Ginger ale is a well-known soda flavored with ginger. While many consume it to ease an upset stomach, it’s also a refreshing drink on its own.
If you’ve been sipping on ginger ale for years, you might be curious about its health effects and varieties.
In this article, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of ginger ale and explore its various kinds.
What is ginger ale?
Ginger ale is a carbonated drink infused with the zest of ginger. While many enjoy it solo, it’s also a favorite in cocktail recipes.
Most store-bought ginger ales are labeled as sodas. They’re crafted by blending carbonated water with sweeteners like sugar or high fructose corn syrup, coupled with either natural or synthetic ginger flavor.
Often, you’ll find additives like citric acid and sodium benzoate in ginger ale, along with a caramel tint.
Some brands sprinkle in other secret ingredients under the umbrella of “natural flavorings.” These ingredient mixes are kept confidential by the companies.
But there’s also a traditional take on ginger ale, which you might stumble upon in select stores or online. This variant uses either yeast or a ginger bug to kickstart fermentation.
A ginger bug can be likened to the starter culture in sourdough bread or kombucha. Originating from the ginger beer plant or raw ginger root, it ferments, fostering good bacteria and yeast that naturally carbonate the drink.
Traditionally brewed ginger ale usually boasts purer ingredients, including cane sugar, fresh ginger, and water, without synthetic colorings.
Summary: Ginger ale is a fizzy drink crafted with ginger and sweetening agents. While many commercial versions use artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup, the traditional variant is naturally fermented and boasts purer components.
Different types of ginger ale
There are multiple versions of ginger ale to choose from.
Here are some of the top ones:
- Regular. This encompasses both the sodas and the old-fashioned ginger ales we talked about earlier. Ingredients typically include ginger, a sweetening agent, and carbonation, with potential additions based on the specific brand.
- Dry. The term “dry” is often a branding strategy. It refers to ginger ales with a more pronounced, “crisp” ginger taste, owing to a distinct ginger root sourcing and processing method.
- Diet. This variety swaps sugar for zero-calorie or synthetic sweeteners.
Choosing the right ginger ale is mainly a matter of personal flavor preference and ingredient priorities.
Summary: Apart from the standard ginger ale, there’s also diet ginger ale with zero-calorie sweeteners and dry ginger ale, known for its robust ginger taste.
Health benefits of ginger ale
Ginger ale might not be the ultimate health drink, but if it’s made from genuine ginger root, it can have some advantages.
Ginger root is the part of the ginger plant that grows underground. It’s been used for centuries for its medicinal and health-boosting properties, particularly for aiding digestion.
We often use powdered ginger root in cooking as a dried spice. It’s also the primary flavor in ginger ale.
Research indicates that ginger has various health benefits. However, it’s essential to note that these benefits come from ginger itself and not necessarily ginger ale.
Ginger ale might help soothe nausea
Ginger can be beneficial in easing stomach discomfort and nausea from conditions like stomach bugs, intense migraines, chemotherapy, or morning sickness during pregnancy.
Some of the natural compounds in ginger, like gingerols and shogaols, might contribute to this effect.
However, studies focused on ginger’s anti-nausea effects often use concentrated ginger extract, not the amount found in ginger ale.
Ginger ale could have antioxidant properties
Ginger oil naturally contains antioxidants, which help shield cells from harm that might lead to illnesses. But processing can reduce this antioxidant richness.
Suggested read: Is chewing gum good or bad for your health?
Ginger ale might aid in migraine relief
One research study indicated that a 250-mg ginger powder supplement worked as well as a prescribed medicine in alleviating migraine symptoms. Another study suggested that ginger applied under the tongue also helped.
Ginger ale could help lessen inflammation
Ginger possesses compounds that might exhibit anti-inflammatory effects, potentially benefiting the brain and joints.
Ginger ale might promote heart health
Ginger can assist in managing high blood pressure, a factor linked to heart conditions and strokes.
Ginger ale is free from caffeine
Since ginger ale doesn’t contain caffeine, it can be a preferable option over cola or other caffeine-rich drinks.
Ginger vs. ginger ale
It’s crucial to understand that the health perks mentioned are tied to ginger, not necessarily ginger ale.
While ginger boasts multiple health benefits, ginger ale is still classified as a soft drink or soda. So, it isn’t exactly a health elixir.
If you decide to have ginger ale, it’s wise to drink it occasionally and as part of a balanced diet. Be aware that many store-bought ginger ales might have artificial ginger flavoring, minimal actual ginger, and high sugar content.
Summary: Ginger has potential health benefits like anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, migraine relief, and heart health support. Yet, many store-bought ginger ales have minimal ginger and high sugar levels.
Possible side effects of ginger ale
Ginger ale is generally safe for most when consumed in moderation, but there are some potential side effects to consider.
