Superfood Spotlight: Ginger

By: Megan Landean, M. Ed.

Ginger is a superfood that has its roots (pun intended) in Southeast Asia. It has been used to prevent and treat countless ailments over many centuries and, because of this, is considered to be one of the healthiest spices on the planet. But how does it work? Why is it so powerful? On this Superfood Spotlight we're going to answer all that and more!

Ginger first began being used before the 1st century in Southeast China. According to UCLA, it was used to help with gastrointestinal distress (upset stomach, nausea, etc.) and bronchitis. It's effectiveness and popularity took off like wild fire (even in a time where Tik Tok didn't exist- that's how you know it's good!). It soon spread to the other Pacific Islands and India, and by the 11th century was famous in pretty much every populated area on the map.

The popularity ginger had back then certainly hasn't died out in a time where "superfood" is a buzzword. However, now we have scientific proof that ginger's hype is totally worth it! Let's dive into some of the major health benefits of consuming ginger regularly:

#1: ANTI-INFLAMMATORY & ANTIOXIDANT

As we should know, inflammation, acute or chronic, can have damaging effects on the body. Ginger contains an oil known as gingerol that has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Consuming this oil in ginger can help reduce the risk of many diseases caused by free radical damage, including rapid aging and certain cancers. The inflammatory properties can also help with menstrual pain and stiffness due to osteoarthritis.

#2 GASTROINTESTINAL DISTRESS RELIEF

Even without the use of modern day technology, the people back in the early BCs understood the power of the ginger root. Today, it has been scientifically shown that ginger is highly effective against nausea. Unfortunately, there isn't data showing that it aids with nausea caused by pregnancy.

Along with non-pregnancy related nausea, ginger has been shown to treat chronic indigestion. When food sits in your stomach for longer than it should you can feel bloated or uncomfortable. Ginger takes that away by increasing the rate that food is emptied from the stomach.

#3 IMPROVES YOUR NUMBERS

By the time you're 20 years old, you should be getting your numbers checked annually. Two of the big numbers you should be aware of are your blood glucose (sugar) and your cholesterol. If you've gotten your numbers checked recently and didn't like the results, or want to keep up the good report cards, then ginger should become a friend of yours. In one study it was found that consuming 2 grams of ginger powder per day lowered fasting blood glucose levels by 12%. That's a huge drop, especially if you're on the border of pre-diabetes! Ginger also was found to drop LDL (bad cholesterol) values in individuals. With decreased risks in developing type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia, your risk for heart disease (America's #1 killer) also decreases!

#4 PROTECTS THE BRAIN

I mentioned earlier that free radicals increase the aging process. This is a big deal, especially when it comes to the brain. A rapid aging process is thought to be significantly linked to the development of Alzheimer's Disease. Ginger, as we already know, can help with that anti-inflammatory aspect of aging. But, ginger can ALSO help with improving cognitive functioning. One study found that consuming ginger daily can help improve reaction time and memory.

I know what you're thinking: let me get my hands on some ginger! I totally understand! In fact, I understand that desire so much that I've compiled a list with some awesome ginger recipes for you to try out. Pick one (or all) to make at home then share what you've cooked up with us on Instagram!