Ginger Beer Benefits: Is it Good for You?
Ginger beer is a refreshing, delicious drink and comes with several health benefits. Ginger root, a plant indigenous to southern China, contains hundreds of compounds that provide several important benefits to those who ingest it. Drinking ginger beer can help reduce inflammation, promote digestion, relieve nausea, and even help in the prevention of cancer.
Ginger beer is a less-sweet alternative to ginger ale, and the popularity has skyrocketed among Americans, especially millennials. Coming in at less than 200 calories in a 12 oz (or 355 mL) can, it is a tasty and healthy option compared to other carbonated beverages. Dark sodas, for example, are primarily syrup, artificial sweeteners, and carbonated water, and rarely do they contain the same added health benefits that ginger beer has.
Nausea Relief and Improved Digestion
Gingerol, one of the natural components of ginger root, encourages digestion, which in turn can relieve nausea. Pregnant persons with morning sickness or those going through chemotherapy can greatly benefit from ginger, as it is a natural alternative to many anti-nauseas. Ginger in a carbonated beverage has been used for generations as an at-home remedy for an upset stomach, and has a delicious taste to boot! The digestive benefits of ginger beer are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits posed by consuming ginger.
Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, and Anti-cancer Properties
Ginger also contains antioxidant properties and inhibits inflammatory responses due to natural anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition to gingerol, ginger also contains shogaol and paradols that have been shown in studies to prevent cancer. This study, from the National Library of Medicine, discusses the anti inflammatory properties of ginger and its effect on cancer cells. Research also suggests ingesting forms of ginger--like ginger beer--helps improve circulation by reducing inflammation. This is especially good news for fans of ginger beer who want to reduce high blood pressure as a supplement to medication!
Ginger also has antibacterial properties as shown in several studies. Gingerols--yes, the same ones that help suppress nausea and aid the digestive tract--contain properties that act as "bacterial inhibitors," meaning they stop or slow the growth of bacteria. Increased ginger intake is believed to help fight the growth of bacteria in the mouth as well as in the stomach.
Is Ginger Beer Good For Weight Loss?
The list of health benefits of ginger just keeps growing! And in addition to the already impressive roster of boons is its tendency to help overweight adults towards their weight loss goals! This study from the National Institute of Health shows that women who took powdered ginger supplements experienced decreased appetite and positive changes in body measurements compared to those who took a placebo. With the number of "weight loss" miracle diets and medicines out there, ginger is a natural remedy that has known positive effects in aiding with weight loss and weight control.
Ginger Beer vs Ginger Ale – The Differences
What is Ginger Beer?
Ginger beer is a cool, refreshing drink made by fermenting ginger, yeast, and sugar. Its origins can be linked back to the colonial spice trade with the Eastern World and the sugar trade with the Caribbean in the 1700s. Today, ginger beer is manufactured instead of brewed with artificial carbonation and additives, but can easily be made at home! Ginger beer has a stronger ginger flavor and spicy ginger flavor compared to ginger ale.
What is Ginger Ale?
Ginger ale, alternatively, is a carbonated soft drink that is flavored with real or artificial ginger syrup mixed with club soda or soda water; it can also be made by mixing ginger root, molasses, water, and salt before being fermented with whey. Ginger ale is syrupy in flavor and tends to be sweeter.
Alcoholic Content of Ginger Beer vs. Ginger Ale
Ginger beer contains roughly 0.5% alcohol by volume, but it is still considered technically alcohol free. Ginger ale is completely free of alcohol. This is because even though it can be made by fermenting whey, whey yields extremely low amounts of alcohol after fermentation. In order to make alcoholic drinks with whey, specific strains of yeast and enzymes still need to be added during the fermentation process.
Ginger beer, as we know, is made by fermenting yeast--a key component in many alcoholic drinks. Even though most ginger beers contain very small amounts of alcohol, they can be brewed to have a stronger alcoholic content if the brewer wishes.
Ginger Beer Ingredients
Making your own ginger beer at home is easy and fun with just a few simple ingredients:
- Spring Water
- Fresh ginger (grated)
- Lemon juice (or lime juice)
- Cane sugar (or coconut sugar)
- Active dry yeast
How To Make Ginger Beers At Home
Combine 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, and pinch of salt (you can also use 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar or baking powder) and 4 cups of water into a large pot and bring to a boil. Once sugars are dissolved, add the remaining water and bring temperature down to about 75 F/23 C and stir in the yeast. Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and put in a dark place for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, use a fine strainer to strain the liquid into a pot and ensure all the ginger bits are removed. Pour the remaining liquid into one 2-liter bottle (or two 1-liter bottles) and place in a dark, warm room for 2 to 3 days (2 for a sweeter taste, 3 for a drier taste). Make sure to leave room in the bottle(s), as the fermentation process will create carbon dioxide, increasing the gasses and pressure inside the bottle.
Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Ginger Beer
While ginger beer is naturally non-alcoholic, many people--at-home brewers included!--have turned this drink into a delicious adult beverage. The difference lies in adding champagne yeast as opposed to active dry yeast. It also takes longer to make, typically a minimum of one week, but it can take up to three months. It all depends on what recipe you follow and your preferences!
Drinking Ginger Beer
While many people enjoy drinking ginger beer on its own, there are other ways to incorporate ginger beer into your life! One of my personal favorites is the increasingly-popular Moscow Mule. These cocktails are easy to mix at home, and are a classic most people are sure to enjoy. The best part? They can easily be turned into a non-alcoholic beverage by replacing vodka with club soda, or you can make a slightly altered Shirley Temple by using ginger beer instead of ginger ale!
If you want to try making your own Moscow Mule at home, either with homemade ginger beer or with one of the many delicious, commercially available ginger beers, simply follow the link below to be given a tried-and-true recipe you and your guests will love:
Consider Ginger Beer a Part of a Healthy Balanced Diet
While ginger beer does still contain sugars, it's safe to say that the health benefits of ginger make a strong argument for including it in a balanced diet. The natural ingredients of ginger beer have been shown in multiple studies to have anti inflammatory benefits, anti cancer properties, to be an aid in weight loss, and potentially so much more.