Ginger has been used in the diet for centuries, including kidney disease. And you’re probably wondering if ginger is good for kidneys. There are many products that can include ginger, so understanding what to use and what to avoid can be important when it comes to kidney disease.
This article will review what ginger is, the different ways it can be used in the renal diet, and when ginger is bad for kidney patients.
Table of Contents
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 food, beverages, cosmetics, and home goods.
As a spice, it does increase the “heat” of foods if used in excess. This is mainly observed with fresh or pickled ginger.
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 significant 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 are 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
One gram of ginger is equal to:
- 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
Ginger has several forms that may be included in the renal diet. These are the dose equivalents between different forms.
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 be verified as true benefits of ginger.
Ginger side effects related to the kidney
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 an 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 in a Renal Diet
As mentioned, ginger is not a high source of potassium, phosphorus, or sodium.
If you need to follow a low potassium diet, this article may be helpful.
Fresh and dried/ground ginger can be included in the diet. Dried ginger has the most antioxidant value.
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 ginger ale are readily available and fairly easy to find. But you can also use ginger to make your own at home.
Is ginger tea good for kidneys?
Many wonder if ginger tea would be a good option for the kidneys in a renal diet. There are several things to consider before taking ginger tea.
As with nearly every packaged product, it’s important to read the label of any prepared ginger tea. Some teas will include other herbal products that may be harmful.
An example of a ginger tea that would be bad for kidneys is the Yogi Ginger tea. This tea includes licorice, which is not safe for people with kidney disease.
Licorice can change sodium and potassium levels in the body. This can be deadly.
Homemade ginger tea: A safer option for kidneys
To make ginger tea, simply take ½ to 1 teaspoon of fresh, peeled ginger and let it steep in hot (not boiling) water for 5-10 minutes.
You can also add ginger to lemonade or simply infuse it in water for a flavor boost.
Ginger Beer & Ginger Ale
Another source of ginger is ginger beer. It is similar to ginger ale but has a higher ginger dose due to the preparation method.
Ginger beer is made by fermentation with ginger. However, it is considered alcohol-free. The process and amount of ginger gives it a stronger ginger flavor.
Ginger ale has ginger syrup included with the carbonated water. This makes ginger beer more “spicy” and stronger in flavor compared to ginger ale.
Both ginger beer and ginger ale can be acceptable for a renal diet. Some of the things to consider when shopping for ginger ale or ginger beer are:
- Sugar content
- Phosphorus additives
- Potassium additives
- Other flavorings that aren’t safe for kidneys (like licorice)
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.
Black pepper also helps with absorption of curcumin from turmeric, so you may see the two paired in many recipes that boast anti-inflammatory benefits.
Cinnamon has been proven to help control blood sugars in those with diabetes.
It’s a warming spice that can be used in so many ways (especially with fruits and desserts). Cinnamon is easy to add to your renal diet.
Undoubtedly one of our 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.
Another warming spice that compliments ginger is cardamom. It comes in pods where the seeds and oils can be used.
However, a randomized control trial compared cardamom with cinnamon, ginger, and saffron showed no significant differences between the different spices.
Another study looked at cardamom supplementation on lipid and blood pressure levels in pre-diabetic women. There, researchers found a decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (good cholesterol).
Golden Milk For Kidney Health Recipe
Golden milk is a delicious beverage you can enjoy hot or cold. It can be consumed any time of the day because it has no caffeine.
Since this recipe base includes milk, you may want to check out our article about milk options for the renal diet.
In a small saucepan, warm two cups (16 ounces) of unsweetened milk of choice over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
Next, whisk in each of the following spices:
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 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 over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, but not to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add additional spices to your preference. This can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Nutrition information per serving
Adding spices like ginger to your renal 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.
Ginger has been shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits, even for the renal diet. Choosing fresh, ground, or even pickled ginger can work.
Start by adding ginger and complimentary spices to your foods and beverages before looking into capsules and supplements.
Supplements may be helpful if you don’t like the flavors, but it’s extremely important to discuss any and all supplements with your doctor before starting to ensure it doesn’t interact with your medications.
This is especially important as ginger can impact blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Blood thinner use can change since ginger can also change blood coagulation.
For drinks, ginger tea can be a great option. Be careful of the other added ingredients in pre-packaged teas. The safest option is to make your own ginger tea by steeping cleaned and peeled ginger in hot water.
Ginger ale and ginger beer can also be used. They do have higher sugar content and the potential for added phosphates and potassium additives. Read the labels to be certain it is okay for you.
Whatever you choose, be sure to include it on occasion. It doesn’t need to become a strict renal diet rule. There are many other opportunities in the renal diet that can provide better value – like more fruits and vegetables.
Jen Hernandez is a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in renal nutrition. She has nearly a decade of experience with kidney disease patients in all stages - from stage 1 through kidney transplant. Jen writes on the blog of Plant-Powered Kidneys to help reach and teach more kidney patients about how they can enjoy more foods in a plant-based diet while protecting kidney health.