Ginger is known for its specific flavor and is widely used in Indian, Asian, and Caribbean cuisine. However, apart from being a delicious addition to both savory and sweet dishes, ginger also provides various health benefits, from promoting digestive health to reducing inflammation.
When it comes to cooking, ginger can be used in both fresh and dried form. But, when it comes to reaping its health benefits, most people wonder which form is the best one to use.
As mentioned in the very beginning, ginger provides a wide variety of health benefits. For instance, ginger tea relieves indigestion and effectively treats nausea and vomiting, ginger compress or infusion helps relieve joint pain and asthma, and herbal tea made of ginger and turmeric relieves bloating, gas, and pain.
This article looks at both fresh and dried form of ginger and which one is better to use as well as what science says about the effects of heating on ginger`s properties.
The Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger is member of the same family as cardamom and turmeric do and is mostly cultivated in Australia, India, Africa, and South-East Asia. The flesh of ginger root is typically yellow and has peppery flavor.
Zinqiberene, the main compound of ginger, contains gingerols, out of which 6-gingerol is the most pungent. It is related to piperine and capsaicin, the ones that give black pepper and chilli their hot taste.
According to studies done on ginger, gingerols are not the only compounds in ginger containing medicial properties. For instance, according to a study published in the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology, ginger acts as anticancer, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agent, ably preventing and treating various diseases.
Specifically, ginger has the ability to prevent and treat various inflammatory diseases, such as swelling, joint pain, arthritis, and stomach ulcers. It protects against fungal and bacterial infections as well, such as E. coli and Salmonella typhi, and Candida Albicans strains.
How Cooking and Heat Affect Antioxidant Properties of Ginger
It is a well-known fact that cooking alters the chemical components of most foods, including ginger. The active component of raw ginger is 6-gingerol, whole heating or steaming this herb alters its composition, leading to formation of other compounds.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicine, boiling reduces ginger`s antioxidant levels while roasting has no notable effect.
Interestingly, separate study on the topic found that boiling or roasting which lasts no more than 6 minutes actually increases the antioxidant levels of 6-gingerol. But, after 8 minutes, a notable decrease was noted during the study. Therefore, boiling or roasting ginger for up to 6 minutes actually has higher antioxidant levels than ginger in its raw form.
Is Fresh Ginger Better than Dried Ground Ginger?
The increase in 6-gingerol antioxidants was the not only change noted when ginger is heated. As a matter of fact, it has been found that drying ginger leads to formation of new compounds, which are even more potent than those found in fresh ginger. One of those compounds is 6-shagaol.
The journal Phytochemistry revealed information regarding a study showing that gingerol compounds turn into shagaols when exposed to heat. This is what gives dried ginger its strong smell and taste. According to this study, gingerols and shagaols have potent anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It was also found that the highest concentration of 6-shagaol was obtained when ginger was dried at 80°C.
It has been scientifically shown that shagaols are more powerful when compared to all the other ginger compounds. As reported by the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 6-shagaol was superior to other ginger compounds in terms of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which accounts for the use of dry ginger for medicinal purposes.
This means that there is no need to worry about the potential loss of medicinal properties in dried ginger, as mounting evidence suggests that dried ginger is actually far more potent.
The Anti Cancer Properties of 6-Shagaol
According to a recent research done on 6-shagaol, it has potent anti-cancer properties. For instance, according to an article by American Association for Cancer Research, 6-shagaol,“has a combination of activity, low toxicity, and biochemical properties that makes it of potential utility as a naturally occurring chemopreventive and/or therapeutic agent in prostate cancer”.
A study published by the British Journal of Pharmacology found that 6-shogaol inhibits the spread of various cancer types, particularly when it comes to breast cancer.
The aim of these studies is to demonstrate the powerful activity of ginger extract and its antioxidant compounds. Although further research needs to be done, these results seem promising.
How to Use Ginger When Cooking
1. Ginger Tea
Take a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, chop it, and place it in a cup of boiling water. Cover the cup and leave the lid on for about 2-6 minutes. Consume this tea on a daily basis to boost immunity.
2. Make Antioxidant Tea
Put half a teaspoon of dried ginger in a cup and pour boiling water over the powder. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and sweeten with honey, if needed.
3. Take Supplements
According to a study on ginger, taking ginger supplements on a daily basis helped alleviate exercise-induced muscle pain by 25 percent.
4. Flavor Your Meals
You can add fresh ginger in soups, sauces, stir-fries and other dishes. Besides flavoring your meals, this trick will also improve your health at several levels.
5. Make an Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie
Make an anti-inflammatory smoothie by blending a cup of berries, a cup of leafy greens, 2-inch ginger root, a tablespoon of coconut oil, a teaspoon of chia seeds, and some green tea.
Precautions When Using Ginger in Your Diet
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there are certain precautions when using ginger in your daily diet:
- Ginger may cause diarrhea, burping, and mild heartburn
- If you are taking blood-thinning drugs, consult your doctor before boosting your ginger intake as it thins the blood, too
- Don’t consume more than 4g of ginger daily
- Children under the age of 2 shouldn’t consume ginger
- Pregnant women should limit their ginger intake to 1 g a day