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Karela – The Bitter Way to Health

24 May, 2021

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Forget the kids in the family; this is one vegetable that even the adults in the family may not want on their plate! Yes, Karela or bitter gourd, or even known as the bitter melon, this green vegetable has a bitter taste that does not appeal to many. Unless people have grown up eating it in many different ways, it is not easy to adjust to the taste of this. Most people just stay away from it, unless there is a diktat from the doctor to eat it. And that probably might come when they are diagnosed with diabetes. It is said that this vegetable in diabetes management like no other.

This vegetable is a ‘multi-faceted’ one and can be had in many different ways; it can be made into a juice if you can manage the taste. The other way is to cook it in myriad ways that can mask the bitter taste to a great extent. Especially, Indian cuisine offers recipes to cook it into truly lip-smacking delicacies that make it palatable. Hence, it is possible to get used to eating this healthy vegetable to ensure that we get the best of its benefits.

Nutritional value

This vegetable is low on calories but contains a lot of fibre and is also high on Vitamin C and A, which essentially help the body to build immunity and prevent infections. It also contains a good amount of folate and reasonably good quantities of Iron, Zinc, and Potassium. It is also high in antioxidants that help our body fight and stave off many potential infections. The presence of compounds like catechin, gallic acid, epicatechin and chlorogenic acid makes it a very healthy diet option.

Diabetes Management

The bitter gourd has been long touted as a diabetes prevention and management vegetable. It has been traditionally known to have medicinal properties and therefore used by indigenous populations across the globe for this purpose. More recently, a lot of scientific studies focused on this aspect of the bitter gourd and have confirmed that it is indeed beneficial for diabetes management.

Some studies have concluded that it promotes the secretion of insulin and improves the way body tissues use the sugar. Thus it is an added benefit in bringing down the blood sugar level. Consuming a glass of karela juice is said to help bring down the diabetes medication dosages. Many people who have managed to make this a habit say that in the long run, this helps, and one gets used to the bitter taste as well.

Anti-cancer properties

The presence of many beneficial antioxidants ensures that this vegetable also has anti-cancer properties. Some studies say that the extract of bitter gourd has been effective in killing cancer cells colon, stomach, lung, and nasopharynx. It also brings down the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer. These anti-cancer compounds in bitter gourd can stop the proliferation of cancer cells and also prevent tumour growth. These two are the major reasons why cancer occurs and even spreads in our body.

Cardiac-friendly

We are aware that there is a close link between cholesterol levels and cardiac issues in the body. Components in bitter gourd reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in the body. The more of the bitter gourd you consume, the better it is for your heart, as it keeps the bad cholesterol levels down. Even the fibre in the bitter gourd helps unclog the arteries, so that blood circulation remains fine.

Weight management

The high fibre, low on calories property makes the bitter gourd a much-coveted item on the diet of those people who struggle with weight management. The fibre keeps your gut healthy and helps slow digestion, thus keeping you full for longer periods. It also reduces fat formation in the body through improved metabolism. Also, few components present in bitter gourd help detoxify the body to remain healthy and fight infections better.

Other benefits

Vitamin A and C in karela are good for the skin, helps reduce ageing effects, and prevent or fight skin infections. It can also work against blood clotting, thus helping heal wounds faster. It is said to improve your energy and can even help you sleep better, thus improving your overall quality of life. The rich presence of Vitamin A, of course, helps in keeping the eyes healthy. However, as they say, too much of Amrit can also be poisonous and hence, this should also be taken in moderation and not in excess. 

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