Turmeric, scientifically known as Curcuma longa, belongs to the Zingiberacaea family, just like ginger (Zingiber officinale). And just like ginger, turmeric is used as a spice and has a lot of health benefits. Both are common in India and Southeast Asia and both have medicinally valuable rhizomes, which means the root is where all the action is.
Unlike ginger, however, turmeric is a lot healthier and with more benefits. Take a look at this comparison between turmeric and ginger and find out why turmeric is preferable.
#1 Nutritional Value
Turmeric contains more nutrients compared to ginger. For instance, turmeric contains niacin and vitamin E which ginger doesn’t. Turmeric does contain fat, but it’s omega-3 and 6, which are both good fat, and which you can’t get from ginger.
Moreover, in terms of calcium, dietary fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, they are all found in higher concentration in turmeric than ginger, if you were to compare a 100-gram serving of each. Right there, that’s already a lot of reasons why you should choose turmeric over ginger.
#2 Active Constituents
Ginger contains gingerols which are its main active constituent, beta-carotene, and salicylate, which gives ginger its antibacterial properties. It also contains curcumin which is the active constituent found in turmeric that is studied the most and which is considered as the constituent responsible for many of turmeric’s healthy properties. The curcumin content of ginger, of course, is in lesser amounts compared to that of turmeric’s.
Turmeric, on the one hand, contains three types of curcuminoids which are Dihydrocurcumin, and 5’- Methoxycurcumin, and Curcumin Demethoxycurcumin. All three are great antioxidants. Aside from these, turmeric also has zingiberene, arturmerone, and turmerone.
#3 Health Benefits
Because their main active constituents are different, the health benefits of ginger and turmeric also vary. Turmeric is used as treatment for more than thirty conditions, even more than that if you include how turmeric is used in traditional medicine as well as the other possible new health benefits of turmeric that are still currently being studied. Here are several examples of the many uses of turmeric:
- Anti-inflammatory. Curcumin is one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory agents known so far. In fact, past studies on the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin revealed that its anti-inflammatory potency is comparable to certain anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Antioxidant. As an antioxidant, curcumin in turmeric has a two-pronged effect. First, it acts as an antioxidant so it fights free radicals in and of itself. Secondly, it boosts other antioxidants in the body. So when you consume turmeric plus other antioxidants, you get a more powerful combination.
- Anti-cancer. Several studies have shown how curcumin affects cancer cells. The good news is that it helps prevent cancer cells from further spreading. Moreover, curcumin also reduces new blood vessels in tumors from growing. When there is less or no blood at all flowing into the tumor, the cancer cells will die. Thus, curcumin is also considered to help in the death of cancer cells.
- Other uses of turmeric. Among some of the more common uses of turmeric are for joint pain, diarrhea and other stomach problems, high cholesterol, headaches, and jaundice. Turmeric can also help in many conditions associated with the respiratory system such as colds, bronchitis, and lung infections.
Of course, ginger also has many health benefits like turmeric. Ginger is commonly used in stomach problems like diarrhea, nausea, and colic. It’s also used to relieve pain in people suffering from arthritis, as well as for back and chest pains. Ginger is also used in traditional medicine, usually for its anti-inflammatory properties.
New Studies On The Benefits Of Curcumin
One of the most recent studies on curcumin, just published early this year, reveals that curcumin has significant benefits on memory and attention. Published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the researchers reported that curcumin’s benefits on cognitive function may be attributed to its anti-inflammatory and anti-amyloid brain effects.
When beta-amyloid accumulate in the brain, it causes disruption in how brain cells communicate with each other. And when neurons can’t talk to each other properly, its effects cascade and impair many of our body’s functions, most especially our cognitive functions. This is actually the case with Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid or Abeta in the brain.
You can think of beta-amyloid as brain plaque. And, like other forms of plaque in our body, it causes a lot of damage. What the researchers found was that curcumin reduced beta-amyloids from binding with the brain cells in the amygdala and hypothalamus. In short, curcumin lessened the formation of brain plaque. The researchers further stated that this supports the cognitive benefits of curcumin that their study revealed.
Simply put, because curcumin reduces the formation of brain plaque, those taking daily dosages of curcumin had better cognitive test results than those who didn’t. These cognitive functions include consistent long-term recall, long-term memory storage, and brief visual memory test.
Moreover, the researcher found that those taking curcumin daily had lower scores in the depression inventory after the 18-month treatment period. This means that sustained regular dosage of curcumin can also help with depression. The researchers explained this by positing that inflammation in the brain is associated with depression and because curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory, this could be the reason why volunteers who took curcumin daily had lower depression scores.
Almost everything you will read on the internet about turmeric and curcumin is positive, largely because the health benefits of curcumin are truly many and most of them are scientifically proven. However, as with any other food, drug, or supplement, it is not for everyone.
In the study cited above, the researchers reported that of the volunteers who were treated with curcumin, there were four who reported gastrointestinal side effects. There were also two from the placebo group who also complained of side effects. These side effects included gastritis, nausea, and abdominal pains. Despite these adverse events reported in the study, it is becoming clearer that the health benefits of curcumin far outweigh the minimal side effects associated with it.
If you really had to choose just one between ginger and turmeric, you would do well to choose the latter. However, it’s not really necessary to choose between the two as you can just take both simultaneously. In fact, you should try drinking ginger-turmeric tea as it’s quite delicious.