Whether you chop this fragrant root up to flavour stir-fry or brew a cup of calming ginger tea, the health benefits of ginger are worth exploring in as many tasty ways as possible.
Not only is ginger chock full of antioxidants, but it’s also been used in medical traditions throughout the world for centuries to relieve pain, curb inflammation, and settle nausea.
Here’s everything you need to know about the many health benefits of ginger root, and how to incorporate it into your diet so you can stay strong and healthy.
1. It’s an anti-inflammatory
Related to superfoods like turmeric and cardamom, ginger contains the compound gingerol, a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Naturally occurring anti-inflammatories are important because they can help curb an overactive immune system. Inflammation is your body’s natural and healthy response to injury or illness—and it tells your white blood cells that it’s time to start healing.
But too much inflammation is also associated with disease, like celiac and fibromyalgia, which is why doctors and nutritionists alike are keen on antioxidants—they help reduce inflammation.
Leafy greens, blueberries, and — you guessed it — ginger, are all high in antioxidants, which means they help minimise inflammation throughout the body.
2. It relieves muscle pain
Because of ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties, it’s often used to help relieve muscle and joint pain, including arthritis.
One study published in The Journal of Pain found that athletes who supplemented with ginger experienced reduced muscle pain after exercise.
Don’t retire your foam roller just yet—but do consider adding ginger to your post-workout meal to help ease achy muscles the next day.
3. It settles the stomach
If you’ve ever sipped ginger ale or ginger tea in an attempt to soothe an upset stomach, you already know that ginger can help curb nausea.
It’s also the perfect drink to sip after a heavy meal, says health reporter Marissa Miller.
“A cup of ginger tea could help your stomach empty faster so food doesn’t just sit there after an indulgent meal,” Miller explains at Women’s Health.
“It’ll help calm your stomach and stave off bloating and gas.” Win-win.
4. It can help regulate blood sugar
Ginger is most often prized for its ability to soothe, but one of the most surprising health benefits of ginger is that it also helps regulate blood sugar.
This minimises the negative symptoms of high blood sugar, which, if left untreated, can lead to major health problems, like diabetes.
According to Dr. Axe, ginger supplementation can reduce fasting blood sugar and promote healthy blood sugar levels—helping you stay healthy.
5. It helps prevent heart disease
More than half of Australians struggle with obesity, which means complications like heart disease and high cholesterol are all too common.
In addition to lowering blood sugar, one study also found that ginger can reduce lipoproteins—a major risk factor for heart disease.
Try adding a few tablespoons of ginger to a veggie stir-fry with a side of Omega-3 rich salmon—the antioxidants in ginger and greens, as well as the fatty acids in salmon, all promote heart health.
6. It reduces risk of diabetes
Ginger helps to regulate insulin and keep your metabolism humming, reducing your overall risk of diabetes. Keeping insulin in check and metabolism roaring is crucial for Australians who struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
But don’t just think you can eat ginger-flavoured snacks and be on the right track, says dietitian Jaclyn London. “Keep both dried and fresh ginger ginger on-hand for flavoring smoothies and veggie-based stir-frys and soups,” suggests London at Good Housekeeping.
“While some chemical compounds in ginger may decrease over time, the drying process enhances other beneficial ones,” she adds.
7. It reduces cancer risk
There’s some research to suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce your risk for cancer—and ginger is one of our most powerful anti-inflammatories.
A 2012 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that ginger extract was effective at blocking prostate cancer cell growth. The jury’s still out on whether this could work on humans and not just in the lab—but it’s a start.
8. It eases menstrual pain
Because of ginger root’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can be helpful for easing pain from menstrual cramps—about as effective as ibuprofen, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
That’s great news for the more than half of all women who experience extraordinary pain during their periods. A cup of ginger tea could help you get back on your feet.
9. It fights infections
Thanks to powerful anti-fungal and antimicrobial compounds, ginger might even help you fight off a cold or an infection.
“Mix hot water with two tablespoons of fresh grated ginger, juice of one lemon, and half a tablespoon of honey,” suggests Miller at Women’s Health. “Or, toss a teaspoon into chicken soup for some added cold-fighting benefits.”
10. It improves brain function
Anti-inflammatory properties: it’s one of the health benefits of ginger that keeps on giving—especially when it comes to protecting your noggin.
Scientists have long considered inflammation a symptom of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ginger root may help decrease inflammation and improve cognitive function, according to a 2011 study published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
How to incorporate ginger into your diet
Whether you purchase ginger root from the farmers market or your local grocery, look for firm roots with skin that contains few nicks, bumps and bruises. To take full advantage of ginger’s many health benefits, you’ll have to scrape or cut the brown skin away, revealing the crisp yellow flesh beneath.
Mince and add to stir-fry, smoothies, or salad dressings to amp up the flavour in your favourite dishes. Ginger goes especially well with soy sauce, garlic and salmon, for an Asian-inspired stir-fry, or pulsed in a juicer with carrots and pineapple for a heart-friendly smoothie.
To store, place unused ginger in a plastic bag or tupperware—then toss it in the crisper for up to four weeks. As soon as you see discoloration or soft spots, the ginger is past its prime.
This zingy root is so easy to add to your diet that you might be tempted to go overboard on your new favourite superfood, says dietitian Christy Brissette.
“Having a couple of tablespoons of fresh or powdered ginger a day is fine,” Brissette explained to Women’s Health. “If you’d like to take more, speak to your doctor, as ginger can interfere with some medications.”
Interested in adding more superfoods to your diet? Try this turmeric golden latte for another anti-inflammatory treat.