YOU’VE PROBABLY TASTED ginger’s punchy flavor in foods you eat every day, like smoothies, teas, curries, stir-fries, and salads. Or those ubiquitous ginger-turmeric-lemon juice wellness shot sold at health food stores.
“Ginger root is a widely popular root with several health benefits. Ginger root is found in several forms such as the actual whole root, powder, spice, juice, sliced in foods, pills, teas, and other proprietary supplements,” says Jesse Feder, M.S., R.D.N., C.P.T., a contributor at My Crohns and Colitis Team, adding that it is in fact beneficial to incorporate ginger root into your everyday diet.
“By adding it to your daily routine, you may notice better digestion, less bloating, weight loss, increased immunity, and a decrease in overall inflammation,” he says. “This is largely due to the high amounts of antioxidants.”
Recently, much like turmeric and apple cider vinegar, ginger has garnered lots of attention as a miracle cure for a whole host health woes, like easing stomach pain, fighting infections, and even lowering your risk of heart attack and cancer.
It may have become popular as a “superfood” in recent decades, but ginger as a health-supportive ingredient certainly isn’t new. “Ginger root has been used as an herbal remedy for thousands of years. It’s believed to help treat anything from the common cold to migraines, and even high blood pressure. You can find it in a variety of different forms including fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, candied, or ground,” says Meghan Stoops, R.D., LDN, Naked Nutrition‘s team dietitian.
A close relative to turmeric, Stoops said, ginger is considered one of the healthiest spices in the world. “It is packed with valuable antioxidant properties that come from the phenolic compound gingerol. This compound is found in the natural oils of the ginger root that gives ginger its pungent flavor and aroma.” she said. “Gingerol is believed to be responsible for the incredible medicinal properties of ginger, such as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.”
Ahead, a look at what ginger is and its potential health benefits.
What Is Ginger?
“Ginger root is a spice native to Southeast Asia, but is now used worldwide for a variety of medicinal and cooking purposes,” says Trista K. Best, a registered dietitian based in Georgia.
In terms of its nutrition specifics, ginger is low in calories with a ¼ cup serving of sliced, fresh ginger root containing about 20 calories per the USDA’s FoodData Central. “It contains minimal to no fat or protein per serving but is loaded with antioxidants,” Stoops says.
A tablespoon of fresh ginger root has trace amounts of the following vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, riboflavin, niacin, iron, potassium, B6, and B3.
It’s worth flagging that “ginger root is not nutrient dense in the traditional sense where it contains a significant amount of vitamins and minerals,” says Best. “However, it is nutritious because of the phytonutrients it contains, specifically gingerols which make it highly anti-inflammatory,” adding that this compound gives ginger root its many health benefits. Some of the most common uses of ginger root include pain in arthritis, alleviating nausea, treating indigestion, lowering cholesterol levels, aiding in weight loss, and many more.”
Regardless of how you evaluate its nutrition breakdown, it’s safe to say this potent plant is well worth adding to your routine.
Is Ginger Root Nutritious?
As you’ve probably gathered by now, yes, yes it is.
“Ginger root is incredibly nutritious and contains a vast amount of potential health benefits,” says Stoops. “Recent research has found the ginger root to possibly help protect against cancer and has been researched as an alternative therapy. Other studies show possible benefits linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and improved immunity. Along with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, ginger root is believed to have antimicrobial properties as well,” she says.
And the potential medicinal qualities of ginger don’t stop there with Stoops further commenting that its believed to help with pain from osteoarthritis, may help in the treatment of obesity, is believed to have anti-diabetic properties and may be able to help reduce heart disease risk.
Again, “the primary reason for ginger’s health qualities is the compound it contains; gingerol,” says Best, adding that this compound is a strong anti-inflammatory antioxidant that works to reduce oxidative stress and free radicals in the body. “When this stress is allowed to persist and free radicals ravage the body, illnesses are more likely to occur.”
How Should You Consume Ginger?
Thanks to the many forms of ginger on the market—from the fresh root to powdered forms to teas—there are many ways to add ginger to your diet.
“Ginger root has a very strong, spicy flavor that compliments many dishes. Although ginger is most popular in Asian cuisine, it’s popping up in a lot more recipes as consumers look to take advantage of its health benefits,” says Stoops, who is also a fan of Naked Nutrition’s Naked Fire Shot, which contains a mixture of organic ginger root, cayenne pepper, Panax ginseng, apple cider vinegar, green coffee beans, and ashwagandha.
“Ginger pairs especially well in juices and smoothies to add a kick of flavor. It’s also a popular addition to teas,” she says. “Simply steep a slice of ginger in boiling water for 10 minutes, and you have a flavorful, nutrient-packed beverage.”
Should You Take a Ginger Supplement?
In addition to the above modes of consuming ginger, you can also go the supplement route. “I find it easiest to take ginger root in pill form if you are looking to just take it for its health benefits,” said Feder. “If you want to take it in pill form, make sure it is third party tested for any contaminants. Additionally, I would stay away from proprietary blends that do not disclose the actual amount of ginger in the supplement,” he cautioned.
“Be wary of ginger supplements as they are not as tightly regulated as food products and their research is more limited,” highlighted Stoops. “If you do decide to take supplemental ginger root, or gingerol, be sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting.”
Perri is a New York City-born-and-based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at Institute Of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.