got an upset stomach? Ginger helps with general nausea as well as morning sickness and motion sickness . It’s even used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy, though some studies show it’s no more effective than placebo . But in theory, the phytochemicals gingerol and shogoals latch on to receptors in the GI tract, help with digestion, and reduce feelings of nausea .
5) May act as a pain reliever
Though experts say more research is needed in this area, ginger is believed to act as a pain reliever. For example, one study found that ginger extract helped reduce osteoarthritis knee pain; participants reported improvements in quality of life due to decreased pain .
6) May hinder cancer growth
One study found that ginger extract helped slow ovarian cancer, inhibiting cell growth, leading researchers to believe that ginger has anti-cancer properties . Research has also shown that shogaols, active compounds in ginger, may impair lung and breast cancer development .
One study even found that Shogaol is 10,000 times more effective than traditional chemotherapy when treating breast cancer . It’s also thought to be toxic to colon cancer cells. Another study concluded that ginger extract helped slow down and kill prostate cancer cells .
There are several types of ginger available, however, according to the USDA nutrient database, 1 teaspoon of raw ginger root contains:
- .04 grams protein
- .01 grams fat
- .36 grams carbohydrates
- .03 grams sugar
- .01 milligrams iron
- .01 grams zinc
Warnings and negatives
Not even the almighty ginger is perfect. Ironically, even though it helps with nausea, some of the side effects are indigestion and heartburn, bloating, and gas . When taking ginger to curb morning sickness, consult with your doctor first. Some experts believe ginger can increase the chance of miscarriage in specific doses, but more research is needed .
Additionally, if you’re on medication for high blood pressure or are taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor to ensure ginger supplements won’t cause a drug reaction, as ginger may affect blood clotting .
How much should I take daily?
Always consult with your doctor for medical advice, but a general rule of thumb is not to consume more than 4 grams of ginger daily .