What is savory, spicy, sweet, and loaded with heart health benefits? If you answered ginger, you are right. Ginger can reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risk, relieve period cramps and nausea, and so much more.
But you’re not exactly going to grab a piece of raw ginger and eat it like an apple, so how do you incorporate this zippy rhizome into your life? Read on as we delve into the benefits of this beloved spice and easy ways to get more in your diet.
Ginger and the heart
Chronic inflammation puts strain on the heart, leading to plaque buildup in the arteries, which can cause heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. Ginger fights this inflammation, inhibiting genes that contribute to the inflammatory process.
Cholesterol itself isn’t harmful or dangerous. However, an unhealthy lifestyle and large amounts of triglycerides can cause low-density lipoproteins (LDL) containing cholesterol to become dense, small particles that easily oxidize and cause heart disease.
Eradicates free radicals
Free radicals, created by pollution, unhealthy food, toxic water, alcohol, smoke, and radiation, can build up in the body, causing damage to your DNA and contributing to oxidative stress, a risk factor for heart disease.
Eating antioxidant-rich food, such as ginger, battles these free radicals, restoring your heart to a place of balance and health.
Lowers fasting blood sugar
Even people without diabetes should strive to keep their blood sugar within normal levels, as unchecked blood sugar can lead to blood vessel and nerve damage.
Studies have shown that ginger can allow your body to process blood sugar better, lowering fasting blood sugar levels and reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Other benefits of ginger
Perhaps the most well-known and well-studied use of ginger is alleviating nausea and soothing an upset stomach. Researchers have been studying the nausea-related benefits of this highly effective root for years, with many peer-reviewed studies backing up centuries of medicinal use.
It could be particularly effective in relieving chemotherapy-related nausea in cancer patients and reducing the effects of morning sickness in pregnant women.
Reduces menstrual pain
Many women dread “that time of the month” due to headaches, acne, back pain, and menstrual cramps that can sometimes interfere with normal activity. Instead of turning to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), sip on a cup of ginger tea.
One study showed that a 250 mg dose of ginger powder was equally effective in reducing period-associated pain as a 400 mg dose of ibuprofen. Load up on ginger before you expect to start your cycle and throughout to alleviate pain and minimize cramp severity.
Could protect against cancer
Though more research is needed to confirm the effects, some limited evidence shows that gingerol (a compound in ginger) could reduce cancer risk. Studies have shown that ginger effectively prevents pancreatic, breast, and ovarian cancer cell growth.
Ginger can also…
- Improve brain function – Ginger could improve working memory reaction time and protect against age-related cognitive degeneration.
- Relieve chronic indigestion – Numerous studies show that ginger could help treat chronic indigestion by hastening digestion and removing stomach discomfort.
- Enhance immune response – Ginger is loaded with antioxidants and has immune-boosting benefits that can give your body the tools it needs to fight off a cold or flu.
- Could help with weight loss – Animal studies show that ginger could aid in weight loss. Switch from sugar-laden drinks to a soothing lemon-ginger tea if you are trying to get healthy and lose a few pounds.
- Reduce pain from osteoarthritis – Topical application of ginger oil (along with other natural oils) has been shown to alleviate joint pain and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis.
How to eat more ginger
Fresh, dried, and powdered ginger is incredibly versatile. With a bit of creativity, you will find ways to eat this incredible root every day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Ginger juice shot
Not every occupation or busy schedule allows you to leisurely sip a few cups of ginger tea throughout the day. If that’s the case, you might prefer to get your daily ginger dose in a more concentrated fashion – a ginger juice shot. Buy fresh ginger in bulk and juice it at home to avoid the sugar added to many pre-made juices and protect your heart.
Add to root soup
There is nothing more comforting than a piping hot bowl of root soup on a chilly fall or winter day. Grab sweet potatoes, onions, parsnips, potatoes, a knob of fresh ginger, and add some hearty broth and meat, if desired. The ginger adds a delightfully spicy kick that brings this humble soup to a new level.
A simple ginger tea can soothe the tummy, reduce harmful inflammation, and keep you from developing a cold. Grate a small piece of fresh ginger and steep it in hot water to reap the benefits of this amazing root. You can add some lemon and a small squeeze of honey to enhance the flavor and health benefits.
If you’ve ever eaten sushi, you’ve likely seen a piece of pickled ginger sitting alongside your first course. This pickled ginger (also known as gari) is intended to be eaten between courses to cleanse your palette and allow you to distinguish between subtle flavors. Though this is the primary use of pickled ginger, it can be a delicious addition to salads and meat dishes.
Top your favorite dish
Pair with fish, chicken, stir fry, and any other savory dinner dish. Ginger goes exceptionally well with any Asian cuisine and you can easily incorporate it into your diet for heart health.
Add to a smoothie
Your daily green smoothie will become even more of a health powerhouse with the addition of a little fresh ginger. It can help offset some of the “green” flavors and add a spicy kick to your morning shake.
While ginger in your diet is certainly effective, try ginger as a dietary supplement if you don’t like the taste of ginger yet still want to reap the benefits. You can find it as a capsule or liquid extract from many safe, reputable supplement companies. Make sure that whatever ginger supplement you buy contains only ginger, no added fillers, sugars, or chemicals.
Side effects of ginger
Ginger is generally considered safe for most people and unlikely to cause any side effects. However, it does act as a natural blood thinner, and large amounts could cause an adverse drug interaction with prescription blood thinners. Talk to your doctor before incorporating lots of ginger into your diet if you are on prescription medication.
Ginger is, without debate, truly one of the most “super” of all the superfoods. It is loaded with protective properties and bioactive compounds that can reverse and prevent chronic disease and has been used for thousands of years to bring the body to a place of balance.
Now science has caught up, with modern studies supporting this unassuming tubular plant that is once a vegetable, spice, herb, and one of nature’s greatest gifts for health and well-being. Get this plant into your diet — your heart will thank you.
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD