No trip to the sushi bar would be complete without an oversize serving of pickled ginger, but this unique spice is good for much more than just enhancing a spicy tuna roll. Ginger is actually chock-full of health benefits that can aid in everything from blood sugar management to osteoarthritis. But if the strong flavor of fresh ginger is a bit much for you, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy and reap its benefits. There’s ground ginger, ginger extract, ginger-root supplements, and even ginger tea.
No matter how you enjoy ginger, it’s a great spice to have on hand. It also works amazingly well in countless recipe, like this easy, healthy weeknight dinner. Here, we’ve broken down just a few of the known health benefits. Keep in mind that ginger has been shown to interact with certain drugs like warfarin and nifedipine, so if you’re on any prescription medications, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before adding ginger to your diet.
1. Reduces Blood Sugar
A 2015 study from the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research found that ginger reduced blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Although the study only looked at 41 participants, the results were pretty impressive. Just two grams of ginger powder each day were able to reduce the participants’ blood sugar by an average of 12%.
2. Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
The aforementioned study showed some promising results in terms of blood sugar, but even more impressive are its potential implications for heart disease. The researchers noted a 28% decline in their participants’ ApoB/ApoA-I ratio (a type of protein that controls our lipid metabolism and determines how our body breaks down and stores fat for energy). High levels of these proteins, however, have been correlated to heart disease and the fact that ginger was able to reduce these lipoproteins is extremely encouraging.
3. Diminishes Cholesterol Levels
The effects of ginger on lipoproteins have been well-documented, and at least one double-blind study suggests that ginger may even reduce the lipids associated with high cholesterol. Researchers found that participants who took three grams of ginger a day saw a far more significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides than the placebo group did. A separate 2013 study revealed a similar outcome.
4. Prevents Alzheimer's Disease
Research into this area is still ongoing, but numerous studies have already shown promising results. An animal study from 2014 concluded that ginger may contain anti-Alzheimer receptors that inhibit the kinds of inflammatory activity in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Subdues Nausea and Morning Sickness
Ginger root has long been used to treat nausea, and one study found that it may be as effective as prescription drugs when it comes to treating seasickness. A separate review of 12 independent studies found that ginger may be helpful in reducing morning sickness symptoms in pregnant women. Other research is being done to study ginger’s effects on nausea related to chemotherapy and post-surgery recovery, but the results are still inconclusive.
6. Alleviates Osteoarthritis
The primary bioactive compound in ginger is called gingerol, and it’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This may be why (as revealed in one University of Miami study) ginger has been shown to reduce knee pain in people living with osteoarthritis, often to the point of requiring less pain medication.
7. Reduces Risk of Infections
The compound gingerol has been the subject of numerous studies, and it’s demonstrated both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may help lower the risk of infections, is capable of fighting bacteria, and—when consumed regularly—may even lower a person’s risk factors for certain types of cancer.
The health benefits of ginger are still subject to extensive research and debate, but for most people, it can make an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle. Try adding a couple of grams to your daily routine and see if you notice a difference.