7 proven benefits of adding ginger to your diet

Shannon Clark, SATI STAFF

When it comes to nutrition, many people are quick to think about the foods they are including in their menu. Lean proteins, leafy greens, healthy fats, fresh berries – all are terrific options and what you may be prioritizing. While it’s great that you are putting a high focus on these types of foods, it’s important that you don’t overlook some of the other ways that you can give your health a jumpstart.

Namely herbs and spices. One particular herb that deserves special attention is that of ginger. When someone says ‘ginger’ to you, you may automatically think gingerale and using it to help combat stomach discomfort when you’re not feeling so well. But, ginger can do much more than this and taking the time to learn about how ginger can benefit you can do a world of good.

Let’s go over a few more details about this herb and some of the top ways it’ll enhance your health.

Stats of ginger

Before we go any further, let’s quickly review the stats on ginger. Like most herbs and spices, ginger is extremely low in calories, providing a negligible amount to the diet. This is one of the best things about this herb – you can easily add it to your diet plan without worry about it impacting your weight. Whether you are using a low carb diet, low fat diet, or otherwise, it’s a herb for you.

Do keep in mind that the nutritional information of ginger can vary depending on the format you purchase it in. Dried ginger (ginger powder) and whole ginger will have relatively few calories, while candied ginger or pickled ginger may have a few additional calories thanks to the ingredients added in the preparation process.

For ginger root raw, the nutrition stats are as follows for a ten gram serving (1):

Calories: 8

Total fat: 0.1 grams

Total Carbs: 1.8 grams

Dietary Fiber: 0.2 grams

Sugars: 0.2 grams

Protein: 0.2 grams

Sodium: 1 mg

As you can see, this herb really does not have much in the way of carbs, proteins, or fats, so will not impact you on a calorie level. This said, don’t let that make you think it’s not useful. There is a wide array of health benefits that ginger has to offer.

Ginger and inflammation

The first major benefit that ginger brings is a reduction in inflammation in the body. Inflammation is at the heart of many diseases we face today, as well as is simply responsible for why many of us do not feel as well as we could on a daily basis. Our body is inflamed due to the poor food choices we are making and the lifestyle habits we are choosing, setting us up for problems down the road.

Fortunately, ginger can help. Ginger is well-known to be an ancient medicine and was used back in the early days to help lower inflammation in the body and deliver a strong antioxidant punch. It can help do this thanks to the compound gingerol, which is the active component of ginger that exerts these effects.

Research has illustrated that ginger may be useful for treating a wide variety of different conditions that result from inflammation including kidney disease (2) as well as even skin cancer (3).

Overall, scientists have come to the conclusion that ginger may be a potential therapeutic agent for the prevention and/or treatment of various diseases and is now being recommended by many in the medical field (4).

The thing to know and remember about inflammation is that you usually don’t see it and symptoms may not always be present at first. Your body may be in a state of being inflamed but you’ll have no idea this is the case until disease strikes and now you have a major issue on your hands. This is why taking steps to prevent inflammation before it starts – performing ‘damage control’ if you will, is critical to optimal health. By using ginger in your diet on a regular basis, you can help do this. Don’t let the situation get to a point where extreme measures and medical practices need to be used or your life is in jeopardy.

Ginger and pregnancy

Many women will sing the praises of ginger for helping get them through the early stages of pregnancy. The first trimester marks a time for most women where morning sickness sets in, which comes not only with nausea and vomiting, but intense food aversions. What a pregnant woman used to love eating on a regular basis, she may come to find she despises during this time period, making it harder for her to find foods she finds agreeable. If she’s not eating this can then pose a serious risk to the health of her baby, as well as herself, so it’s something that needs to be dealt with.

Given the fact that pregnant women are also not allowed to take most medications as these may have negative repercussions on their unborn baby, it only makes sense then they’ll seek out natural strategies that may help. In comes ginger. Researchers published in the American Family Physician journal noted that once pathologic causes have been ruled out, initial treatment of morning nausea and vomiting during pregnancy should involve alternative therapies such as dietary changes, emotional support, and ginger or acupressure (5). These alone can help get most women past this hump and into the second trimester of pregnancy where the morning sickness tends to lessen.

The unfortunate thing about morning sickness is that it’s very often not just happening in the morning. Rather, it’s all day nausea that can lead some women to really suffer a decrease in their overall quality of life during this time. And, if they are continually vomiting, this can lead to weight loss, which is also unwanted during this critical time of baby development. Ginger may pose a very safe and healthy solution for women in this situation. Always do be sure that you speak with your medical professional before using ginger though and be cautious about using very large doses. There is not enough conclusive research on large doses of ginger and the developing fetus, so only use it when you do find you need it.

Ginger and sea sickness

Morning sickness associated with pregnancy isn’t the only type of sickness that ginger is standing by, ready to treat. Another form of stomach discomfort you’ll find ginger can be especially good for is sea sickness, which many people get whenever traveling by boat.

If you are a frequent traveler but hate the sickness that goes with it, ginger may stand in and provide the quick relief you need. Research even suggests that ginger may prove to be as effective as prescription medication for combating these feelings of discomfort, so do not overlook it as a form of treatment (6).

Whenever you can use natural means of treatment rather than medical interventions, be sure to try and do so. Ginger will come with no unwanted side effects while there’s never any real way to determine how your body may react from prescription medication. In some cases you will be fine, but in others, that just isn’t the way the situation plays out.

