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Ginger and all its health benefits

If you go to any café these days, you undoubtedly see ginger tea. There are bottled drinks on the shelves in almost any supermarket that tout ginger as an important ingredient. Ginger seems to have turned up just about everywhere. 

The popularity of ginger is not just another fad. Ginger is a powerful ingredient, providing numerous health benefits. While it may appear to be little more than the latest trend, the ubiquity of ginger is due to its health effects. 

Somehow, ginger has gone from being one of those things you only see in certain restaurants to being a signature feature of just about any health drink. Ginger has a long history in other parts of the world as natural medicine. While we may eat ginger for the zest it provides, some parts of the world consume ginger as a medicine.   

But what are the benefits of ginger? Why are so many people drinking or eating ginger? What do we get out of including ginger in our diet? And what exactly are the health benefits of ginger? This guide will give you the facts about ginger. 

What is ginger?

Ginger is a tropical flowering plant. It originated in Southeast Asia but has been propagated around the world. It is a close relative of turmeric. The leafy plant grows to about three feet and has greenish-purple flowers. It is the root of the ginger plant that has become the main area of interest. 

Ginger root has been a traditional flavoring and healing spice for centuries. It is harvested by pulling the entire plant from the soil to reveal the root. Beyond the healing properties and great taste, ginger is also resilient. It can be used fresh, and it can be dried or made into an extract. 

A small percentage of the essential oil of ginger is extracted for cosmetics and beauty products. 

Ginger nutrition facts

The basic nutrition information on ginger is pretty revealing. Here are the facts:

  • Calories: 32
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6.9g
  • Fiber: 1.4g
  • Sugars: 13g
  • Protein: 0.9g

Ginger on its own is a simple food supplement that carries little to no health risks. Even the amount of carbohydrates can be reduced to zero simply by infusing a tea with fresh or powdered ginger. 

Since the benefits of ginger come almost exclusively from the chemical gingerol, its nutrition benefits are largely negligible. However, ginger does make one of the finest flavorings known in cuisine. It can be used for almost any type of cooking—from savory dishes to pastry. This means you can get the health benefits of ginger into your home-cooked meals without adding any significant calories or carbohydrates to what you are eating. 

What are the health benefits of ginger?

As we said above, the main component of ginger that provides health benefits is gingerol. This is the primary bioactive compound in fresh ginger. Gingerol is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. 

Antioxidants reduce the damage that comes from oxidative stress in the body. The presence of free radicals in your metabolism causes this oxidative stress and this can lead to serious illnesses including cancer. Gingerol reduces or eliminates these free radicals. 

By reducing the effects of oxidative stress, gingerol also reduces inflammation. Inflammation is a natural physical response, but too much inflammation leads to physical conditions like arthritis. Gingerol is effective at reducing this type of inflammation. 

Treats nausea and morning sickness

One benefit of ginger that has been known for centuries is that it is great for treating nausea. Ginger can relieve nausea and help stop vomiting. 

There is evidence that ginger can even help alleviate nausea and vomiting that comes with chemotherapy. 

One thing that is known is that ginger is great for treating nausea and stomach upset so often associated with morning sickness. Pregnant women can treat this unfortunate side effect of pregnancy with simple fresh ginger. 

About 1-1.5 grams of fresh ginger can alleviate most forms of nausea and vomiting, including those associated with chemotherapy. 

Helps you lose weight

Recent research on the benefits of ginger has found a link between fresh ginger and weight loss. One study revealed that taking a ginger supplement resulted in significant weight loss in test subjects who were living with obesity. This same study showed that people who take a ginger supplement showed reduced BMI and blood-insulin levels, thus reducing their risk of diabetes. 

Researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, combined with its ability to help burn calories, help with weight loss. 

Can help with osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis involves the degeneration of joints in the body. The symptoms are primarily pain and stiffness.

One study, in particular, showed that 500 mg of ginger led to significant reductions in the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. What is more, the only thing that passed as a side effect of ginger for these participants was the taste of ginger. Some simply did not like the taste. 

Another study found that a topical treatment that included ginger was also effective in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis. 

 Can reduce blood sugar and prevent heart attack

Although this research is still in the preliminary phases, the results are promising for using ginger as a treatment for high blood sugar associated with diabetes. 

Researchers have found that small amounts of ginger (2 grams) can reduce blood sugar in people who are already living with type 2 diabetes. This study also improved the presence of a specific blood marker that is associated with type 2 diabetes. Not only does ginger reduce blood sugar levels, but it appears to also help treat the condition of diabetes itself. 

Treats chronic indigestion

Chronic indigestion is characterized by pain and discomfort in the stomach, particularly the upper part of the stomach. This is most often due to a delay in emptying the contents of the stomach

Researchers gave ginger supplements to a controlled group of people who suffer from chronic indigestions or functional dyspepsia. Another was given a placebo. The results showed that people who took the ginger supplement were able to empty the contents of their stomachs more efficiently than those who took the placebo. 

