March 29, 2023
Ginger is a rhizome widely used in cooking and herbal medicine for thousands of years. Find out about its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, glucose-regulating, and cardioprotective properties. This post explores ginger’s metabolic benefits and how to incorporate it into your diet.
The pleasantly spicy, peppery, and ever-so-slightly sweet ginger rhizome, or rootstalk, is native to several Asian countries, including China, India, and Japan, and has been a staple in cooking and herbal medicine for thousands of years. In this post, we explore ginger’s metabolic benefits and how to incorporate it into your diet.
While ginger may be most widely known for its ability to ease nausea and various gastrointestinal symptoms, research suggests its benefits are much more widespread. Like turmeric (another rhizome), ginger may offer several metabolic benefits thanks to its many bioactive phenolic compounds, which include gingerols, shogaols, and zingerone. These compounds are responsible for ginger’s zesty flavor and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardioprotective, and glucose-regulating properties.
Fresh and powdered ginger is an affordable way to add health benefits and flavor to dishes like stir-fries, dressings, soups, and smoothies—all while providing minimal calories and carbs, and no added sugar. One teaspoon of grated, raw ginger root contains just 1.6 calories, 0.4 grams of carbohydrates, and zero grams of sugar.
Ginger’s Metabolic Punch:
Two key metabolic perks of ginger are its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These are important, as oxidative stress (caused by an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body) and chronic inflammation are thought to pave the way for metabolic disorders. For instance, oxidative stress can trigger cellular damage and inflammation. In turn, this inflammation can drive issues like insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Several compounds in ginger may be responsible for these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. For example, gingerols and shogaols have been shown to impede the synthesis of pro-inflammatory molecules (i.e., prostaglandins and cytokines) and downregulate pathways that turn on inflammation-driving genes.
More human studies are needed to demonstrate these benefits. Still, several randomized control trials (RCTs; often considered the gold standard of research) suggest that supplementing with ginger curbs symptoms of arthritis—a condition associated with inflammation—without adverse effects. In one RCT, taking 500 milligrams (mg) of ginger powder capsules daily for three months was associated with reduced proinflammatory cytokines. In another trial, taking 1,500 mg of ginger powder daily for three months was associated with increased expression of FoxP3 genes, which can help keep excessive inflammation in check.
Ginger may also benefit blood sugar, blood lipids, and body weight. Though more research is needed to confirm the optimal dose for these benefits, a meta-analysis of 14 studies found that ginger supplementation was associated with significantly decreased body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, and insulin resistance, and significantly increased HDL cholesterol in overweight and obese people. Additionally, an RCT examining Type 2 diabetes patients found that those who received 2 grams (g) of ginger powder per day experienced significantly reduced fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B (a marker of potentially harmful blood lipids), and malondialdehyde (a marker of lipid oxidation) after three months compared to a placebo group. And a clinical trial with the same dose showed similar blood glucose benefits and an improvement in the LDL to HDL cholesterol ratio.
While ginger is generally considered safe, it can cause some side effects in certain people. These can include heartburn, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort. Ginger may also interact with certain medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking it if you’re on any prescription drugs. Additionally, pregnant women should consult their healthcare provider before using ginger supplements, as high doses of ginger may increase the risk of miscarriage.
Ginger Buying Advice:
When buying ginger, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, look for ginger that feels firm and heavy for its size. This indicates that it’s fresh and has a good water content. Avoid ginger that feels soft, wrinkled, or has any signs of mold.
Next, check the skin. It should be thin and smooth, without any cuts or blemishes. If the skin looks dry and shriveled, it’s a sign that the ginger has been sitting around for a while.
Finally, consider the aroma. Good ginger should have a strong, fresh scent. If the ginger doesn’t have much of an aroma, it may be stale or old.
Tips for Using and Storing Ginger:
Once you’ve brought your ginger home, it’s important to store it properly to keep it fresh. Ginger can be stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best to keep it in a paper bag or airtight container to prevent it from drying out. Alternatively, you can freeze ginger for up to six months. To freeze ginger, peel it and cut it into small pieces, then wrap it in plastic wrap or put it in a freezer bag.
When it comes to using ginger in cooking, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be sure to peel the ginger before using it. The easiest way to do this is to use the edge of a spoon to scrape off the skin.
Next, consider the size and shape of the ginger. If you’re grating it or chopping it finely, it doesn’t matter too much, but if you’re using it in larger pieces, you may want to cut it against the grain to make it more tender.
Finally, keep in mind that ginger can be quite strong, so it’s best to start with a small amount and add more gradually to taste.
Ginger is a versatile and flavorful root that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and cooking. It has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation, aiding digestion, and possibly even fighting certain types of cancer. Ginger is also easy to incorporate into your diet and can be used in a variety of recipes, from savory dishes to desserts and beverages.
When purchasing ginger, look for firm roots with smooth skin and a fresh, spicy aroma. It’s best to store ginger in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh for longer periods. When using ginger, there are a variety of techniques to choose from, including grating, slicing, and juicing.
Whether you’re adding ginger to your favorite tea or using it in a stir-fry, it’s clear that this root offers a wide range of health benefits and culinary possibilities. So why not try experimenting with ginger in your next recipe and see what delicious and healthy creations you can come up with?