If you’re eating a meal or having a snack featuring ginger, you can taste it. It’s got an unmistakable sweet, sharp, and almost spicy warmth.
Sometimes you may see information claiming that ginger is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and that it can help your health. Is it true, or is ginger just another way to flavor food?
One thing is for sure. It used to be a highly sought-after spice. It’s been used in China for as many as 5,000 years, and in the Middle Ages, a pound of it was worth as much as a goat.
In your grocery store, you can buy ginger in a number of ways. You can get the fresh root in the produce section, get it powdered or minced, and even get it as a high-dose supplement.
Using ginger as food doesn’t really add too much to your diet. It’s true it has trace amounts of a host of nutrients, but people don’t eat enough of it as a seasoning to make a real difference in their diet. Further, there is little research to show any benefit.
There is some research, however, on ginger supplements. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, ginger may be helpful for mild nausea or vomiting.
Some experts have also found it may potentially affect the risk factors that contribute to heart disease. Clinical trials show that very high doses of supplemental ginger may improve cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as maintain healthy glucose.
But the doses needed are huge, and the side effects are yet to be studied. And even though the FDA includes ginger on its safe food list, that does not necessarily cover its supplemental form. Supplements are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals.
It is possible, for example, that high-dose ginger supplements interfere with blood thinners.
Ginger tea does not have much research to back any benefit, and ginger ale generally has no actual ginger in it but plenty of sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
But here’s the thing: ginger can have an indirect positive effect on health. By using different seasonings and spices to flavor food, you can steer away from unhealthier sauces and cooking methods. Ginger lends itself nicely to a host of meats and vegetables to add a little more nutrition to meals.