These results show a link between ginger and relief from the painful symptoms of chronic indigestion.

Can help treat menstrual pain

The pain often felt during the menstrual cycle is known as dysmenorrhea. One of the traditional uses of ginger is to treat the pain and discomfort that can come during the menstrual cycle. 

Recent studies have found a scientific basis for this traditional use of ginger. A study of 150 women found that small amounts of ginger reduced the pain and discomfort they had experienced with dysmenorrhea. This study revealed that fresh ginger or a ginger supplement can reduce pain as much as an over the counter pain reliever. 

Can lower cholesterol

Elevated levels of cholesterol, or LDL, are linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Many of the foods we eat are filled with cholesterol and this has led to an increase in heart disease. 

Some research has shown that taking ginger over months can lead to reduced LDL levels by as much as 17 percent. Another study also revealed reduced LDL levels after test subjects took just 3 grams of ginger daily for 45 days. 

In all, research has established a link between ginger and lower levels of cholesterol, and this means improved heart health. 

May fight Alzheimer’s disease

One of the main causes of the aging process that leads to cognitive degeneration is oxidative stress. Researchers now believe the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in ginger can reduce this oxidative stress. 

The bioactive compounds in ginger have been scientifically linked to the slowing of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. What is more, ginger may enhance brain function in older adults. 

Are health benefits lost in ground ginger?

The process of drying fresh ginger to make a powder does reduce some of the main active components of gingerol. But ginger retains most of its healing benefits even after drying. The drying process appears to concentrate other healing compounds like shogaols which provide some of the same benefits as gingerol. 

Dried ginger remains a powerful supplement even though the gingerol levels are reduced. Many of the studies cited above included dried ginger in the form of a supplement. 

Types of ginger

While tend to lump ginger into one definition, there are multiple types of ginger. Some we see regularly and others that are only available in specialty shops. The types of ginger include:

Chinese ginger

This is often called a grocery store ginger. It is the most common type of ginger, the one we all find in our local grocery store. Chinese ginger has a relatively mild flavor compared to other types of ginger. Native to parts of China, it is also cultivated in Brazil. 

Globba ginger

Also called Dancing Ladies, this variety of ginger is cultivated for its beautiful flowers which can range from small white petals to brilliant large purple. 

Hedychium ginger 

Also called the White Butterfly Ginger Lily, this is another flowering variety of ginger. It can reach seven feet in height and grows white flowers that resemble butterflies. 

Small-rhizome ginger

This is smaller than the ginger we normally find. It can be used in cooking. The flavor is similar to Chinese ginger but tends to be much stronger and pungent.  

Yellow ginger 

This is a common form of ginger available in the United States. It is often referred to as turmeric. Yellow ginger is great in cooking and it packs all the health benefits of Chinese ginger. There are a wide variety of teas available that include turmeric and ginger as a health supplement.  

How to consume ginger

As ginger grows in popularity, and as the health benefits of ginger become more widely understood, people are taking ginger in a variety of ways. Ginger has been used in cooking in the west for many years, yet people are finding ways to consume ginger directly. Some of the best ways include:

Tea

Ginger teas are now available in almost any café or tea house. A common favorite is ginger tea that contains the added benefit of turmeric. These teas are widely available in grocery stores.  

Power shots

Power shots are simply small blasts of ginger that have been juiced with other ingredients like carrots or apples. One of the best ginger power shots available is the Power Shot from Spartan Detox. Power shot’s sacred powerful ingredients are unlike no other. Power shot contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidants that may help prevent certain diseases. While also aiding in digestion, it supports the overall immune system to say in tip-top shape.

As a condiment

Anyone who has ever had a plate of sushi is familiar with the pickled ginger that comes on the side. This is just one delicious way to get ginger into your diet. Other ginger condiment ideas include traditional ginger sauces, which are easy to make at home, and honeyed ginger. 

Ginger side effects

Ginger is widely considered to be safe and side effect are rare. Some people may experience side effects that can include:

  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach discomfort

As a topical application, ginger has been known to cause minor skin irritation.  

Conclusion

The rising popularity of ginger in the western world is due to two factors. It's great taste and its benefits to health. Ginger has been widely available for many years now and has made its way into all types of cooking. It has also become increasingly well-known for its healing benefits. 

As a traditional medicine, ginger has been used for centuries to treat things like menstrual discomfort and stomach upset. Recent research has shown that ginger is scientifically proven to provide these benefits. It has also been linked to heart health and helping people lose weight. Ginger is also loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. 

The good news about ginger is that it simply tastes delicious. In teas, as a side dish, and in power shots, fresh ginger tastes great and is beneficial to your health. You can sip your ginger tea with the safe knowledge that it does great things for your body. 

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