Ginger and cancer therapy

Another time when nausea and vomiting are quite prevalent is when one is going through cancer treatment and chemotherapy. These patients are already suffering from a lot going on in their life from the realization that they have this life threatening illness to the loss of their hair as well. The added nausea and vomiting that go with it really can dampen their spirits, change their mood, and could even impact their outlook for recovery. One study published in the Cancer journal noted that when psychological interventions were used to help lessen stress of those undergoing cancer treatment, the overall outlook for the diagnoses was better than those who received no intervention (7). If stress is contributing to the decline in outlook, doing anything else that minimizes stress such as removing the nausea and vomiting should also assist.

Ginger can help here as well. Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and gynecology noted that when patients were provided ginger after surgery was completed, much of the nausea they experienced was reduced and the only side effect they did experience was a small degree of stomach discomfort (8). The dose of ginger recommended for this purpose is quite high, set to 1 gram or above in this research study, so do keep in mind you will need quite a large amount to see good benefits.

Ginger and arthritis

Arthritis is an unfortunate condition that many people find themselves suffering from, especially as they get older. If you have not been taking steps to promote the growth and development of strong bones during your earlier years, the risk that you do experience pain and even stress fractures in the future is increased. Arthritis is another issue that can strike people at any time, especially those who aren’t as active and don’t perform weight baring exercises on a regular basis. When it does strike, it will lead to the degeneration of the joints in the body, which can then lead to further issues including joint pain and stiffness. This can really compromise the quality of life the individual is experiencing and limit the total amount of activity they can perform.

Fortunately, there are natural treatments for those suffering from arthritis. While staying active in any way you can will be a good way to jump-start bone health, ginger supplementation may also come in very helpful. In one study of 247 individuals who were suffering from this condition, the addition of ginger to their diet helped to relieve the pain they were experiencing and in many, also caused a reduction in how much medication was utilized to help treat their condition (9).

This would be a treatment that you would want to be using daily on an ongoing basis in order to reap continual rewards. As osteoarthritis is a condition that once you have it, it does not let up, you should be looking for lifestyle adjustments that can be made to help you best manage it. Since ginger doesn’t pose any risk of unwanted side effects, it can be much preferable to other medical treatments.

On top of this, you may also use ginger topically as well, applying it to the areas that are proving to be painful. In one study researchers had those who were suffering from knee osteoarthritis apply a combination of cinnamon, ginger, mastic and sesame oil to their sore area two times per day. After six weeks of continual treatment they were evaluated against an experimental group who just used a salicylate ointment on the pain instead. It was found that the group using the cinnamon and ginger combination may have experienced decrease pain, morning stiffness, as well as experienced a greater overall range of motion after the treatment period was over (10). This provides great hope for those suffering from discomfort related tot his condition.

Ginger and blood sugar

One important step that all individuals must be taking as they strive to improve their health is reducing their blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are high, this means the pancreas will be working overtime to produce more insulin to control this blood sugar and keep your body within the healthy range. When this happens on an ongoing basis, the cells of your body can become less sensitive to insulin, causing a condition called insulin resistance to set in. This is one of the hallmark traits of diabetes and can also be associated with other health conditions such as heart disease and obesity.

Controlling your blood sugar is important to avoid this and in addition to that, also preventing weight gain. When insulin levels are high coupled with high glucose, this often means that the excess glucose is being moved into body fat storage, which will then lead to weight gain.

Fortunately, ginger can help. Research suggests that when type 2 diabetic subjects took ginger powder on a regular basis, they were able to lower their fasting blood sugar levels by up to 12% (11).

This is important for both those who are looking to control and prevent diabetes to note as well as those who are simply looking to sustain a healthy body weight over time (12).

Ginger and heart disease

Finally, it would appear that ginger may also play a key role in helping minimize your risk factor for heart disease as well. Research suggests that ginger extra consumption may help to reduce plasma cholesterol, inhibit the LDL oxidation rates taking place, and reduce the development of atherosclerosis (13).

Heart disease is very much a condition that can be managed and even prevented to a large degree through diet and lifestyle changes (14), so it’s vital that you seek out natural treatment methods such as ginger. Don’t be too quick to rely on medication for treating this condition if you can avoid it. Natural is always a better option.

It’s also been suggested by some research that ginger extract may also pose benefits for the reduction of stroke risk as well, so those who are concerned about this may likewise want to consider this herb (15).

The Sati line

So as you can see, there are many great benefits to utilizing ginger in your life. Whether you choose to simply use a ginger extract and take it like a supplement or use ginger more often in your cooking is up to you. Cooking with ginger is a great way to add more flavor to the foods you are eating without adding the fat and unwanted calories that may otherwise come from the addition of sauces or condiments.

Furthermore, as ginger is quite a powerful herb, it’s one that will add quite a bit of flavor to dishes, potentially making them more palatable to those who like stronger tasting foods. Many of those who go on a fat loss diet complain they struggle to stick with the plan because their foods taste bland and boring, so ginger might just help you get past this.

Ginger is highly versatile and can be used in many different ways, so try seeking out a few recipes that will help you incorporate this herb into your diet and start reaping the many benefits that come with it.

Try serving ginger along with light soy sauce in a stir-fry, adding it to rice side dishes along with sesame seeds, or combined with orange juice for a delicious sauce that you can prepare your main source of protein in. The ways to use it are endless so get out your cookbooks and find one that is appealing to you.