The Legendary Benefits of Ginger!
Ginger has colossal health benefits, including being a non-steroidal testosterone enhancer and muscle pain reliever. It possesses anti-carcinogenic properties and it’s benefits don’t stop there!
Overview and History of Ginger
Ginger (Zingiber oficinale) is a flowering plant native to the tropical rainforests of Southern Asia, from Burma and Laos to Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. What we know as ginger is, in fact, the root of the plant or the rhizome. It was brought to Europe by the Ancient Romans in first century A.D., via the historically renowned Silk Road.
Since then, ginger has been one of the most beloved culinary spices known to man, due to the fragrance and heat it adds to dishes, as well as because of its substantial impact on human health. It comes as no surprise that soon enough, people began to use it as treatment in the practice of herbal and alternative medicine. Lately, modern medicine proved its benefits in clinical trials for various illnesses with great success.
Legendary… in a Nutshell
Ginger naturally increases serum testosterone and reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad one). It has incredible anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are reflected in its ability to inhibit age-related cognitive decline and overall degeneration of the brain, but also in its properties to alleviate musculoskeletal pain. Its bioactive molecules effectively control multiple types of cancer, while its insulinoptropic and glucose-lowering properties turn it into a fearsome weapon against diabetes. Needless to say, it’s not legendary for no reason.
How to Select and Eat Ginger
First things first: the best type of ginger is the root itself. You may find the product in various packaged forms or ground, but its properties are changed by such processing. The best way to go about it is to select a fresh root from the closest store. Make sure it doesn’t have soft spots, mould or wrinkled, dry skin. Cut off small chunks, peel them and either mince, grate or slice the root according to your needs or preferences. With the skin on, ginger will last in your fridge for more than two weeks. Some Asian markets might sell young roots as well, which are smoother, very light-coloured and do not require peeling.
The best way to consume ginger is from the root itself. If you find that the taste is a bit too much to bear, add it in before you prepare your meal. Otherwise, you can use it to garnish. There are hundreds of dishes that include ginger and basically any variety of smoothie could do with a bit of minced root. Various regional uses from Southeast Asia include pickling it, using it to spice coffee and tea (or even using it to brew tea), julienne in salads or adding it to sweet foods.
Ground vs. Fresh Ginger
Whenever you cannot get your hands on a root, you can always settle for ground or extracts. There is evidence that the powder form of ginger contains less gingerol, but more shogaol, so its nutrient profile undergoes some minor changes.
Perhaps the best way to go is to use both types, depending on your needs. For instance, if you’re spicing tea, a tip of a teaspoon of powder is enough, but if you’re brewing it or need it to prepare a meal, a good chunk is preferable.
Approximate nutritional content of one tablespoon of ground ginger:
- 17 calories
- Less than 0.5 grams of sugar, total fat or protein
- 7 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of carbohydrates
This wonder root contains over 115 bioactive compounds that are now being studied for their properties. Some of the most renowned are -gingerol,-shogaol, -paradol, and zerumbone. It is ordinarily used to spice up common recipes or to add more flavour to drinks.
Effects on health
Ginger belongs to the same family of plants as cardamom and turmeric. The Chinese and the Indians have been using it for over 5,000 years and, when it first arrived to Europe, it was held in high regard for its medicinal properties. The most investigated compounds in this root, gingerols, are also the ones that give it its unique taste. So far, ginger has been proven to be effective as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent, as well as potent in regulating insulin levels, blood-sugar and cholesterol levels.
7 Positive Health Benefits of Ginger
- Anti-carcinogenic features
Although the anti-cancer effects of ginger are widely disputed, its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory traits led to more research in this direction. To date, ginger was shown to be helpful in the case of colorectal and gastric cancer, ovarian, skin and breast cancer as well as in liver and prostate cancer. The basic idea behind this root’s impact in carcinogenic processes is its ability to activate certain enzymes within our bodies that supress the production of the disease-specific harmful cells, but it can also inhibit tumour cell invasion and motility.
- Anti-oxidant properties
The incredible phytochemical variety of this root makes it so that its compounds actively seek out the free radicals produced by our biological processes. The anti-oxidative properties of ginger were proven both in vivo and in vitro, certifying that this native Asian plant is a powerful and natural booster to our immune systems.