Gas and bloating
Drinking ginger ale might lead to feelings of fullness, belching, and increased gas. This is because of the carbonation, which is a typical side effect of all fizzy drinks.
Diet versions of ginger ale contain artificial sweeteners, sometimes in the form of sugar alcohols. Consuming these in large quantities can lead to bloating or diarrhea.
Suggested read: Ginger tea in pregnancy: Benefits, safety, and more
The impact of added sugars
For many, the most concerning ingredient in ginger ale is the added sugar.
Numerous studies show that excessive intake of added sugars can contribute to weight gain and long-term health problems.
Research shows that those who frequently drink sugary beverages, including sodas, tend to weigh more and have more belly fat.
Moreover, a high-sugar diet can increase the risk of dental problems, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.
It’s worth noting that sugars found naturally in foods like fruits or dairy aren’t associated with these health risks.
The recommended daily intake of added sugars is below 200 calories for a diet of 2,000 calories.
A 12-ounce (360-mL) can of ginger ale can have up to 36 grams of added sugar, which equates to 72% of the daily recommended intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Ingredient labels might list sugars under various names, such as agave syrup or organic cane sugar. It’s wise to read labels and moderate your intake of sugary ginger ale.
Concerns about artificial sweeteners
Recent findings suggest that nonnutritive sweeteners might lead to metabolic disturbances. One theory is that they might impact the balance of healthy gut bacteria, potentially leading to diabetes and weight gain.
A study observed that those drinking diet sodas were more prone to metabolic issues than those consuming regular sodas or none at all.
Diet soda drinkers also had bigger waists and elevated blood sugar levels.
However, the exact effects of these sweeteners on gut health and metabolism are still debated, and more research is needed.
Common nonnutritive sweeteners include saccharin, aspartame, and stevia, all of which are FDA-approved and might be present in diet ginger ale.
A comprehensive review of 56 studies on these sweeteners found no significant difference in health outcomes between consumers and non-consumers. But, many of these studies were of lower quality, suggesting that more rigorous research is needed.
One sweetener, aspartame, often found in diet ginger ale, has been linked to potential side effects, but findings are inconsistent. Some studies indicate it might cause inflammation, but most of this research is based on animal models.
A different review suggested that high doses of aspartame might cause issues in those sensitive to it, such as headaches or insomnia. Still, more evidence is needed to confirm these findings.
Suggested read: Diet soda: Good or bad?
Potential interaction with blood thinners
Some research suggests that excessive ginger consumption over time might increase bleeding risks. So, high ginger intake could interfere with blood-thinning medications.
In summary, while ginger ale can be enjoyed safely in moderation, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects from added sugars and artificial sweeteners. Also, those on blood-thinning medications should be cautious with large amounts of ginger.
Summary: Drinking ginger ale in moderation is typically safe, but be mindful of added sugars and artificial sweeteners. High ginger intake might also affect those on blood-thinning medications.
How to pick a healthier ginger ale
Ginger ale is a favorite drink for many, making it a common sight in supermarkets.
To get a healthier version of ginger ale, start by examining the ingredients and nutritional details given on the can or bottle’s label.
Every ginger ale will have some form of sweetener, either added sugar or sugar substitutes. A lot of them have more sugar than actual ginger.
Some ginger ales use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a sweetener. This type of sugar is processed differently in our bodies and can lead to fat buildup in the liver, changes in blood fat, and unhealthy abdominal fat.
While no added sugars are really beneficial, it’s a good rule to limit those that contain HFCS. Other sugars can fit into a balanced diet if you don’t overdo it.
Also, pick a ginger ale that avoids extra additives like artificial colorings. A quick glance at the ingredients will help you out here.
Summary: For a better ginger ale option, pick one without high fructose corn syrup and free from artificial colors. While ginger ale isn’t a health drink, checking the ingredients can guide you to smarter choices.
Ginger ale is a fizzy drink made from ginger root combined with a sweetening agent, like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or a no-calorie sweetener.
Many store-bought ginger ales have minimal ginger and are loaded with sugars. However, some traditional kinds have genuine fermented ginger.
Ginger has potential benefits for heart wellness, managing headaches, and easing nausea. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. So, ginger ales with more genuine ginger might be a healthier choice.
But, be mindful that the fizziness in ginger ale can cause some bloating. Also, the sugars in it might increase the risk of long-term health issues if you drink too much.
If you have a condition called phenylketonuria, steer clear of diet versions containing the sweetener phenylalanine.
Moreover, consuming lots of ginger might not be a good idea if you’re on blood-thinning medications.
To find a ginger ale that’s better for you, read the ingredients, opt for ones with less sugar, and choose based on your individual health needs and tastes.