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You’ve probably heard of ginger as a remedy to ease an upset stomach—remember drinking ginger ale when you had a stomach bug as a kid? Some of us even turn to ginger to calm prerace jitters or aid indigestion.
Lately, the zesty root is popping up everywhere—there are even ginger-flavored energy gels, chews, and drink mixes available for athletes—and some people are swapping lemon water for ginger water or mixing ground ginger into water, tea, or postworkout smoothie as a “detox.”
Which makes us wonder, are there really any benefits to drinking ginger water as a detox or just simply to boost your overall health? We tapped Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D. and Lori Nedescu, M.S., R.D., to find out.
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Drinking ginger water or ginger water mixed with lemon is an effective way to reduce nausea and inflammation and detoxify the body.
Because detoxification happens through your organs and body processes—not from something you ingest, Jones explains, there is no scientific evidence that ginger water has detoxifying benefits.
That said, drinking ginger water can have other health benefits, especially for athletes. Adding ginger to your water may ease or prevent stomach issues if you feel sick before, during, or after a particularly intense workout. That’s because gingerols—the chemical compounds found in ginger—aid the digestion process to help alleviate nausea, according to a study published in Phytochemistry.
“Ginger is known for easing stomach distress and many athletes experience frequent GI issues. Research is limited, but ginger has also been linked to having potential anti-inflammatory properties, increasing satiety, easing anxiety, and controlling blood sugar,” Nedescu explains. Research shows that taking in 1,500 mg of ground ginger daily in small doses may be beneficial for nausea.
And because it’s natural, it’s a good choice for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment or during pregnancy, says Jones.
Some of us can also experience postexercise appetite suppression, so ginger water that contains added sugar can be helpful after a race or tough workout to replenish carbohydrates while lessening nausea, says Jones.
Ginger also has anti-inflammatory effects, which can benefit all athletes, especially those with joint pain, according to a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, where subjects with knee pain were given either ginger extract or a placebo twice daily. Those who took the ginger supplement reported a 13 percent higher reduction in pain than those given the placebo. Researchers found that those who consumed 2 grams of raw ginger daily were 25 percent less sore one day after performing eccentric exercises—the “lowering down” part of exercises such as leg lifts, pushups, or bicep curls—than those who didn’t.
One undisputed benefit? Hydration. “If adding fresh ginger to your water helps you hydrate more, then that is likely the most beneficial aspect of drinking ginger water,” says Nedescu. Since the taste of ginger can be polarizing (you either love it or hate it), Jones says incorporating ginger water into your diet can be a good way to reap the health benefits without the bitter taste, since it’s diluted in water.
As for any other health claims, some studies, (such as one published in the Saudi Medical Journal that found those who consumed 3g of ground ginger per day saw reduced levels of triglycerides and LDL, bad, cholesterol, which can up stroke risk) have shown ginger to benefit blood glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as menstrual cramps, but more research is needed, Jones says.
There isn’t much research on ginger water in particular as opposed to pure ginger, so you don’t need to suddenly rush to add it to your morning routine. But there certainly are some health benefits of ginger you can reap, and it won’t hurt you to incorporate it into your diet. So if you’re curious—or simply like the taste of ginger—go for it, Nedescu says.
Try adding up to 4g raw ginger a day, which studies have found to be the suggested safe maximum dosage, though Jones says 2g is the more-commonly recommended dosage for decreasing nausea.
To make measuring easy, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger (which translates to about 2 grams) is a safe amount to mix in to water, tea, or even a smoothie if using ginger to calm nausea or provide potential anti-inflammatory benefits, Jones explains. Minor side effects such as heartburn or a burning sensation in the mouth are possible. To prevent this, avoid drinking it on an empty stomach, Nedscu says.
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One way Nedescu suggests to drink it: Add ginger, lemon, a pinch of salt, and honey to water for a great homemade sports drink.
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