Ginger contains more than 400 chemical compounds, but researchers believe the gingerol compounds are the ones responsible for the root’s health benefits. They’re also responsible for its smell and flavor. Gingerol has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help the body in a variety of different ways.
1. Soothes an Upset Stomach
The chemical compounds in ginger are believed to ease stomach pain and aid digestion. Modern research has found evidence that it can helpful.
Ginger has long been proposed as a remedy to ease morning sickness during pregnancy — studies have shown it’s a safe and possibly effective way to help reduce nausea.
Eating ginger may improve indigestion symptoms by helping the stomach empty faster. One small study found that taking 1.2 g of ginger capsules before a meal sped up the digestion process in people with indigestion.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Ginger is sometimes taken as a supplement for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (two painful conditions causing joint damage). Since ginger is an anti-inflammatory, it may also be able to ease joint pain due to inflammation from arthritis.
An older study found that people with knee osteoarthritis who took ginger extract had less pain and used less pain medication. But they did experience some mild stomach upset because of the higher concentration of ginger extract.
3. Lowers Blood Sugar
Adding ginger to your diet could help improve blood sugar levels and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In one study on people with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that those who took 1600 milligrams (mg) of ginger powder for 12 weeks had improved insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, and lower total cholesterol when compared with the control group.
Another study found that 2 g of powdered ginger supplement per day significantly lowered fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
4. Reduces Cancer Risk
The root might be a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer. Researchers have found evidence that gingerol (an active compound in ginger) has cancer-fighting abilities. Namely, it may help in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. Its high antioxidant content is likely responsible for fighting off cancer cell growth. In fact, the antioxidants in ginger may even help to slow the aging process.
5. Relieves Menstrual Cramps
When it comes to period pain, ginger might actually be right up there with pain medications, like Advil (ibuprofen). Once study found that women who took 250 mg ginger capsules four times a day had the same pain relief as those who took 250 mg of mefenamic acid or 400 mg ibuprofen capsules four times per day.
6. Shortening or Preventing the Common Cold
We often think of orange juice as the go-to drink for warding off a cold, but fresh ginger juice may be a better choice. The root has a warming effect, which is believed to help with cold symptoms. Drinking ginger can keep you warm, while also helping the body sweat and get rid of infections.
In addition to its many other benefits, gingerol might help prevent infections. One study found fresh ginger may be effective against the respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), a common cause of cold-like symptoms and respiratory infections.
The ginger compounds gingerol and shogaol may help fight off a cold because they can lower a fever, reduce pain, and suppress a cough.
All the Different Ways You Can Include Ginger in Your Diet
There are so many different ways to enjoy ginger — from sipping tea to incorporating it into your main dish. Indeed, you can use it to flavor both sweet and savory foods.
When buying ginger for a recipe, it’s healthier to opt for the fresh root rather than the dried, powdered form. You’ll get more of the gingerol that way. The root should be smooth and firm with no shriveling or mold on it. (4) Peel away the brown layer of skin with a vegetable peeler or paring knife, and then slice or chop it any way you’d like.
Use ginger for extra flavor in:
- Marinades for meat and fish
- Asian-inspired stir fry
- Homemade salad dressing
- Sweet potato and carrot dishes
- Tea – boil it in hot water alone or add lemon and a bit of sugar
- Baked desserts
Pickled ginger is often paired with sushi or found in ramen dishes. It also goes well in salads or soups. You can buy it in a jar or make it yourself at home.
If you’re unable to get fresh ginger, the powdered spice will work as a substitute. In this case, the taste and smell will be different, and you’ll want to use less. About ¼ teaspoon of powdered ginger is equal to 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger. Powdered ginger is more commonly used when baking.