Domesticated first in India, Bitter gourd ‘Karela’ is an integral part of Indian palette due to its taste enhancing qualities and also its amazing health benefits.
In India, traditional medicines recommends Karela juice/tablets for people suffering from diabetes, as it is suggested Karela supports restoration of pancreatic beta cells that help secrete insulin in the body, thereby maintaining optimised glucose levels.
Bitter melon is also known as bitter gourd and commonly referred to as karela in Hindi possesses an extremely bitter taste. The Indian variety of karela is narrower with pointy ends and rough, jagged spikes on the rind. It is greenish in colour and yellowish when overripe. Internally it is white with seeds.
Nutritional facts of Bitter gourd
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of bitter gourd weighing approximately 62 gm contains 12 kcal, 0.52 gm of proteins, 1.2 gm of fiber, 2.68 gm of carbohydrates, 0.11 gm of fat, 0.24 mg of iron, 6 mg of calcium, 198 mg of potassium, 4 mg of sodium, 10 mg of magnesium, 22mg of phosphorous, 0.48 mg of zinc, 20.5 mg of vitamin C, 32 mcg of folate, 6.7 mg of choline, 4 mcg of vitamin A, 42 mcg of beta-carotene, 820 mcg of Lutein & zeaxanthin, and 3 mcg of vitamin K.
Potential Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd ‘Karela’
1/5. Reduces blood sugar
1. Bitter gourd contains an insulin-like compound charantin, which possesses anti-diabetic properties. These compounds aid in the reduction of blood sugar levels and also prevents unpredictable spikes by regulating glucose metabolism.
2. The high content of soluble fiber and its low glycemic index helps in reducing the blood sugar level.
3. The lectin content of karela lowers blood glucose concentrations in the body by suppressing appetite. Lectin is responsible to trigger the lowering of blood sugar levels.
4. Bitter gourd lowers the blood glucose levels in both Type I and Type II diabetes.
2/5. Protects against cancer
1. Bitter gourd contains certain compounds possessing cancer-fighting properties.
2. Karela acts against cancer cell proliferation and arrests tumor formation. It blocks the growth and spread of breast cancer cells and promotes cancer cell death.
3. Free radicals are the primary cause of cancer. They are eliminated by the lycopene, lignans, and carotenoids, vitamin A, zeaxanthin, and lutein content present in karela.
4. Regular consumption of karela reduces colon, liver, breast, pancreas, and prostate cancers.
3/5. Reduces Cholesterol Levels
1. Bitter gourd decreases the bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
2. The fibre content present in karela prevents the clogging of arteries.
3. The calcium, magnesium, and potassium content all produce a positive impact on the heart.
4/5. Aids Weight Loss
1. Bitter melon is low in fats, calories, carbohydrates thus, it prevents the body from absorbing fat thereby, helps in weight management. It stimulates the liver to secrete bile acids which are vital for fat metabolism.
2. Bitter gourd contains 80-85% water which helps in suppressing appetite.
5/5. Other possible Benefits…
Karela produces several health benefits, apart from the health benefits mentioned above, it also produces a few more such as aids digestion, cures a hangover, cleanses the liver,boosts the immune system, benefits the eyes, promotes healthy skin and hair, heals any wounds, energises the body, treats kidney stones, battles respiratory problems.
Also treats constipation, purifies the blood, cures acne, prevents skin disorders, delays ageing, promotes silky and shining hair, treats dandruff, cures split ends, treats hair loss, cures dry hair and scalp, cures rough and tangled hair, treats premature greying, and treats obesity.
Besides it culinary use, Karela ‘Bitter Gourd’ is also used as a medicine as per the traditional medicine systems. It helps manage diabetes, fever, Intestinal parasites, migraine, hyperacidity, dandruff cure and few more health issues.
How to use Bitter melon in the diet?
Bitter melon can be easily prepared and used in several different dishes and recipes. It can be consumed in the vegetable form or juice or can be made into a smoothie by adding spinach or apples to it. It can also be consumed as a soup, chutney, or pickle. It can also be stuffed and consumed.
How to prepare Karela Juice?
Take 2 tender, medium-sized bitter gourds. Scrape them and cut them into halves.
Scoop out the flesh and seeds and cut the vegetable into small pieces.
Add the pieces of bitter gourd into a juicer along with salt and 2 tsp of lemon juice. Blend and add water.
To reduce the bitter taste, ¼ cup of apple juice or any clear juice can be added; or even 1 tsp of honey or jaggery powder or ginger or pepper can be added.