Are fresh spices more nutrition than powdered ones?

Written by Jacob Roper, CSCS | Updated May 2019
This evidence-based article has 41 references to scientific papers.
Certain spices have incredible nutritional and functional value - but do they lose this value when they're processed rather than fresh?

Summary of Key Points

Fresh isn't always "better." Despite what those darn gurus say, fresh spices aren't always better than their powdered - sometimes, drying and powdering spices can even unlock extra nutritional value.

With powdered spices, quality is important. Low-quality powdered spices have been adulterated with toxic compounds in the past - so, make sure to get something quality.

Ginger

Ginger is anti-nausea,[1] anti-inflammatory,[2,3] cognition-promoting,[4] and rich in polyphenolic antioxidants.[5] It also treats cold and fever symptoms,[6] and it may even decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer (worth noting if you eat lots of red meat).[2] It won’t turn you into Superman or Wonder Woman, but including it in your diet will almost certainly make you feel just a little bit healthier.

Gingerols and shogaols are the compounds responsible for ginger’s (modest) medicinal effects as well as it’s potent flavor.[6]

When ginger is dried and ground, it loses some of its gingerol content, but it gains shogaol content.[7,8] Here’s the kicker - of the two active compound groups, gingerols are more aromatic, but shogaols are more potent in terms of health benefits.[6,9] So, while dried ginger is less flavorful than fresh ginger, it might be more potent in terms of health benefits.

“Nutrition dogma holds that whole foods are always better than their processed versions, but ginger is a neat example to the contrary.”

To be honest, this isn’t what I was expecting to learn when I set out to research this topic. Nutrition dogma holds that whole foods are always better than their processed versions, and this is a neat example to the contrary. It just goes to show that nutrition is complicated and we shouldn’t hold too fast to our assumptions.

At the end of the day, it’s probably best to eat a mix of both. Partly because you’d optimize gingerol and shogaol balance, would would (ostensibly) confer the full spectrum of health benefits offered by ginger. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll eat more ginger in total if it’s convenient and varied. As a final note, the experiential piece matters, too - fresh ginger is ridiculously tasty,[*] and some of the recipes in the Ambrofit cookbook just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Turmeric

Curcumin is the bioactive compound in turmeric. It’s functional properties are impressive to say the least; in addition to fighting against a plethora of chronic diseases, it also decreases pain and inflammation in the joins and throughout the body, reduces allergies, and even improves markers of depression and anxiety. [10-23]

(And again, for you red meat eaters, turmeric has some awesome protective effects against colon cancer.)[24,25]

Generally speaking, turmeric processing does not significantly degrade curcumin content.[26-28] However, there are two things to be aware of with fresh vs processed turmeric:

  1. The curcumin in turmeric root is slightly more bioavailable than it is in turmeric powder when eaten in isolation because curcumin is fat soluble. Turmeric root has natural oils, and this helps deliver curcumin to the body.[26] However, you can mitigate this by eating powdered turmeric with fatty foods, or by eating it with black pepper.[29]
  2. Whereas whole turmeric is often pure, turmeric powder may contain any range of adulterants, including coal tar, lead II chromate and other toxic compounds.[26]

Just like with ginger, it’s probably best to eat a mix of turmeric sources. Just make sure to get high-quality powdered ginger from a reputable brand.

Garlic

Garlic is another functional food with a wide variety of health benefits, demonstrating positive effects on blood cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and antioxidant activity.[30-38] Like it’s friends ginger and turmeric, it’s also highly protective colon cancer, as well as stomach and prostate cancer.[31][36]

However, unlike turmeric and ginger, garlic’s health affects can’t be traced to just a few specific compounds. This makes it more difficult to compare fresh vs powdered garlic.

There is some direct evidence that fresh garlic has higher Vitamin C and B3 content than powdered garlic.[39] Furthermore, studies show that fresh garlic has better antimicrobial properties, and considering that allicin is the principal antimicrobial in garlic (and also one of its main bioactives), it’s probably true that fresh garlic has higher allicin content.[40]

Here’s the good news - the vast majority of clinical trials showing the benefits listed above use garlic powder.[31-38] So, we can be sure that garlic powder is effective for health outcomes.

In other words, powdered garlic is awesome, and fresh garlic is probably even more awesome. Like with turmeric, shop for high-quality powder (and cloves, for that matter).

Summing it up

Despite what the mystics lurking in Whole Foods say, processed spices aren't always worse than their fresh counterparts. You should eat lots of aromatic spices, and that they can be either fresh or powdered - whatever you’re feeling works.

Thanks for tuning in! I’ll see you next time :)

