Ginger — of sushi condiment and ginger ale fame — has been used for centuries to aid digestion, relieve joint pain, calm inflammation, and stimulate the mind. But you might be surprised to hear that it also has a growing reputation as a weight loss aid.
Ginger is a root that has a bold, unique flavor. Its strong taste and smell actually give us a hint at what’s inside: powerful plant antioxidants. It’s these antioxidants that may provide some weight loss benefits.
Curious about whether ginger could support your weight loss goals? Here’s everything you need to know.
Ginger is thought to help promote weight loss because it’s rich in antioxidants, particularly gingerol and 6-paradol.
Antioxidants function like cellular peacekeepers, neutralizing unstable free radical molecules that build up in your body over time. If left unchecked, free radicals can wreak havoc on a microscopic level, causing inflammation that can contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
A 2013 study on rats found that gingerol and other ginger extracts lead to weight loss, fat reduction, improved HDL cholesterol, and normalized insulin levels.
Research has also shown that 6-paradol helps rats burn more fat by activating brown fat, which helps regulate body temperature. Basically, it may cause the same reaction as being cold does, signaling the body to start burning fat and calories for warmth.
Obviously, we aren’t lab rats, but human trials look promising too.
A 2019 review of studies involving more than 400 people found that those who supplemented with ginger extract lost more weight and had better blood sugar levels than those who didn’t.
Another 2019 study found similar results, with the ginger extract group losing significantly more weight and fat than the control group.
Oh, and there’s some evidence that 6-paradol activates brown fat in humans too.
Unfortunately, we can’t draw any conclusions about the general population from these studies, since they looked at only about 600 people in total. But they’re a great starting point for future research.
Interested in trying ginger to see if it boosts your weight loss? You’ve got a lot of options.
You can add grated fresh ginger to a lot of foods to provide some zing and some possible weight loss benefits. Fresh ginger is a common flavoring in Asian cuisines.
Powdered ginger is the type that’s most often used in desserts like gingersnap cookies or gingerbread. It has a milder flavor than the fresh stuff, so you can add it to a larger variety of foods without affecting the flavor as much.
Using fresh ginger, you can make ginger-infused water to sip throughout the day. You won’t be consuming a ton of ginger this way, but it might provide some small benefits.
You can also make ginger tea from fresh ginger. The hot water will actually pull more of the antioxidants from the ginger, so it might be a little more effective than ginger-infused water. You can also buy premade ginger tea bags or loose teas.
If you’re not fond of the taste of ginger, a ginger supplement may be your best bet. It’s also the best way to ensure you get enough ginger to have a possible effect on weight loss.
Dosages will vary between brands but usually range from 500 to 1,500 milligrams per day.
Weight loss supplements
Several weight loss supplements contain ginger. One clinical trial found that a combo of green tea, capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot peppers hot), and ginger extract boosted weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity in women with overweight.
Be sure to read product labels and to check with your healthcare provider before starting a supplement regimen. Supplements may contain mystery ingredients or interact badly with certain medications.
Using ginger in cooking is pretty low-risk. But ginger is really potent — as you know if you’ve ever added too much to a recipe and had it burn your tongue (we’ve been there). So you may need to take some precautions if you plan to supplement with it.
Since it can affect your digestion, it may cause some digestive upset or heartburn. It could also worsen existing gallbladder issues such as gallstones.
You shouldn’t take ginger supplements if you’re on a blood thinner, because ginger may interact with the medication.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have any concerns about ginger supplementation, talk to your healthcare provider before you start taking a supplement.
If you want to add ginger to your food to see if it helps with weight loss, whatever product you choose should be fine — whether you go organic or conventional, fresh or powdered. The same advice goes for packaged ginger teas.
But if you plan to take ginger capsules or a weight loss supplement that contains ginger, you’ll want to be a bit more discerning.
Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA before they’re released. The FDA exercises only post-market regulation, which means it doesn’t get involved until after a supplement is on the market and there’s a problem. And the FDA may not have the resources to catch and address every issue.
Plus, there’s no guarantee that what’s on the supplement label is actually what’s in the bottle. For all you know, your “ginger” capsules could actually be filled with sawdust and breadcrumbs. This is unfortunate, but it’s the world we live in.
Luckily, a few third-party organizations — United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, and NSF International — test supplements for quality (and, to be frank, honesty).
If you want to go the supplement route, make sure the brand you buy has pursued testing from one of these organizations.
Although the research on ginger for weight loss seems promising, it’s definitely not a guarantee.
There’s no product on the market that will allow you to lose weight safely without also making changes to your diet and lifestyle. And if you’re making sustainable changes, weight loss can happen with or without supplements.
Ginger can be a tool in your weight loss arsenal, but it’s definitely no replacement for a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
If you need some advice from a pro to help you get started toward a weight loss goal, seek out a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or a medical professional (i.e. a doctor or nurse practitioner). And before adding any supplement, talk to your healthcare provider, since ginger supplements may interact negatively with some medications.