Is Ginger Ale Good for You? Benefits, Types, and Potential Side Effects

Is Ginger Ale Good for You? Benefits, Types, and Potential Side Effects

Written by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD on February 17, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, Nutrition from http://www.healthline.com

Ginger ale is a popular type of soda made with ginger. Many people drink ginger ale to relieve nausea, but you can also enjoy it as an everyday beverage.

Since ginger ale has been around for a long time, you may be wondering if it’s good for you or has any benefits. 

This article explains the benefits and downsides of drinking ginger ale and reviews the different styles that are available.

Ginger ale in a glass

What is ginger ale?

Ginger ale is a carbonated beverage flavored with the spice ginger. People typically consume it on its own but also sometimes use it in mixed drink recipes. 

Manufacturers classify most commercial ginger ale as soda. They make ginger ale by mixing carbonated water with sugar or high fructose corn syrup and either natural or artificial ginger flavoring. 

Ginger ale often contains preservatives, like citric acid and sodium benzoate, as well as caramel color. 

Some brands add other ingredients as part of their “natural flavoring.” These combinations of ingredients are proprietary blends, meaning that the companies keep them private.

However, a more traditional style of ginger ale is available in certain stores and online. This style is made with either yeast or ginger bug as a microbial starter culture.

Ginger bug is similar to the SCOBY, or starter culture, used to make sourdough bread or kombucha. It’s derived from either the ginger beer plant or fresh ginger root. As it ferments, beneficial bacteria and yeasts grow and produce natural carbonation. 

This traditionally prepared ginger ale also tends to contain more natural ingredients, such as cane sugar, fresh ginger root, and water, and not to include artificial colors. 

SUMMARY

Ginger ale is a carbonated beverage made with ginger root and a sweetener. While most commercial ginger ales use high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring, traditional ginger ale is fermented and tends to contain more natural ingredients. 

Types of ginger ale

Ginger ale comes in several varieties.

Some of the most popular types of ginger ale are: 

  • Regular. This category includes sodas and the traditional ginger ales described above. They contain ginger, sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and carbonation. They may also include other ingredients, depending on the brand.
  • Dry. “Dry” seems to be a marketing term brands use to describe ginger ales that have a spicier, “drier” ginger flavor as a result of a specific way manufacturers source and process the ginger root. 
  • Diet. This type of ginger ale contains artificial or calorie-free sweeteners in place of sugar. 

The best type of ginger ale for you depends primarily on your personal taste and ingredient preferences.

SUMMARY

In addition to regular ginger ale, you’ll also find diet ginger ale, which contains calorie-free sweeteners, and dry ginger ale. “Dry” is a marketing term to describe a spicier ginger flavor. 

Benefits

While ginger ale itself isn’t a health food, it may offer a few benefits if it contains real ginger root. 

Ginger root is the underground stem of the ginger plant. It has a long history of medicinal and health uses, especially related to the digestive system (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source). 

Powdered ginger root is sold as a dried spice for cooking. However, it’s also the main flavoring agent in ginger ale. 

Studies have shown that ginger may offer the following health benefits — but these effects apply to ginger itself, not to ginger ale specifically.

May help reduce nausea

Consuming ginger may help relieve upset stomach and nausea related to stomach flu, severe migraines, chemotherapy, or morning sickness in pregnancy.

This may be partly due to natural compounds found in ginger, including gingerols and shogaols (1Trusted Source3Trusted Source4Trusted Source5Trusted Source). 

However, most studies examining the effects of ginger on nausea have used high doses of ginger extract, not ginger ale.

May offer antioxidant effects

Ginger oil is a natural source of antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from damage that can lead to disease. However, its antioxidant content decreases with processing (6Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source). 

May help treat migraines

One study found that a 250-mg dose of a ginger powder supplement was as effective as a prescription drug for reducing migraine symptoms. Another study found that ginger placed under the tongue was also effective (9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

May help reduce inflammation

Ginger contains compounds that may have anti-inflammatory effects on the brain and joints (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source).

May support heart health

Ginger may help lower high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke (13Trusted Source14Trusted Source). 

Naturally caffeine-free

Ginger ale is naturally caffeine-free, which may make it a good alternative to cola or other caffeinated beverages (15Trusted Source).

Ginger vs. ginger ale

Most of the health benefits listed above are related to ginger, not to ginger ale specifically.

Despite the health benefits of ginger, ginger ale still falls into the category of soft drinks or sodas, so it’s not a health food. 

If you choose to consume ginger ale, it’s best to do so in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Many commercial ginger ale drinks use artificial ginger flavoring. Some also contain very little ginger and a lot of added sugar.

SUMMARY

Ginger may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may also help with headaches and nausea and provide benefits for heart health. However, many commercial ginger ales contain little ginger and a lot of sugar.

Potential side effects

In general, ginger ale is safe for most people to consume in moderation. However, you may want to keep the following potential side effects in mind.

Gassiness

Consuming ginger ale may cause bloating, burping, and increased gassiness. These effects are due to the carbonation and are common with any carbonated beverage. 

Diet ginger ale contains artificial sweeteners, which may be in the form of sugar alcohols. These calorie-free sweeteners can cause bloating or diarrhea, especially if you consume them in large amounts (16Trusted Source).

Health effects of added sugar

For most people, added sugar is the most unhealthy thing about drinking ginger ale.

Many studies have suggested that consuming large amounts of added sugar may lead to weight gain and chronic disease.

