Ginger has become a staple ingredient in most kitchens. But before you write off ginger as a common kitchen spice, be sure to look into its science-backed healing properties.
What is ginger?
Ginger is a tropical plant that was originally from Southwest Asia. The plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and produces colorful flowers, but the root is where the benefits lie. The root can be yellow, red, or white and is harvested by pulling the plant out of the soil, removing the leaves, and cleaning the root. It is consumed fresh and preserved and can be made into tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts.
Ginger has more than 400 chemical compounds, but it is believed that the gingerol compounds are the primary ones responsible for the root’s health benefits. They are also responsible for giving it its distinct smell and flavor. Gingerol has powerful properties that can help the body in many ways.
- Calms an upset stomach. The chemical compounds in the root are believed to ease stomach pain and aid digestion. Studies have shown that consuming ginger can be a safe and effective way to reduce nausea, especially during pregnancy when certain medications are dangerous to take. It can also help reduce nausea and vomiting after surgery and for those that are going through chemotherapy. Additionally, a small study determined that taking 1.2 g of ginger before a meal can help speed up the digestion process, helping fight indigestion.
- Reduces inflammation. Ginger can be taken as a supplement for conditions that cause joint damage such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It is an anti-inflammatory, so it can be especially effective in easing joint pain.
- Lowers blood sugar. Adding ginger into your diet can help improve blood sugar levels and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A study determined that those with type 2 diabetes who consumed 1600 milligrams of ginger powder for 12 weeks had improved insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, and lower total cholesterol when compared with the control group.
- Reduces cancer risk. Ginger can be a tool in the fight against cancer. Research found that gingerol has cancer-fighting abilities. Specifically, it helps in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. The root contains high antioxidant content that is responsible for fighting off cancer cell growth. Additionally, the antioxidants in ginger can even help with slowing the aging process.
- Relieves menstrual cramps. Ginger is comparable to pain medications, like Advil, when it comes to soothing period cramps. A study found that women who took 250 mg ginger capsules four times a day had similar pain relief as those who took 400 mg of ibuprofen capsules four times per day.
Including Ginger in Your Diet
Implementing more ginger in your diet is simple. It works in everything from your tea to your dinner to your condiments. When you are purchasing it for your personal use, the healthier option is going to be the fresh root as opposed to powdered root. For the best flavor, the root needs to be smooth and firm with no shriveling or mold. Before use, you should cut away the brown layer of skin with a vegetable peeler, and then chop it up however you would like. Ginger can be used as an extra flavor in:
- Marinades for meat and fish
- Stir fry
- Salad dressing
- Sweet potato and carrot dishes
- Baked desserts
If you can’t get fresh ginger, powdered spice is a good alternative (although more commonly used in baking rather than cooking). The taste and smell will be different from the fresh root and you will need to adjust how much you use: using ¼ of a teaspoon of the powdered version is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of the fresh ginger.
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