Ginger has been used in the diet for centuries, even for illnesses such as kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is an inflammatory situation. The kidneys are working hard, 24/7, to help keep everything inside our bodies balanced. So when the kidneys lose some function, whether it’s 5% or 95%, inflammation occurs. We can look to our food to help decrease inflammation, even when related to kidney disease!
Spices like ginger are powerhouses when it comes to a healthy diet for kidneys! They provide helpful benefits that can benefit us in so many ways!
While there are dozens of wonderful spices available, I’ll be focusing on one of the highest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spices, specifically ginger.
What is Ginger?
Ginger is a flowering plant that is most commonly found in Asia, South America, and Africa. It prefers warmer climates and temperatures. The root of ginger, also known as the rhizome, is otherwise known as Zingiber officinale.
The ginger spice we are most familiar with comes from the rhizome, or root of the plant. It is used in a variety of ways including foods, beverages, cosmetics, and even home goods!
Nutrition Information for Ginger
Ginger is a very nutritious food, and a little can go a long way! It’s good to know that ginger is not a good source of potassium, phosphorus, or sodium. This makes it something that most anyone can include in their kidney-friendly diet.
Gingerol is the antioxidant component of ginger, also known as a flavonoid. There is 33.6 mg flavonoids per 100 g of ginger.
If you are switching between fresh and ground ginger in cooking, 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger is equivalent to ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger.
Dose equivalents for 1 gram of ginger:
|1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger|
|2 droppers (2 mL) of liquid extract|
|2 teaspoons (10 mL) of syrup|
|4 8-ounce cups of ginger tea|
|8 ounces of ginger ale made with real ginger|
|2 pieces of crystallized ginger (1 piece = 1 square inch, ¼ inch thick)|
|Supplement with 1 gram ginger extract|
Another source of ginger is ginger beer, which is similar to ginger ale but has a higher ginger dose due to the preparation method. Ginger beer is fermented with ginger whereas ginger ale has ginger syrup included with the carbonated water. This makes ginger beer more “spicy” and stronger in flavor compared to ginger ale.
A warning with ginger teas! Be sure to check the ingredients listed in ginger tea as they may contain other herbs that are not safe for kidney disease, such as licorice root. It may be easiest to steep slices of fresh ginger in water on your own- save the money and use the cheap ginger root you can find in the produce section!
Benefits of Ginger
The only truly proven benefit of ginger is that it can help reduce nausea and morning sickness.
Some people (myself included) use ginger during events that induce more nausea such as ocean travel, air travel, medication side effects, chemotherapy and pregnancy.
Therapeutic dosing of ginger is generally between 1-3 grams per day.
Other potential benefits of ginger include;
- Reduces inflammation
- Improved diabetes control
- Headaches and migraines
- Lower blood pressure
These potential benefits have not had enough research completed to verify the benefits of ginger.
Are There Any Risks with Adding Ginger to My Kidney Diet?
There are certain precautions to take when adding ginger to the diet. Be sure to discuss any new supplements with your doctor prior to starting so they can help evaluate the safety of your new supplement.
Ginger has anti-coagulant effect, so any other medications you may take for blood thinning can increase your risk of bruising or bleeding.
As ginger may lower blood sugars and/or blood pressure (two of the most common causes of chronic kidney disease), it is important to discuss any ginger supplementation with your nephrologist or endocrinologist prior to starting.
Taking ginger in high doses (more than 5 grams a day) may result in side effects such as;
- Upset stomach
- Mouth irritation
How to Add Ginger to Your Kidney Diet
As mentioned, ginger is not a high source of potassium, phosphorus, or sodium. It does contain a very small amount of potassium, however, it is not enough to be considered something to eliminate. (There are other foods much, much higher in potassium if you need to be careful with your potassium balance.)
Ginger can be used fresh or dried. Dried ginger shows the most antioxidant value. You can find dried/powdered ginger in the grocery store spice aisle. Fresh ginger is found in the produce section near the garlic and potatoes.
Store fresh ginger for a longer duration by wrapping tightly with aluminum foil and then placing it in a freezer bag. Storing fresh ginger this way can keep it for several months.
Many products contain ginger already! Beverages like ginger tea or gingerale are readily available and fairly easy to find. But you can also use ginger to make your own at home!
To make ginger tea, simply take ½ to 1 teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger and let steep in hot water for 5-10 minutes. You can also add ginger to lemonade or simply infuse in water for a flavor boost!
Four more spices for your Kidneys
Another spice used in many places of the world, turmeric is high in antioxidants. The potent piece of turmeric is curcumin. Adding turmeric to the diet by sprinkling on veggies, adding to soups, stews, and even oatmeal can be very beneficial.
In many cases, I recommend curcumin supplements to clients as the supplement is the antioxidant component of turmeric. Curcumin has been seen as a safe supplement for CKD and is still being studied to assess benefits related to kidney function.
Another note of caution: turmeric has been shown to cause anemia. Anemia is one of the most common problems with chronic kidney disease, but there are some things you can do to help improve your anemia!
One of the most commonly used spices in the world is black pepper. Black pepper is easy to find and use on a variety of dishes. It also helps with absorption of curcumin from turmeric, so you may see them paired in many recipes that boast anti-inflammatory benefits.
Cinnamon has been proven to help control blood sugars in those with diabetes. Another warming spice that can be used in so many ways (especially with fruits and desserts), cinnamon is easy to add to your diet.
Undoubtedly one of my favorite spices, garlic is a wonderful way to add a ton of flavor to your meals! Fresh, powdered, or roasted, garlic provides a spicy and strong flavor to whatever you like.
Garlic is most known for its health benefits in lowering cholesterol. It has also been shown to lower the risk of certain cancers and help with heart health.
Golden Milk for Kidney Health: Recipe
Golden milk is a delicious beverage you can enjoy hot or cold! For the upcoming cold months, this can be drank any time of the day as it has no caffeine.
To make two servings:
In a small saucepan, warm two cups (16 ounces) of unsweetened milk of choice. I prefer cashew milk for the creaminess, but almond, soy and coconut milk work well, too.
Whisk in 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of black pepper.
Add in sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, sugar, or sugar-substitute like Stevia) to desired taste.
Continue to heat for 3-5 minutes, but not to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add additional spices to your preference. Can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Nutrition information per serving
Adding spices like ginger to your diet can be a great way to increase your antioxidants. In using more spices, you can also find that you don’t need to add salt to your foods as much either, saving your kidneys from higher blood pressure and swelling.
Start by adding spices to your foods and beverages before looking into capsules and supplements. Some can be helpful if you don’t like the flavors, but be sure to clear any supplements with your doctor and know that there is such as a thing as too much.
Fall season is a great time to use many of these warming spices. Be sure to try them out and tag me on social media (in our Plant Powered Kidneys Facebook group or find me at @plant.powered.kidneys on Instagram!) to share your creations!