Is Ginger Good for Thyroid?
When we think of "food as medicine," few ingredients epitomize the concept like ginger. This sweet and spicy root can be found in fresh, dried, candied, pickled, oil, tea, or juice form. It is used in a wide array of recipes from stir-fries, to soups, to beverages.
In this article, we’re going to explore the health benefits of ginger, and how it can support us as thyroid patients.
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Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger has a long and ancient culinary history with a wide range of applications. As a culinary medicine, ginger is most commonly regarded as a digestive aid, a nausea reliever, and an anti-inflammatory. It also has powerful antioxidant effects.
The main bioactive and medicinal compound in ginger, which also gives it that signature bite, is gingerol. But there are other compounds like shogaol, which contribute to ginger’s amazing anti-inflammatory properties.
Curiously, ginger is in the family of flowering tropical plants known as Zingiberaceae, which also happens to include one of our other most prized, anti-inflammatory, and medicinal culinary spices: Turmeric.
Ginger is used frequently in Chinese Medicine. According to herbalist, acupuncturist, and author Marc Ryan, ginger, “promotes sweating, is an antitoxin, is a good antidote for seafood poisoning (one reason why it’s served with sushi), benefits the lungs and stomach, and it expels pathogens.” He goes on to cite its use as an arthritis treatment and a possible cancer suppressant.
Other research-backed benefits of ginger include lowering blood sugar (and other diabetic risk factors), reducing menstrual pain, improving brain function, and fighting infection.
Is Ginger Good for Thyroid?
There’s no doubt about it. Ginger is a culinary powerhouse for anyone eating to support their health, but what can it do for us as thyroid patients? Let’s take a closer look.
Ginger has several benefits that address common thyroid patient woes:
- Boosts metabolism
- Supports weight loss
- Promotes digestion
- Prevents constipation
- Stimulates bile flow
- Fights infections
- Improves brain function
- Reduces cholesterol
Best of all, ginger is delicious! As Nutritional Therapist, AIP coach, and recipe developer Kate Jay says:
I love using ginger in my AIP recipes. Not only is it a healing spice well known for bringing down inflammation, but it adds a decent kick to foods and beverages, both sweet and savory. Because it is so warming, it helps regulate our metabolism, which has a happy effect on thyroid function.
– Kate Jay
That metabolic boost is something many of us with underactive thyroids are looking for: more energy, better digestion, and regular bowel movements. There are several reasons ginger can help keep our metabolic engines humming. Let’s look at the ways it supports digestion throughout the digestive tract.
How Ginger Can Boost Metabolism
In his book, The Hashimoto’s Healing Diet, Marc Ryan explains that ginger can be specifically helpful to those with Hashimoto’s, who commonly struggle with low stomach acid. Low stomach acid can make it hard to absorb and assimilate vitamins and minerals from our food, and can also affect bile flow.
“Ginger,” he writes, “is the perfect remedy for both problems since it promotes the release of gastrin, which is responsible for the release of stomach acid and helps promote bile flow. An awesome one-two punch!”
As the food moves past the stomach, ginger continues to “make waves” further down the digestive tract.
According to registered dietitian Caitlin Beale, “Ginger is good for constipation because it is a pro-kinetic, meaning it improves gastric motility.” In other words, it helps the food move through your digestive tract faster.
Studies have shown that ginger also improves gastric motility by supporting gastric emptying.
Is Ginger Good for Both Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism?
While slow metabolism, slow digestion, and constipation are common complaints among hypothyroid patients, what about ginger for hyperthyroidism? Is gastric motility or a speedier metabolism something hyperthyroid patients want? Maybe not.
To clarify, you are hypothyroid if:
- You are taking supplemental thyroid hormone (i.e. Levothyroxine, Nature-throid, Armour, Synthroid, etc.).
- You’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s).
- You had your entire thyroid removed due to thyroid cancer, goiter, nodules, or Graves’ Disease/hyperthyroidism.
- You had part of your thyroid surgically removed for any reason and now take thyroid hormone replacement.
- You had Radioactive Iodine treatment (RAI) for Graves’/hyperthyroidism and now take thyroid hormone replacement
This info highlights why there can be some confusion about whether we are hypo or hyperthyroid. Many of us who start out in the hyper camp, end up in the hypo camp as we get farther along the treatment path.
