Herbs and spices are an easy way to add flavor and micronutrients to your diet. In particular, ginger, which is widely used in homeopathic medicine (i.e., helping with nausea), could be a go-to for its wide range of health benefits. “Ginger is virtually calorie-free, low in sodium and doesn’t contain any added sugar,” says Wendy Bazilian, RDN, author of “Eat Clean, Stay Lean.” Not only can ginger add delicious warming spice and zesty flavor to beverages and entrees, but it might also be a secret weapon for supporting your metabolism and helping with weight loss.
Ginger contains powerful plant compounds called phytochemicals, including gingerol and shogaols. “Gingerol is chemically related to capsaicin, the spicy zing you get when you eat hot peppers. It’s this type of warming sensation that can turn up the fire of your metabolism, prompting your body to burn a few extra calories at the meal,” explains Bazilian.
In a small study one group ate breakfast and consumed a drink made with roughly 1 teaspoon of ginger dissolved in hot water. The other group had the same meal but without ginger. Those who consumed ginger burned about 40 additional calories and reported more fullness compared to those who didn’t have ginger. “That may not seem like a lot, but it can add up over time. Forty calories a day could mean a pound worth of extra calories burned every 90 days,” says Bazilian. What’s more, a reduced appetite may make it easier or more automatic to eat portions that are in line with your goals and needs, she says. It could also minimize cravings that consume headspace and lead to unwanted long-term weight gain.
A more recent review and meta-analysis in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition looked at 14 randomized controlled trials on supplemental ginger and its effect on body weight. The review found supplementing with ginger is associated with lower body weight, a smaller waistline, and healthier metabolic measures, like lower fasting glucose and better “good” HDL cholesterol.
HOW MUCH GINGER SHOULD YOU CONSUME?
While the 2012 study showed 1 teaspoon of ginger in hot water was effective, that might be too strong for many people. “The most important thing is to consume ginger in a realistic and pleasing way,” says Bazilian, who recommends aiming for “more than before.” Try adding ginger to chili or chicken noodle soup, heat it with honey to glaze carrots, stir it into a marinade for grilled salmon, add it to stir-fries or enjoy it pickled with sushi, suggests Bazilian.
You might also consider adding a ginger supplement to your diet. For example, a 2020 study in Food Science and Biotechnology that declared ginger a “potent anti-obesity agent” used a “steamed ginger extract” supplement in their trial. Supplements often pack a higher dose than you could comfortably eat or are formulated in such a way to emphasize certain active compounds. You’ll want to look for a third-party verified supplement, and it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor or a healthcare professional before adding a new supplement to your diet.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While certain foods like ginger can support your metabolism and weight-loss goals, it’s important to remember no one food is a magic bullet. “Consider ginger a part of an overall diet that supports your goals and makes foods and drinks flavorful,” says Bazilian. “A diet or eating style you enjoy is one you’re more likely to stay on.” (That also means if you don’t like ginger, you shouldn’t force yourself to eat it to get the minor metabolism bump.) A well-balanced, varied diet coupled with regular movement supports your metabolism the best.
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