Ginger dates all the way back to ancient times when people used the flowering plant in cooking and medicine. Today, ginger is still a popular spice used to flavour foods, but it’s also showing promise in helping people better manage their diabetes.
Here’s a look at the potential benefits of ginger and why it could be time to add more of it to your diabetes diet.
How does ginger affect blood sugar levels?
Ginger has a very low glycemic index (GI), which means it breaks down slowly into glucose and doesn’t trigger a spike in blood sugar like high GI foods. Read more about GI foods here.
Studies have shown that ginger can reduce blood sugar levels and help regulate insulin in people with diabetes. Clinical research points to the fact that even a small dose of ginger (1 teaspoon ground ginger per day) can lower blood sugar and A1C levels.
Does ginger have other health benefits?
Ancient Indian and Chinese cultures really were onto something when they used ginger root to treat common ailments, such as nausea, upset stomach and common colds.
Today, we know that ginger is loaded with antioxidants, which gives it anti-inflammatory properties. Not only does eating anti-inflammatory foods improve our immune system overall, it can help improve chronic conditions caused by inflammation. Ginger has been linked to improving symptoms of osteoarthritis and various heart disease risk factors (e.g., high cholesterol) among others.
Ginger is still used to treat stomach upset and nausea too, especially in pregnant women. One study showed that pregnant women who used up to 1.5 grams of ginger had significantly fewer symptoms of nausea.
What are the types of ginger available?
There are more than 1,000 ginger species, most of which come from plants with aromatic, exotic flowers. The most common one we see in grocery stores is Chinese ginger which features tough skin with a pulpy yellow interior.
Ginger comes in various formats including:
- Raw (which can be chopped, grated or juiced)
- Pickled and preserved (often used in Japanese and Indian menus)
- Crystallized or candied (used in baking)
- Ground (supplements, cooking spice)
How do I incorporate ginger into my diabetes diet?
Be sure to choose natural ginger instead of overprocessed ginger products whenever possible. Then have fun adding this magic spice to some of your favorite foods in various ways:
- Try peeling fresh ginger and then steeping it in boiling water to make tea.
- Add fresh or dried ginger to your favorite salad dressing or stir fry.
- Slip a little fresh, dried or ginger oil into your morning smoothie.
- Add a ginger boost to soups, marinades and glazes.
Ginger can also add some dazzle to your main meals. Here’s a delicious recipe for coconut curry shrimp with ginger and one for black pepper ginger cod with rice.
Find more tips on how to prepare healthy meals with ginger and other flavourings here.
Despite all its potential benefits in diabetes management and overall health, never use ginger to replace regular medical treatment for your diabetes. If you’re on blood thinners or blood pressure medication, be sure to tell your physician or pharmacist if you’re taking ginger as it may interact with these drugs. Plus, keep in mind that eating ginger in large amounts can lead to heartburn, diarrhea and upset stomach.Used in moderation, ginger can be an effective addition to your diabetes diet.