For example, just because you’ve been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism), it doesn’t necessarily mean you are currently hyperthyroid — especially if you’ve had a thyroidectomy or RAI treatment. As thyroid expert Mary Shomon puts it, “Most treatment roads lead to hypothyroidism.”
All that said, if you are in an active hyperthyroid state, and struggling with symptoms like weight loss, diarrhea, chronic hunger, and other signs of an over-revved metabolism, you may need to use moderation with ginger root due to those metabolism-boosting properties.
Cooking with Ginger: Fresh vs. Dried
For culinary use, ginger is typically called for in these forms:
- Fresh ginger root, either grated, minced, or sliced into coins
- Dried or powdered ginger root
- Candied ginger
Candied ginger is high in sugar and should be used sparingly or not at all.
For thyroid-healthy cooking, either fresh or dried ginger is ideal. While the drying process does create some chemical changes, both forms retain plenty of health benefits.
Whether to use fresh or dried ginger depends mostly on what you’re making. Dried ginger is typically used for baked goods, while fresh is used for savory dishes like stir-fry and curries.
Chef's Tip: Use fresh ginger for cooking, dried ginger for baking.
To some degree, fresh and dried ginger can be used interchangeably, but both flavor profile and texture vary.
Fresh ginger is fibrous and needs to be peeled, cut across the grain, and then julienned, minced, or grated to avoid tough, woody bits in your food.
This is one reason why dried ginger is preferred for baked goods, as the powdered form mixes easily into batters and doughs. Dried ginger is easy to use, easy to store, and adds a wonderful aromatic sweetness to baked goods.
Fresh ginger is brighter and more fiery on the palate. While you can substitute dried ginger for fresh in your cooking, the flavor won’t be quite as bold.
Rule of Thumb: 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger = 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
For beverages, both fresh and dried ginger can be utilized. When steeped in hot water with a touch of honey, grated fresh ginger can be sweet, soothing, and spicy. Or, keep a batch of this Lemon Ginger Honey on hand.
Fresh ginger can also be blended into smoothies and whole-fruit juices like this Cranberry Zinger. In our warm and creamy Golden Milk Tea, on the other hand, the more muted spice of dried ginger is the preferred option.
To Peel Ginger: Give your fresh ginger root a good rinse and use the edge of a small dinner spoon to peel the papery husk. This is by far the most effective tool for peeling ginger.
Storage Hack: Keep a stash of fresh ginger in the freezer. Fresh ginger can be stored in the freezer for months and grates beautifully (and more easily) when frozen.
Pin it for Later:
Fave Recipes Featuring Ginger:
- Lemon Ginger Honey
- Creamy Carrot Coconut Soup
- Thai Chicken Soup
- Sesame Carrots with Kasha
- Cranberry Zinger
- Brown Rice Salad with Shrimp and Avocado
- AIP Spiced Fruit Crumble
- Butterless Butter Chicken
Ginger can be very helpful to thyroid patients as an anti-inflammatory food with high antioxidant properties. In addition to several other healing properties, ginger can help aid digestion, boost metabolism, and combat constipation. For hypothyroid patients, it’s clear that ginger is worth a place in your thyroid-healthy kitchen. Hyperthyroid patients may need to consume ginger in moderation to avoid unwanted stimulating effects to digestion.
As Thyroid Thrivers, getting to know these featured ingredients can inform our food choices, and support our health. These explorations can help us understand and embrace the power of food. I hope you've enjoyed this deep dive into ginger's powerful potential as a healing food.
Wishing you the best of health,
P.S. If you're anything like me, when I started down the path of thyroid-healthy eating I had questions-- lots of them. What to eat? What to avoid? And HOW do I do this? I wasted a lot of time trying to piece together bits and pieces of information from blog posts, infographics, books, and podcasts. What I didn't have was a step-by-step system. A roadmap, if you will, for how to put those bits and pieces together, in a way that got me where I wanted to go. That's why I created the Thyroid-healthy Meal Plan Kickstart. It includes recipes, meal plans, instruction, and a 4-week roadmap to get you started and on your way with thyroid-healthy eating! Learn more HERE.