Just one word to the wise: “Having a couple of tablespoons of fresh or powdered ginger a day is fine,” says Christy Brissette, R.D., and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. “If you’d like to take more, speak to your doctor, as ginger can interfere with some medications.”
Because of its versatility (and, quite frankly, its intimidating tree bark-like appearance), it might be difficult to know where to start when you’re staring down a ginger root. Before you blindly grab every super-root from the farmer’s market, make sure you’re choosing the right piece. Ansel says to ensure your fresh ginger is smooth with unblemished skin, and not dried out. You can store it unpeeled in your fridge wrapped in plastic for three weeks, or in your freezer for six months. Because of its strong, peppery taste and aroma, chop it finely before tossing it into recipes. Peel it thoroughly so its thick, rough skin doesn’t make any surprise appearances in your cooking.
For some morning pep in your step, add half a teaspoon of fresh ginger to a smoothie. Brissette also swears by the combination of crushed ginger and pear. Or, mix it into fruit salad. For ginger tea, steep a tablespoon of thinly sliced ginger in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. For an easy side dish, Ansel recommends skipping the garlic and sautéeing it with spinach and kale (your significant other will thank you). Whisk a teaspoon of chopped ginger with one-quarter cup fresh orange juice, two tablespoons of canola oil, and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for a sweet and spicy salad dressing. The opportunities are endless when it comes to this spice.
Now that your pantry is stocked with the stuff (go ahead—we’ll wait), here are some other great health and beauty benefits of ginger:
Ansel says ginger contains substances known as gingerols that quash inflammation and turn off pain-causing compounds in the body. The anti-inflammatory benefits can also help soothe red, irritated skin. A promising study in rats also found that eating a combination of curcumin and ginger helped skin improve its appearance and function and helped it heal faster.
Ginger is also packed with antioxidants that help protect the body from cancer, particularly ovarian cancer, says Ansel. Antioxidants also protect the skin from free-radical damage that affects collagen production, helping you look younger.
A cup of ginger tea could help your stomach empty faster so food doesn’t just sit there after an indulgent meal, according to Brissette. It’ll help calm your stomach and stave off bloating and gas. In general, ginger is also a research-backed remedy for nausea, whether you’re on a bumpy road trip, recovering from chemotherapy, or cursing pregnancy’s morning-sickness symptoms. (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
Brissette says ginger can help lower LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind!), reducing your risk of heart disease. What’s more is that its blood-thinning properties could help prevent the formation of blood clots, reducing your risk of heart and stroke. She warns that if you already take blood-thinning medications, check with your doctor before having more ginger.
So why do we suck on ginger lozenges when we’re sick? The same gingerols that fight inflammation also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties to help fight infections and boost your immunity. Steal Brissette’s speedy-recovery go-to: Mix hot water with two tablespoons of fresh grated ginger, juice of one lemon, and half a tablespoon of honey. Or, toss a teaspoon into chicken soup for some added cold-fighting benefits.