Ginger is a tropical flowering plant from the Zingiberaceae family. The root (or rhizome) of the plant is the part that you recognize as the ginger used in supplements and food. It’s spicy, bold, and makes the perfect enhancement to a variety of dishes.
It’s not just delicious, however. Ginger is a superfood rich in nutrients and antioxidants that protect against disease and boost your health in a variety of ways.
Here are nine of the most incredible health benefits this little root has to offer — and read on after for four delicious, healthy holiday recipes to try this season:
1. Stimulates Digestion
Ginger helps your body empty your stomach of food more quickly. If you’ve ever eaten a heavy meal that felt like it just sat there, then you’ve experienced slow digestion. One study even shows that ginger improved digestive motility in subjects by up to twice as much.
2. Helps with Nausea
Have you ever heard pregnant women say that they sip ginger ale to settle nausea caused by morning sickness? In a series of studies of over 1,200 pregnant women, just one gram of ginger significantly reduced their morning sickness symptoms. It’s not just for pregnant women, though. Ginger is frequently used to combat motion sickness and nausea caused by chemotherapy and other medical treatments.
3. Has Antibacterial Properties
Ginger isn’t just a superfood — it’s a microbe fighter. Research has proven ginger to be effective in treating microbial diseases like Bacillus and E. coli. It also slows the growth of the bacteria that cause periodontitis and other inflammatory conditions of the mouth.
4. Fights Inflammation
Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune disorders. Gingerol, paradol, and shogaol, three of the active ingredients in raw ginger, inhibit the production of the small proteins called cytokines that contribute to inflammation.
5. Improves Heart Health and Blood Sugar Levels
Ginger aids in lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels that contribute to blocked arteries, heart disease, and stroke. It may also contribute to lower blood sugar levels and markers for heart disease and diabetes. Research is ongoing, but one study shows that participants who consumed two grams of ginger each day experienced a 12% drop in blood sugar levels.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Healthy blood pressure levels are an important part of good heart health and reducing the risk of stroke. Ginger expands your blood vessels to increase circulation and reduce overall blood pressure. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which also helps keep blood pressure from rising. Ginger has even more potassium than bananas!
7. Soothes Menstrual Pain
Good news for women who suffer from painful cramps each month: in a medical study conducted with healthy, menstruating women, ginger was found to be just as effective as ibuprofen at reducing the pain and cramping in the abdomen and lower back. In the study, 150 women took one gram of ginger during the first three days of their period. They reported that it alleviated symptoms just as well as over-the-counter medications.
8. May Help Prevent Cancer
Ginger extract is currently being studied as an alternative treatment for certain cancers. 6-gingerol, a substance contained in raw ginger, has shown good results in studies where it is used to control the growth of abnormal cells. While it hasn’t proven to be effective in all forms of cancer, research will continue to see just what the mighty ginger root can do as a holistic hero in the fight against cancer.
9. Improves Brain Function
You’ve already read how ginger can help fight inflammation. Did you know that inflammation is a key factor in Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders related to aging? The powerful antioxidants in ginger help reduce inflammation in the brain and can even help improve memory and reaction times, according to a medical study of healthy, middle-aged women.
Now that you know what ginger can do for your health, what’s the best way to consume it? If you don’t like the taste of raw or cooked ginger root, there are plenty of ginger capsules available on the market. Look for one that contains pure, ground ginger. You can also buy ginger oil to consume orally or to use topically as a pain reliever. However, there are many great and innovative ways to use ginger in your recipes.
Many people like to slice the root and put it in their tea or smoothies. It makes a great complement to a lot of different foods — adding a kick to bland dishes and bringing out the flavor in bold ones.
Here are four recipes to try this holiday season to experience a boost from ginger’s many health benefits:
Ginger Garlic Broccoli
For a vitamin-packed side dish that’s off the beaten path, try a salty, spicy combination of broccoli, garlic, ginger, and chili paste — with just enough agave for a sweet finish. Pair it with brown rice for an instant entree.
Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies
These soft and chewy cookies are full of holiday spices and a generous helping of ground ginger. Make them with vegan chocolate chunks or chocolate chips for a warm, melt-in-your-mouth cookie that pairs perfectly with a mug of hot cocoa.
Ginger-Beer Moscow Mules
For a holiday cocktail brimming with vitamins and minerals, try this festive, tangy twist on the Moscow Mule. Most ginger beers are non-alcoholic but can still provide enough spice to make a delicious all-ages mocktail.
Ginger Veggie Stir Fry
Ginger brings out the flavor of almost any vegetable. Toss it with some vegetable oil and your favorite veggies and seasoning for a fast, healthy meal.