If you’re ready to incorporate ginger into your healthy diet, you’ll be delighted to know that many international dishes include this fragrant, tart-tasting spice in their ingredients list. Ginger also has some medicinal uses, and your physician can provide guidance on these applications.
Ginger doesn't appear to decrease stomach fat, but it may help in weight management. To encourage belly fat reduction, banish sugary drinks and sugar-rich foods, consider switching to a Mediterranean diet and start your meals with a healthy serving of vegetables.
Ginger’s Presence in Culinary Circles
Fragrant, versatile ginger has long been a prominent player in the culinary world, notes Colorado State University. In fact, many traditional Indian and Asian recipes have incorporated ginger in some form.
Whether you’re creating a healthy entrée or a stir fry or whipping up a batch of enticing cookies, this spicy herb has a wealth of food-related uses. Numerous soups, curries, salad dressings, marinades and vegetable dishes also include this popular ingredient. Many tea drinkers savor a satisfying cup of ginger tea on occasion.
Chances are, your larger grocery store features several forms of ginger products. You’ll find low-priced raw ginger root in the store’s refrigerated produce section. To use it, peel off the external skin, and slice or grate according to the recipe.
Grated, bottled ginger is a time-saving substitute for fresh ginger but may have additional ingredients and a higher price tag. Also, look for ground ginger in the store’s spice section.
Crystallized (or candied) ginger is often located in the baking section. This added-sugar version is less spicy than the raw herb, and can also make a tasty snack. Pickled ginger is a mainstay of Asian cuisine, and often accompanies a sushi platter. The store’s Asian foods section or a traditional Asian market will carry this form of the culinary herb.
To build on ginger’s strong presence in the culinary world, numerous small farmers have begun to grow this herb as a potentially lucrative niche crop. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, farmers with a currently active high tunnel facility would receive the most benefit, with few additional production expenses.
Read more: 10 Vegetable Recipes That Taste Like Treats
Explore Ginger’s Health Benefits
Despite ginger’s widespread acceptance for culinary applications, many people don’t believe that this versatile herb offers much in the way of health benefits. However, the opposite seems to be true, and ginger’s health-boosting effects begin at the dinner table.
With increased emphasis on healthy eating and the need to reduce factors contributing to high blood pressure, salt’s use for cooking and seasoning continues to diminish. The University of Florida Extension recommends that you replace potentially harmful salt with fragrant, delectable spices that can add a new dimension to your meals.
Ginger also has impressive anti-inflammatory properties, notes the Arthritis Foundation. Dr. Roberta Lee, vice-chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at New York-based Beth Israel Medical Center, stresses that this useful herb has antioxidant and anti-ulcer attributes.
Loma Linda University Health points out that the chemical sesquiterpenes in ginger fight common cold and flu viruses. In a related benefit, it may help suppress coughing. The herb’s anti-inflammatory gingerols may also help combat infection. The Moffitt Cancer Center adds that their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can potentially protect against the development of cancer.
Furthermore, Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD of the Cleveland Clinic, points out that spices — including ginger — provide your body with abundant amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. This notable herb also adds vitamin C, potassium and magnesium to your diet.
Ginger has been widely used to treat nausea along with morning sickness and motion sickness. Surprisingly, this useful herb has also been shown to relieve menstrual discomfort and muscle pain.
Cautions for Ginger's Medicinal Use
Although ginger’s potential health benefits sound impressive, keep in mind that they aren’t guaranteed for everyone. Additionally, using an herb for medicinal purposes carries some inherent risks.
In many cases, there isn’t much fact-based information about specific herbs (along with their potential downsides or usage cautions), stresses the University of Texas at El Paso. When relevant information is available, it can be incomplete or considerably embellished, depending on the motives of the person or organization that supplies it.
Herbal product manufacturing practices also vary widely around the world. As a result, herbal products can be subject to plant species misidentification, questionable quality control and/or mislabeling errors. In the worst-case scenario, such a manufacturing misstep could result in the herb’s consumers becoming sick or experiencing an unfortunate medical problem after ingesting it.
