Is this unassuming kitchen spice the key to kidney health? Or, should ginger at least be part of a kidney friendly diet? Read on to learn more about ginger, it’s health benefits, risks and if ginger is good for kidneys!
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What Is Ginger?
What is ginger in the first place? Ginger is actually a plant with long spiky green leaves. What we know as ginger is actually this plant’s root.
Ginger is part of a family of flowering plants called Zingiberaceae that originated in Southeast Asia. This family of plants also includes turmeric and cardamom!
Forms of Ginger
Fresh Ginger Root
The most non-processed form of ginger is the root of the ginger plant itself! Fresh ginger root is packed with flavor.
You can buy fresh ginger root at the grocery store. You can usually find it in the produce section.
Pickled ginger is fresh ginger root that is pickled in a sugar and salt brine. It is commonly served with sushi!
Like most pickled foods, pickled ginger has a lot of sodium in it. Two tablespoons of pickled ginger has about 360 milligrams of sodium.
Crystallized (or “candied”) ginger is ginger root that is cooked, tossed with sugar and dehydrated.
A 1/4 cup of candied ginger has around 35 grams of sugar.
Dried or Powdered Ginger
Dried (or “powdered”) ginger is ginger root that is dried and made into a powder. You’ll find this ginger in the spice isle at the grocery store.
You can make your own ginger tea by letting fresh ginger root sit in hot water. Or, there are many ginger teas available on the market.
Be careful of other ingredients in ginger teas. Some ginger teas have ingredients that are bad for kidneys, such as licorice root. The National Kidney Foundation has a list of herbal ingredients and supplements to avoid.
Ginger Supplements or Extracts
Ginger is also available as an herbal supplement pill or liquid extract. These products are very concentrated forms of ginger.
Please know that herbal supplements are not regulated in the United States. (1)
Ginger Health Benefits
Most notably, ginger can help with nausea. Research into ginger has focused on nausea associated with pregnancy, motion sickness and cancer treatment when used with other medications. (2)
Ginger has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions including asthma, menstrual cramps, diabetes, and upset stomach. Although research investigated ginger in many of these conditions, most studies are very small and only done in animals.
Limited research has shown that ginger may help with:
- Cancer prevention, as it is a potent source of antioxidants (3)
- Inflammation, especially in arthritis (4)
- High blood sugar in animals with diabetes (5) (6)
- High blood pressure (7)
- High cholesterol (5) (8) (9)
We need more research to recommend ginger for these health conditions. (2)
Is Ginger Good for Kidneys?
Studies have investigated ginger for kidney health. Most of these studies are very small, and done in rats. So, it is hard to make recommendations for humans.
But, ginger does seem to have some beneficial effects for kidneys.
Ginger & Kidney Disease
Ginger seems to have some benefits in kidney disease. Small studies using rats have found that ginger protects kidneys from inflammation from a variety of health conditions, metal toxicity and pro-inflammatory fructose. (4) (6) (10) (11)
We need more research to see if ginger is good for kidney disease. We need to know how much ginger, and in what form, we need to help our kidneys.
Ginger & Kidney Stones
No research has been done to see if ginger is good for kidney stones.
Ginger does have a fair amount of oxalate. And, most of that oxalate is soluble, which makes it more absorbable. (12) It is unlikely that eating or cooking with ginger will add a significant amount of oxalate to your diet. But, ginger supplements and extracts might. I’d recommend avoiding ginger supplements if you have high urine oxalate.
Risks of Taking Ginger
There are some risks you should know before you add a lot of ginger to your diet.
Low Blood Pressure
Because ginger can lower blood pressure, you should tell your doctor if you are taking ginger supplements. Especially if you take blood pressure medication or have dangerously low blood pressure.
Like most supplements, ginger doesn’t come without side effects.
Very high doses of ginger (more than 4 grams per day) could cause: (13)
- Upset stomach
- Mouth and throat irritation
Of note, risks are much higher if you take ginger in supplement form. The dose of ginger in supplements is usually much higher compared to ginger itself. Ginger used in cooking, or eaten in normal amounts, is unlikely to cause side effects.
How to Add Ginger to a Kidney Diet
If you want to add ginger to your diet, I’d recommend turning to ginger foods, rather than supplements. We need more research before I can recommend ginger as a supplement to help kidneys.
However, it is clear that ginger has some kidney healthy benefits. So, it might be a good idea to add more ginger to your day! Adding ginger in non-supplement form is unlikely to cause harm.
How To Cook Fresh Ginger Root
Compared to dried ginger, fresh ginger will definitely add the most flavor to your food! Using fresh ginger is a little more work, but well worth it in my book!
To prepare fresh ginger, you can peel it using a vegetable peeler or a spoon! Then, use a sharp knife to mince, slice, or chop it.
For cooked dishes, sauté fresh ginger in a little oil along with ingredients like onion or garlic. This is a tasty way to start soups, stews, curries, or stir-fries! This Thai vegetable curry is a great example.
You can buy fresh ginger that has already been chopped or pureed. As always, check the Nutrition Facts for these products. Many of these products have added sodium – around 130mg per teaspoon of ginger!
Ginger for Low Sodium Cooking
Because ginger is so tasty, it is a great way to make flavorful dishes without the salt. By adding tasty ingredients like ginger and other spices, you can cut back on how much salt you need.