- Anti-inflammatory properties
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are among the most studied of its effects. This is good news for those who suffer from osteoarthritis, frequent joint pains and even muscle soreness. While its impact is not immediate, regular consumption leads to more manageable symptoms and even to major reduction in pain. What’s more, the anti-inflammatory agents in ginger help control the aging process at a molecular level, thanks to the shogaol compounds, which are more concentrated in powders.
- Natural testosterone enhancer
One of the hidden benefits of this magical root is its ability to naturally enhance blood serum levels of testosterone. The most relevant study in this regard looked into ginger consumption among infertile men who, on average, experienced a 17.7% increase in their serum testosterone. The final results also showed a similar rise in sperm count and major increases in motility and viability.
- Insulin and blood sugar management
The ethanolic compounds in ginger have been shown to reduce overall body weight, levels of glucose, insulin and total cholesterol. Another study confirmed their hypoglycemic potential. Despite the fact that more tests need to be conducted in order to firmly ascertain ginger’s effectiveness in managing blood sugar in humans, diabetic patients who took ginger for 12 weeks saw at least a 12% reduction in their fasting blood sugar levels.
- Cholesterol management
A double-blind controlled clinical trial conducted in two separate Cardiac Clinics proved, beyond any doubt, that eating ginger for over a month significantly reduces triglyceride, cholesterol and LDL levels. The patients were given only 3 grams of ginger every day for 45 days. Furthermore, it was proven that the compounds in ginger increase caloric expenditure and the overall metabolic rate for almost 6 hours after one meal.
- Cognitive function improvement, nausea and morning sickness
A study performed in 2011 on middle-aged women proved that the regular consumption of ginger increases cognitive processing and attention without side-effects. The improvements in cognition and mental accuracy were significant, but the initiators of the study do specify that more research is needed in order to discover the underlying mechanism.
In addition, consumption of ginger is highly advised for those who suffer from vomiting, nausea, seasickness, morning sickness or chemotherapy-induced nausea. For morning sickness in particular, ginger has been found to be as effective as the pharmaceutical metoclopramide.
Possible Side-Effects of Ginger
Fortunately, there are little to no side-effects noted to date. The most severe, known side-effect is merely gastrointestinal discomfort. Ginger is also safe to consume when pregnant. However, if taking cardiovascular related medication or NSAIDs, it is safer to contact your health practitioner before going on a regular diet.
How to Take Ginger to Achieve Optimal Health Benefits
The best way to consume ginger is fresh. In order to achieve notable effects upon your body, at least 5 grams of ginger per day is necessary, which is roughly one tablespoon.
You don’t have to ingest it all at once, so you can divide it in 2, 3 doses instead. In this manner, you can benefit more from the increase in caloric expenditure, which will help you burn more energy. If you find that its taste is too pungent for you, you can always combine it with Cinnamon or Turmeric and Honey in order to make it more palatable.
Feel free to use ginger in your teas (Ginger Tea Recipe), your food preparation, energy drinks or smoothies. The outstanding variety of health benefits this root has for human biology is reason alone to incorporate it in your diet. Many people seem to remember ginger only when they’re stuck in bed with a cold, are in need for a quick fix for their nausea or want a natural remedy for indigestion. But we could benefit from it even when we’re not ill, since the powerful impact of ginger on free radicals basically means that it helps us deal with the aging process better.
Although science currently doesn’t understand all of the exact mechanisms as to how ginger and its substrates work within human biology, there’s certainly no harm in including more flavour and colour in one’s diet, especially since there are no known ill side effects.
- On the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, as well as cancer prevention of Ginger: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/
- Ground vs. fresh ginger: http://www.joybauer.com/arthritis/is-ground-ginger-as-beneficial-as-fresh-ginger/
- In-depth compilation of research on ginger’s anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antioxidant features: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
- Nutritional information: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/271?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=35&sort=&qlookup=02021&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=
- Ginger and cognitive functions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3253463/
- Cholesterol management: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18813412
- Compilation of studies on Ginger and their accuracy: https://examine.com/supplements/ginger/
- On nausea: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10793599
- More on blood sugar: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4277626/