Surely it's better for you than other sodas since it's got "ginger" in its name, right? Not quite. Ginger ale benefits from what's called the "health halo effect:" It's perceived by some as healthy, or healthier, because of what's on its label.
But when you read the ingredient list on a can of ginger ale, there's not much that exudes health: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, ginger extract with other natural flavors, potassium sorbate, caramel color and sodium benzoate. And a 12-ounce can packs around 32 grams of sugar and 124 calories.
There's also a long-standing belief that ginger ale is actually good for colds — but buying packs of the stuff in search of relief from your cold won't get you anywhere.
In fact, if you're drinking an excess of added sugar — like the 30-plus grams found in one can of the soda — on the daily, then your body might be in a state of chronic inflammation, which can actually suppress your immune system in the long run.
Get tips on how to stay healthy, safe and sane during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, Go for Real Ginger
Skip the sugary soda and opt for real ginger. Whether fresh or dried, the spicy root boasts some proven health benefits.
It Can Support Your Immune System
Ginger may actually help you fight a cold and support your overall immune system after all.
A November 2016 meta-analysis published in Food & Nutrition Research looked at nine different studies and observed that supplementing with ginger significantly reduced C-reactive protein levels (CRP), a marker for inflammation.
A more recent study shows that ginger may attack some common bacteria and pathogens, as outlined in a June 2017 article published in the International Journal of Molecular Science.
Ginger Is Linked to Improved Cholesterol Levels
Ginger can be beneficial for your lipid levels, an April 2018 meta-analysis published in Phytomedicine found.
The researchers reviewed 12 different studies across more than 500 subjects finding that supplementing with ginger lowered LDL cholesterol levels and in some instances, total cholesterol.
It Might Increase Long-Term Blood Sugar Control
Ginger might not help with fasting blood sugar levels but it has been shown to help improve long-term blood glucose control.
Researchers in a recent March 2019 study published in Medicine looked at the results of eight randomized controlled trials and found that while ginger consumption did not help with fasting blood sugar, it reduced hemoglobin A1C levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
Ginger Can Help With Nausea and Vomiting
If you're experiencing nausea and/or vomiting, ginger may help your woes.
A March 2016 study published in Integrative Medicine Insights found that ginger is an effective (and inexpensive) way to help prevent nausea and/or vomiting, especially if the cause is pregnancy or chemotherapy.
Unlike ginger ale (and other sodas), which can cause gas and bloat, real ginger can actually help you debloat.
7 Ways to Get More Ginger
So if it's ginger you're after, put down the fizzy can — there are healthier and more effective ways to go about it. Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary dietitian and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, tells us how.
The general rule of thumb is to use about a half-teaspoon of grated fresh ginger root per serving of nearly anything, Newgent advises. Of course, use a little less if you're unsure — or go for more if you can't detect any of it in your food or beverage.
1. Blend it into a smoothie. Give your creamy beverage zip by whirling ginger into a pineapple smoothie, banana milkshake or mango lassi.
Try this delicious Ginger-Berry Smoothie that sneaks in spinach for some iron.
2. Create a S.A.S.S. sauce. Add ginger to an Asian sauce based on S.A.S.S — that's salty, acidic, sweet and spicy. In other words, whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey or coconut nectar and chili-pepper sauce and then finish it off with ginger. Toss the sauce with soba or udon noodles, scallions or cilantro and veggies of choice.
3. Juice your ginger. Create a more intriguing juice by adding ginger to pomegranate juice, orange juice, apple juice, or papaya or pear nectar. Lighten it up with a splash of sparkling water, if you like. You can use ginger as a key ingredient for a DIY green juice.
Try this recipe for Sweet Green Juice with zero added sugars.
4. Fold it into your dressing. Add ginger into a fruity salad dressing made by blending together berries or other fruit, avocado oil and apple cider vinegar — then enjoy over salad greens. Or, whisk ginger into a sesame vinaigrette made with toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a little honey or coconut nectar, then drizzle over salad greens, grilled shrimp or salmon, or asparagus.
5. Flavor your own sparkling beverage. Make a refreshing, calorie-friendly beverage by adding ginger to sparkling water along with a squirt of lime juice and a sprig of fresh mint.
6. Slip it into soups. Simmer ginger into soups, like sweet potato or carrot soup, chicken noodle soup or even tomato soup. It's OK to use soup from a carton or can — you don't need to make your own.
Whip up this tasty Carrot Ginger Soup With Mascarpone Cheese and Pomegranates.
7. Add some to your tea. Simply simmer ginger into green or peppermint tea — and sip on it warm or iced. Plop in a lemon wedge, if you like. For a simpler alternative, buy and steep ginger herbal tea.
Concerned About COVID-19?
Read more stories to help you navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic:
- Food & Nutrition Research: "The Effect of Ginger Supplementation on Serum C-Reactive Protein, Lipid Profile and Glycaemia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- International Journal of Molecular Science: "Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Spices"
- Phytomedicine: "The Effect of Ginger Supplementation on Lipid Profile: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials"
- Medicine: "Dietary Ginger as a Traditional Therapy for Blood Sugar Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus"
- Integrative Medicine Insights: "The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy and Chemotherapy"