5 health benefits of ginger

5 health benefits of ginger

You love it or you hate it, but let's be honest, most of us love it, and so we should! Not only is it one of the most popular flavours to add to our recipes, ginger has a host of health benefits. 

What is ginger?

Ginger is a flowering plant which grows to be around 1 meter tall. The roots are edible and used widely both medicinally and as a spice in foods. The main therapeutic compounds in ginger are called 'gingerols' and 'shogaols'. Ginger is closely related to other herbs including turmeric, cardamon and galangal. You may also enjoy 'The benefits of turmeric'.

How is ginger used?

Thanks to its strong and distinct flavour, ginger is added to foods as a spice all over the globe. It can be added to sweet and savoury dishes as well as drinks. Ginger may also be used in cosmetics. Medicinally it can be used in food supplements, in herbal drinks, cookies, or juiced.  

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What are the effects of ginger on the body?

Numerous studies have shown the active compounds in ginger - gingerol and shogaol - have many beneficial effects on our bodies.

Ginger as an anti-inflammatory

Gingerol and shogaol have strong anti-inflammatory properties. They prevent the formation of inflammatory compounds in the body called 'prostaglandins' and 'leukotrienes', and work through a pathway called LOX and COX, which is the same pathway that many over the counter pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines use.  

Ginger as an antioxidant

The active compounds in ginger scavenge free radicals (unstable atoms in your body that can cause illness and ageing). If left unchecked, free radicals create oxidative damage to the cells in your body and can contribute towards diseases and DNA damage.

Studies suggest that the active compound shogaol has the most antioxidant potential. Ginger has also been found to increase a substance naturally made in the body called 'glutathione'. This is the body’s main antioxidant enzyme and helps to protect against diseases.

Ginger as a digestive stimulant

Studies show ginger has a calming effect on the digestive tract. These studies show it decreases pressure that might be on the oesophagus, and reduces intestinal cramping, stimulating the emptying of the stomach. Learn more about what your poo says about your health

Ginger to help reduce blood glucose

Studies suggest that ginger reduces fasting blood glucose levels, and many markers associated with high blood sugar levels.

5 health benefits of ginger

Due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and digestive stimulant properties, ginger can be used for a wide range of health ailments. 

1. Useful for allergies

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger make it useful for those with allergies. Individuals with allergies have a tendency to suffer inflammation of the immune system and an over-reactivity to foods or environmental substances. Reducing inflammation may calm down some types of allergies.

2. Auto-immune diseases

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger may also be beneficial for an over-reactive immune system that results in autoimmune diseases.

A high level of inflammation of the immune system creates auto-antibodies and auto-immune diseases, which then damage body tissues, creating more inflammation.

Discover the best immunity boosting foods.

3. Other inflammatory diseases

Other conditions that involve inflammation such as osteoarthritis also benefit from anti-inflammatory compounds. The pain and stiffness seen in osteoarthritis and other joint conditions is triggered by excess inflammation. Many studies also show the benefits of Omega 3 for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

4. Diabetes and weight loss

Reducing fasting blood glucose levels is beneficial for both those with Type 2 diabetes and those who wish to lose weight healthily. Elevated blood sugar levels encourage fat storage around the abdomen and can contribute towards the development of Type 2 diabetes.

You may enjoy our nutritionists' advice for healthy weight loss.

5. Cardiovascular diseases

Many cardiovascular diseases occur when there is an excess of oxidation and free radical damage. The blood vessels are susceptible to stiffness and hardening, and without enough antioxidants they can become weaker and brittle.

Antioxidants help to maintain the collagen and electricity of the blood vessels. Antioxidants are also needed to help prevent cholesterol from oxidising - oxidised cholesterol is harmful because it becomes hard and contributes towards plaque formation.

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