Studies have found that people who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened drinks, including soda, had higher body weights and more visceral fat than those who didn’t (17Trusted Source18Trusted Source).

Research has also suggested that eating a lot of sugar is related to the development of dental cavities, cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health conditions (19Trusted Source).

It’s important to note that the sugars naturally present in foods such as fruits and dairy products don’t have these harmful effects (19Trusted Source).

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest keeping your added sugar consumption under 200 calories per day for a 2,000-calorie diet (20Trusted Source).

A single 12-ounce (360-mL) can of ginger ale may contain 36 grams of added sugar, which is 72% of the Daily Value (DV) based on a 2,000 calorie diet (21Trusted Source).

Ingredient lists may include many names for added sugar, such as organic cane sugar, agave nectar, and honey.

To keep your sugar intake within the recommended limit, you may want to check ingredient lists and drink sugar-sweetened ginger ale only in moderation.

Artificial and nonnutritive sweeteners

Two recent reviews suggest that nonnutritive sweeteners may lead to metabolic issues. One review suggests they alter the balance of beneficial gut bacteria in healthy people, causing metabolic changes that can lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity (22Trusted Source23Trusted Source).

One observational study found that people who consumed diet soft drinks were more likely to have metabolic syndrome than people who drank sugar-sweetened soft drinks or no soft drinks (24Trusted Source).

Those who consumed diet drinks also tended to have larger waist circumferences and higher fasting blood sugar levels (24Trusted Source).

However, researchers have pointed out that the effects of nonnutritive sweeteners on gut bacteria and metabolism are still controversial and scientists need to research them further (22Trusted Source).

The nonnutritive sweeteners acesulfame-potassium (Ace-K), aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia may be potential culprits. The FDA has approved all of these for use in food in the United States, so you may find them in diet ginger ale (22Trusted Source25Trusted Source).

Another recent research review looked at 56 studies on the effects of nonnutritive sweeteners. Overall, the researchers found no difference in the health outcomes of people who consumed nonnutritive sweeteners as compared with people who didn’t (26Trusted Source).

However, the researchers also said that many of the studies they reviewed were lower quality. They suggested scientists need to do more research on the health outcomes of nonnutritive sweeteners (26Trusted Source).

As you can see, the research on the health effects of nonnutritive sweeteners is mixed.

Aspartame is one nonnutritive sweetener in diet ginger ale that may have some side effects, but research results are mixed and scientists need to do more research to investigate its potential effects.

A 2017 review on the safety of aspartame suggested it may affect several cellular processes to cause inflammation. However, most of the research included in the review was in animals (27Trusted Source).

Another review from 2018 noted that consuming aspartame in large amounts may trigger headaches, insomnia, and other issues with thinking or behavior in people who are sensitive to it (28Trusted Source).

However, the researchers said there was currently not enough evidence on the safety of consuming aspartame and that scientists needed to investigate this further (28Trusted Source).

Potential interactions with blood thinners

One review suggested that consuming a lot of ginger over a prolonged period may lead to an increased risk of bleeding. So, consuming ginger in large amounts could be a problem if you take blood-thinning medications (29Trusted Source).

Otherwise, when consumed in moderation, ginger ale is a low risk beverage for the average person and can fit within an overall healthy diet.

SUMMARY

Ginger ale in moderation is safe for most people. That said, artificial sweeteners in diet versions and added sugar in regular versions may have negative health effects. Large amounts of ginger may also interact with blood thinners.

How to choose a healthier ginger ale

Ginger ale is a popular soda, which means you’re likely to find a wide selection at the grocery store. 

If you’re looking for a healthier ginger ale, it’s a good idea to start by looking at the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel on the back of the can or bottle. 

Regardless of which ginger ale you choose, it will contain added sweetener or nonnutritive sweeteners. Many ginger ales contain a lot of added sugar and very little ginger.

Some ginger ales are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which your body metabolizes differently than cane sugar. HFCS is strongly associated with fat production in the liver, altered blood fat levels, and harmful belly fat(30Trusted Source3132Trusted Source33Trusted Source).

While no form of added sugar is considered a health food, it’s best to stay away from foods and beverages that contain HFCS. Other forms of sugar can be part of a healthy diet if consumed in moderation.

Additionally, you may want to choose a ginger ale that doesn’t have a lot of extra ingredients such as artificial coloring. You can check this by looking at the ingredient list. 

SUMMARY

To choose a healthier ginger ale, look for one that doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup as the main sweetener and doesn’t contain artificial coloring. Ginger ale is not a health food, but examining the ingredient list can help you make healthier choices.

The bottom line

Ginger ale is a carbonated beverage made with ginger root and a sweetener such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or a low calorie sweetener. 

Many commercial ginger ales contain little ginger and a lot of added sugar, but some traditional varieties contain real fermented ginger root. 

Ginger may offer benefits for heart health, headaches, and nausea, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, varieties of ginger ale that contain more ginger may be better for your health.

However, ginger ale may cause increased gassiness due to its carbonation. The added sugar it may contain can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases if consumed in large amounts.

People who have the condition phenylketonuria should avoid diet versions made with the artificial sweetener phenylalanine.

Furthermore, consuming ginger frequently in high amounts may interfere with blood-thinning medications.

You can find a healthier option by reading the ingredient label, choosing a low sugar or diet variety, and choosing one that fits your personal health goals and preferences.

Link to original article below.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ginger-ale-good-for-you

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