Your friend in thriving,

    - Jake

References

  1. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting.
    Viljoen, E., Visser, J., Koen, N., & Musekiwa, A. (2014). Nutrition journal, 13(1), 20.
  2. Phase II study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colon mucosa in people at normal risk for colorectal cancer.
    Zick, S. M., Turgeon, D. K., Vareed, S. K., Ruffin, M. T., Litzinger, A. J., Wright, B. D., ... & Brenner, D. E. (2011). Cancer Prevention Research, 4(11), 1929-1937.
  3. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise.
    Black, C. D., Herring, M. P., Hurley, D. J., & O'Connor, P. J. (2010). The Journal of Pain, 11(9), 894-903.
  4. Zingiber officinale improves cognitive function of the middle-aged healthy women.
    Saenghong, N., Wattanathorn, J., Muchimapura, S., Tongun, T., Piyavhatkul, N., Banchonglikitkul, C., & Kajsongkram, T. (2012). evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, 2012.
  5. Identification of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols: an application of the Phenol-Explorer database.
    Pérez-Jiménez, J., Neveu, V., Vos, F., & Scalbert, A. (2010). European journal of clinical nutrition, 64(S3), S112.
  6. Pharmacological studies on ginger.
    SUEKAWA, M., ISHIGE, A., YUASA, K., SUDO, K., ABURADA, M., & HOSOYA, E. (1984). I.
  7. Gingerol decreases after processing and storage of ginger.
    Zhang, X., Iwaoka, W. T., Huang, A. S., Nakamoto, S. T., & Wong, R. (1994). Journal of food science, 59(6), 1338-1340.
  8. Ginger—chemistry, technology, and quality evaluation: part 2.
    Govindarajan, V. S., & Connell, D. W. (1983). Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 17(3), 189-258.
  9. Ginger.
    Vasala, P. A. (2012). Ginger. In Handbook of herbs and spices (pp. 319-335).
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    Aggarwal, B. B., Sundaram, C., Malani, N., & Ichikawa, H. (2007). Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease (pp. 1-75). In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease (pp.
  11. Curcumin: from ancient medicine to current clinical trials.
    Hatcher, H., Planalp, R., Cho, J., Torti, F. M., & Torti, S. V. (2008). Cellular and molecular life sciences, 65(11), 1631-1652.
  12. Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people.
    DiSilvestro, R. A., Joseph, E., Zhao, S., & Bomser, J. (2012). Nutrition journal, 11(1), 79.
  13. Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) down-regulates expression of cell proliferation and antiapoptotic and metastatic gene products through suppression of IκBα kinase and Akt activation.
    Aggarwal, S., Ichikawa, H., Takada, Y., Sandur, S. K., Shishodia, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2006). Molecular pharmacology, 69(1), 195-206.
  14. Curcumin downregulates human tumor necrosis factor-α levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis ofrandomized controlled trials.
    Sahebkar, A., Cicero, A. F., Simental-Mendía, L. E., Aggarwal, B. B., & Gupta, S. C. (2016). Pharmacological research, 107, 234-242.
  15. Curcumin, the golden spice from Indian saffron, is a chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer for tumors and chemoprotector and radioprotector for normal organs.
    Goel, A., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2010). Nutrition and cancer, 62(7), 919-930.
  16. The antioxidants curcumin and quercetin inhibit inflammatory processes associated with arthritis.
    Jackson, J. K., Higo, T., Hunter, W. L., & Burt, H. M. (2006). Inflammation Research, 55(4), 168-175.
  17. The antioxidants curcumin and quercetin inhibit inflammatory processes associated with arthritis.
    Jackson, J. K., Higo, T., Hunter, W. L., & Burt, H. M. (2006). Inflammation Research, 55(4), 168-175.
  18. Efficacy of turmeric extracts and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of joint arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.
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  19. Preliminary study on antirheumatic activity of curcumin (diferuloyl methane).
    Dcodhar, S. D., Sethi, R., & Srimal, R. C. (2013). Preliminary study on antirheumatic activity of curcumin (diferuloyl methane). Indian journal of medical research, 138(1). Indian journal of medical research, 138(1).
  20. Oral supplementation of turmeric decreases proteinuria, hematuria, and systolic blood pressure in patients suffering from relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis: a randomized and placebo-controlled study.
    Khajehdehi, P., Zanjaninejad, B., Aflaki, E., Nazarinia, M., Azad, F., Malekmakan, L., & Dehghanzadeh, G. R. (2012). Journal of Renal Nutrition, 22(1), 50-57.
  21. Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study.
    Lopresti, A. L., Maes, M., Maker, G. L., Hood, S. D., & Drummond, P. D. (2014). Journal of affective disorders, 167, 368-375.
  22. An investigation of the effects of curcumin on anxiety and depression in obese individuals: a randomized controlled trial.
    Esmaily, H., Sahebkar, A., Iranshahi, M., Ganjali, S., Mohammadi, A., Ferns, G., & Ghayour-Mobarhan, M. (2015). Chinese journal of integrative medicine, 21(5), 332-338.
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  34. Aged garlic extract modulates glutathione redox cycle and superoxide dismutase activity in vascular endothelial cells.
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    Ashraf, R., Khan, R. A., Ashraf, I., & Qureshi, A. A. (2013). Effects of Allium sativum (garlic) on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 26(5). Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 26(5).
  36. Effects of garlic thioallyl derivatives on growth, glutathione concentration, and polyamine formation of human prostate carcinoma cells in culture.
    Pinto, J. T., Qiao, C., Xing, J., Rivlin, R. S., Protomastro, M. L., Weissler, M. L., ... & Heston, W. D. (1997). The American journal of clinical nutrition, 66(2), 398-405.
  37. Garlic powder in the treatment of moderate hyperlipidaemia: a controlled trial and meta-analysis.
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  38. A meta-analysis of the effect of garlic on blood pressure.
    Silagy, C. A., & Neil, H. A. (1994)..
  39. Spices and condiments (No.
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  40. Garlic (Allium sativum) as an anti‐Candida agent: a comparison of the efficacy of fresh garlic and freeze‐dried extracts.
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  41. Do you guys really need a freakin citation for my claim that fresh ginger is tasty?
    I'll just cite myself then. Roper, Jacob W. (2019). Journal of Cosmic Truth.