7 Signs Your Body Needs Ginger

If you’ve ever had motion sickness, morning sickness or any other type of nausea, somebody may have handed you ginger candies to chew or suck on. That’s because ginger is a long-standing folk remedy for both inflammation and nausea—but that’s just the start of what this pungent, spicy herb can do for you and your metabolism when you make it a regular part of your diet.

Ginger’s properties have been well studied. It’s helpful for everything from soothing sore muscles to turning up the heat on your metabolism. Here are some of the healing benefits of ginger:

  1. Do you have sore muscles after your Phase 2 workouts? Ginger can help with that. Its anti-inflammatory properties also soothe everything from asthma symptoms to arthritis and menstrual cramps. It’s even been shown to reduce the severity of migraine headaches.
  2. Do you have gas after meals? Ginger also soothes spasms in your intestinal tract and encourages your body to eliminate gas.
  3. Do you have nausea or motion sickness? Ginger shows promise for easing nausea caused not just by pregnancy and motion sickness, but by chemotherapy and surgery too.
  4. Are you diabetic or pre-diabetic? Ginger can be very helpful for diabetics and pre-diabetics. It helps lower your blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity and can reduce the risk of diabetes or, if you already have it, prevent complications. Ginger also helps protect your internal organs, including your liver and your brain.
  5. Do you have a slow metabolism? Is it easier for you to gain weight than to lose weight? It turns up the heat on your metabolism, stimulating your body to burn fat and taking the edge off hunger.
  6. Are you having a hard time with lipids? Ginger can even lower your cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease.
  7. Are you looking for foods to fight cancer? Studies show that ginger has the potential to fight several types of cancer, including prostate, ovarian, lung and colon.

If you said yes to one or more of these, than make sure ginger is on your grocery list! Once you do, try this Phase 3 Ginger Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry!

Using ginger root

Although ginger contains good amounts of vitamin C and the minerals magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese, its real all-star components are volatile oils and the compounds gingerol, shogaol and zingerone. Even though you’ll find ginger pickled (that’s the pink stuff beside your plate in a sushi restaurant) and dried ginger, buy the fresh, whole root whenever you can; it contains more of those good-for-you compounds.

Fresh ginger root also tastes different than dried ginger powder: It’s less pungent, with a citrusy, peppery tang to it. When cooked, ginger develops a milder flavor. You’ll even find it in Phase 1’s super-popular Pumpkin-Turkey Chili with White Beans and Kale and Phase 2’s Hot and Sour Turkey Soup. The later you add the ginger in the cooking process, the stronger its taste will be.

Some peeling required

Mature ginger root has a woody brown peel that you can remove with a paring knife or vegetable peeler; you may find it in the Asian- or imported-food section of your supermarket, but most stores stock it in the produce section near the onions and garlic.

Young ginger root, usually found in Asian markets, is more tender and doesn’t have to be peeled before use. Either way, look for smooth, firm roots that don’t show any mold. The unpeeled roots will store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator or six months in the freezer.

You don’t have to cook a full meal with ginger to enjoy its healing properties. Steep a piece of the fresh root in hot water for several minutes to make a warming tea, or add it to apple cider vinegar with stevia (during the diet) or honey (after the diet) to combat a cold—here’s the recipe for Switchel. Or you can finely dice a thumbnail-size piece of ginger and swallow it right down as a remedy for nausea or upset stomach.

A few cautions

Because ginger can duplicate the effects of some medications, you should check with your doctor before taking it if you have gallstones, are diabetic, have a bleeding disorder or are on blood-thinning medications.

Ginger on its own has been reported to occasionally produce side effects like increased gas and bloating, but they’re usually associated with taking powdered ginger. Taking your ginger as part of a meal may help reduce those side effects.

Quantity can be an issue, too—sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. The University of Maryland Medical Center says you shouldn’t give ginger to children under 2 years of age. Adults can have up to 4 grams per day—that’s a lot of ginger!—except for pregnant women, who should have no more than 1 gram, or about as much as you can expect to get through normal food uses.