For thousands of years, Asian, Indian and Arabic cultures prized ginger as both a spice and powerful medicine that had the ability to relieve nausea and vomiting. The spice trade brought ginger to Europe where its benefits were quickly embraced. As one sixteenth-century physician put it: “Ginger does good for a bad stomach.” Modern science has confirmed ginger’s ability to reduce nausea and vomiting due to everything from motion sickness, morning sickness, postoperative upset and chemotherapy treatments.
But further studies have shown ginger has many other healing properties:
Improves Blood Flow
Ginger contains zinc, magnesium and chromium which can help improve blood flow as well as help prevent fever, chills and excessive sweating.
Reduces Muscle Pain and Soreness
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger has also been shown to be quite good at relieving muscle soreness associated with exercise.
Improves Nutrient Absorption
Ginger has the ability to stimulate gastric and pancreatic enzyme secretion and, as a result, absorption and stimulation of essential nutrients in the body is improved.
Prevents Colds and Flu
Ginger has been used for thousands of years in Asian cultures as a natural remedy for colds and flu. A study by the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends treating oncoming cold and flu symptoms with ginger tea (made by steeping 2 tbsp. of freshly shredded or chopped ginger root into hot water) and drinking two to three times a day.
May Lower Cholesterol
As you most likely known, high levels of LDL – the “bad” kind of cholesterol – put individuals at greater risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that cholesterol markers can be significantly reduced when individuals take just 3 grams of ginger powder a day. This study was supported by a second that found hypothyroid rats, given ginger extract, experienced a similar decrease in total cholesterol and blood triglycerides as when given the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin.
Prevents Colon Cancer
A study at the University of Minnesota found that ginger seems to have the ability to slow the growth of colorectal cancer cells. Because of this initial finding, ginger extract continues to be studied as an alternative treatment for several forms of cancer.
The anti-cancer properties of ginger are attributed to a substance called 6-gingerol found in large amounts in raw ginger. Although more research is needed, there is some initial evidence that ginger may also be effective against pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Ginger May Improve Cognitive Function
What causes us to age? Two things: Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. The more of it our bodies have, the more accelerated our aging process. When it comes to cognitive decline and developing diseases like Alzheimer’s, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are also the two biggest drivers.
Animals studies have suggested that the specific bioactive compounds and antioxidants found in ginger can block the inflammatory responses in the brain. Evidence is also pointing to ginger as a way for people without Alzheimer’s to improve memory and reaction time.
Reduces Joint Pain and Inflammation
Osteoarthritis is a common health concern as we get older. This degenerative disease leads to joint pain and stiffness and an overall lesser quality of life. Numerous studies have shown the efficacy of ginger in alleviating joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
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Fights Upper Respiratory Issues
Ginger is a natural expectorant that helps the body expand the lungs and break down and remove mucus to ease breathing.
That gingerol I mentioned before, it’s also incredibly good at inhibiting the growth of all kinds of infection-causing bacteria. For instance, fresh ginger and ginger extract is great at fighting oral bacteria linked to gum disease.
Lowers Blood Sugars
Although more research will need to be conducted, early findings indicate that ginger may have powerful anti-diabetic properties. A study conducted just this year found participants with type 2 diabetes who were given just 2 grams of ginger powder had their fasting blood sugars lowered by 12%.
HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels) was also dramatically improved. There were also other significant reductions such as a 28% reduction in the ApoB/ApoA-I ratio, and a 23% reduction in markers for oxidized lipoproteins. These are both major risk factors for heart disease.
Here Are 5 Easy Ways to Get More Ginger into Your Diet
Now that you know how good ginger is for your overall health, you may be wondering how you can get some more of it into your diet. It’s not a spice that everyone knows how to work with. Fear not, here are 5 easy ways you can get more of this miraculous food into your diet:
Make a Hot Tea
Sure you can buy ginger teabags, but they will not give you the same health benefits as making your own. It’s simple: just cut off a chunk of ginger (you don’t even have to peel it) and pour boiling water over it and let steep for a few minutes. Add honey and some lemon and you have an incredibly healthy and delicious tonic.
Grate Some into Soups
Freshly grated ginger is such a delicious addition to almost any soup, particularly hot and creamy winter soups. This will keep those nasty colds and flu away.
Add it to Stir-Fries
You’d be hard-pressed to find a stir-fry recipe that couldn’t be improved with a little freshly-grated ginger. Whether it’s a veggie stir-fry or beef or chicken, ginger will give it a zing that your mouth will love and body will benefit from.
Bake with it
Ginger is incredible when paired with different pies and cookies, and now’s the time to bake some ginger treats for the holidays. Make some ginger span cookies or add ginger to your favorite pumpkin pie recipe.
Add it to Your Green Juices and Smoothies
Add a little chunk into your green juice or smoothie to give it an extra kick and make it extra healthy. Try juicing or blending kale, cucumber, celery, green apple and ginger, delish!
Now that you know how good ginger is for your health, and you know how simple it is to get more of it into your diet, there should be nothing stopping you from being healthier in the New Year!