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4 Reasons To Add This Powerful Spice To Your Diet

Who knew this herb had so many health benefits?

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Close-up of woman grabbing spices from pantry
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Ginger, a remarkably versatile spice known for its unique zesty flavor and heat, is more than just a popular addition to cocktails, smoothies, entrées and desserts.

“It’s a powerful herb that’s been used for thousands of years in traditional Asian medicine,” says Anne Danahy, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Scottsdale, Arizona, and author of Craving Something Healthy. “And research backs up its potential benefits as a complementary treatment in modern medicine.”

Gingerol, the primary compound found in ginger, is lauded for its antioxidant (compounds that protect our body’s cells from damage), antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help your body fight off disease. Here are some of the benefits and ways to include ginger in your diet. 

Nausea and stomach upset

A study from the National Library of Medicine has shown that ginger may be effective in curbing nausea and vomiting for motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. Dried or fresh ginger (added to hot water) are most beneficial; however, many patients’ symptoms are relieved with candied ginger chews or lozenges. Avoid high doses of ginger if you are pregnant. In addition, ginger is considered one of nature’s greatest antidotes for alleviating digestive distress. Eating ginger before meals may bring relief to those who suffer from indigestion, bloating and constipation. 

Pain and swelling

According to the Arthritis Foundation and a multitude of studies, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may ease the pain and swelling of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Roberta Lee, M.D., vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, recommends using capsules that contain “supercritical extraction” and taking them with food for the best results. Ginger may also reduce pain of menstrual cramps, headaches and minor injuries. Ginger tea mixed with honey also can be a soothing tonic for sore throats. 

Immune system

Ginger, a superfood, is rich in vitamins and minerals — such as manganese, magnesium, zinc and vitamins B, C and E — and contains loads of antiviral properties, which help fight off colds and flu. Gingerol is responsible for the pungent sensation and can aid in lowering the risk of certain bacterial infections. Many health food stores and fresh juiceries offer ginger shots, perfect for when your immune system needs an extra boost. Drinking fruit or vegetable smoothies with added fresh ginger is a great way to make sure you are getting a daily dose of ginger’s superb medicinal benefits.

Heart health

Daily ginger consumption is linked to lower risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease, and aids in reduced LDL cholesterol levels. Incorporating ginger into your diet is easy, and the safest way is in food. “Add grated fresh ginger when cooking stir-fries, soups and salad dressings, even oatmeal and fruit salad,” says Danahy.

However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. According to studies, experts suggest consuming only small amounts of ginger (no more than 4 grams a day) to avoid adverse reactions, such as heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, bleeding problems, low blood pressure, gallstones and change in heart rhythm. Before adding ginger, in any of its forms (fresh, dried, pickled, crystallized, teas, extracts, candy, capsules and oils), Danahy recommends asking “your health care provider about potential interactions with any herbs, supplements or medications, as it may interact with some drugs.”