When you consume an herbal product — including ginger — it may interact with other prescription medications and/or over-the-counter drugs you currently take. Finally, remember that some medicinal herbs haven’t been widely studied for special populations’ use.
With that in mind, an herb might not be safe for ingestion by young children, the elderly or pregnant or lactating women. This may cause usage hazards in households where members of these groups can access the herb. Keeping these cautions in mind, you should only use an herb medicinally after consulting a qualified health professional.
Ginger’s Role in Weight Loss
With considerable interest in ginger’s effectiveness as a weight loss tool, researchers undertook a comprehensive review and collective analysis of 14 studies on that general subject. The results appeared in the February 2019 edition of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
The study’s goal was to present the summarized results of 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that included 473 subjects. These trials measured the effects of ginger consumption on overweight and obese participants in terms of weight loss, lipid profiles and glycemic control.
To obtain the results, researchers gathered information from four well-regarded scientific databases through November 2017. After compiling and analyzing the results, the clinicians presented their findings.
Subjects who supplemented their diets with ginger experienced substantial weight loss. Their hip ratio, waist-to-hip ratio, insulin resistance index and fasting glucose also decreased. Lastly, these participants displayed noticeably higher HDL cholesterol readings. However, ginger consumption had no negative effect on their body mass index.
Even with this encouraging evidence, however, there is no indication that ginger (or any other food) will magically banish belly fat. Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite and Dr. Sheila Dugan, two specialists from Rush University Medical Center, recommend three eating strategies that will get you on the right track.
First, stop consuming sugary drinks, such as soda, juices and syrupy lattes. Next, target sugar-loaded foods, such as desserts and dishes containing sweet sauces or toppings.
Consider adopting a Mediterranean diet, which includes foods high in mono-saturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Eating foods like fish, olive oil, seeds and nuts and avocados may help decrease belly fat too. Consuming yogurt frequently is another trick you may use in the battle against the bulge.
Begin your meals, particularly your largest meal of the day, with a nicely seasoned portion of vegetables. For optimum results, aim for half a plateful (or more) of starchy and non-starchy veggies.
Read more: 10 Herbs and Spices to Help You Lose Weight
Ginger Tea for Weight Loss
There is very little evidence-backed information on ginger tea’s role in weight loss. However, the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental published a small study of 10 men in October 2012.
The study was designed to gauge the effects of a heated ginger beverage on appetite and satiety. It also assessed energy usage and metabolic risk factors in overweight men.
First, researchers measured the subjects’ resting state energy usage. Next, they performed the same exercise six hours after subjects ate a breakfast meal. This meal included 2 grams of ginger powder completely dissolved in a hot water beverage. The control meal did not include the ginger-containing beverage.
Subjects used a visual analog scale to record their feelings every hour. Researchers measured their blood samples in a fasting state as well as three hours after they ate breakfast.
The visual analog scale readings showed that subjects reported decreased hunger, reduced prospective food consumption and an increased sense of fullness after consuming ginger. These results were compared to the control group’s reports.
The blood samples showed that ginger consumption had no effects on inflammatory markers, glucose, insulin or lipids. However, researchers concluded that ginger does appear to be a potentially useful weight management tool. More studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm these findings.
- The University of Texas at El Paso: “Herbal Safety”
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: “The Effects of Ginger Intake on Weight Loss and Metabolic Profiles Among Overweight and Obese Subjects: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials”
- Rush University Medical Center: “Is There ‘One Trick’ to Losing Belly Fat?”
- NCBI: “Ginger Consumption Enhances the Thermic Effect of Food and Promotes Feelings of Satiety Without Affecting Metabolic and Hormonal Parameters in Overweight Men: A Pilot Study”
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Ginger"
- Moffitt Cancer Center: "What Spices Have Health Benefits?"
- Arthritis Foundation: "Health Benefits of Ginger for Arthritis"
- Loma Linda University Health: “Five Foods to Help Ward Off the Flu”
- University of Florida Extension: “Spice Things Up With Alternative Seasonings”
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.