Six Amazing Benefits of Bitter Gourd
The bitter gourd or Karela isn’t a very popular ingredient. This is probably because it doesn’t taste good, looks strange, and isn’t readily available. However, it is one of the oldest natural healing foods in Ayurveda. Further, it is a staple to Indian recipes for its versatile nature.
Above all, the bitter gourd is a key micronutrient source. For instance, it houses vitamin C, iron, and magnesium. Thus, it boosts immunity, digestion, and skin health. That’s not all – it also treats blood disorders, circulation, rashes, acne, and even hinders cancerous cell growth. You can prepare this through various forms to reap such benefits. Read on to get some details of the same.
Nutrient Packed Nature
Did you know that one cup of bitter gourd (94 grams) packs just 20 calories? Most importantly, it offers an ideal ‘bang for the buck’ – carrying 8% of your daily fibre needs in the same. In short, you can enjoy this vegetable without the guilt.
Moreover, it is high in vitamins A and C (carrying 93% and 44% of your daily needs respectively). This strengthens your immunity and keeps you disease free. Vitamin C, namely, helps with disease prevention, wound healing, and bone strength. Moreover, vitamin A enables skin health and correct vision.
This vegetable is rich in minerals as well, which your body needs in smaller quantities. For instance, it contains folate, potassium, skin, and iron (17%, 8%, 5% and 4% of your DRI respectively). Folate, especially, is vital to cellular growth and development. Also, the bitter gourd also holds antioxidant compounds which complement cellular repair, such as gallic acid, and catechin.
Overall, it offers a simple ‘all in one’ Ayurvedic cure through these nutrients.
Blood Sugar Reduction
The vegetable helps your tissues use up sugars effectively. It also promotes insulin use, which regulates blood sugar levels. Thus, its no surprise that India’s ancient texts stress upon the wonders of this vegetable. Along similar lines, tribal groups around the world use this as a medicine.
But don’t just take it from us – various studies confirm this as well. Two separate studies among 24 and 40 diabetic patients respectively find that 2,000 mg of daily bitter gourd intake is most ideal. Thirdly, another study finds that it lowers frustosamine levels – this also stabilises blood sugars. You can have this cooked or as juice shots for best effects.
Irrespective of these findings, we must admit that current human research is sparse. Thus, cross-cultural and wider scale studies can help to confirm such findings. These findings can also help to determine the best methods to cook the vegetable for weight loss. In general, you can cook this with ginger and turmeric to boost positive effects.
Various test tube studies show that the bitter gourd helps with fighting cancer. For instance, one study shows that it kills cancer cells of the stomach, nose, lungs, and throat cavity. Similarly, another study finds that it blocks the spread and growth of breast cancer cells, and also kills them.
However, the limitations of these studies is that they took place in a lab. By these means, experts tested concentrated amounts of the vegetable on a cluster of cancer cells. This may not necessarily play out exactly the same way in your body. Therefore, larger scale studies using human or animal subjects would help to provide more conclusive evidence.
Nevertheless, there is a definite link between bitter gourd consumption and cancer prevention. Make sure to consume this regularly and in the right doses. Most importantly, don’t neglect other lifestyle factors of good health.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Packing on extra fat is one of our biggest fears today. If only there was a magical elixir to keep high lipid levels at bay! While there isn’t one, the bitter gourd certainly gets close to it. Numerous animal studies, for instance, find that the vegetable can strengthen heart health by lowering cholesterol levels.
First, one study notes a drop in overall cholesterol levels amongst rats with a high cholesterol diet. It specifically lowers their LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels. Similarly, another study notes a greater drop among rats fed with the extract, in comparison to a placebo. In fact, the quantity of extract fed was directly proportionate to the drop in cholesterol levels.
However, the drawback of this research is that it applies to animals (specifically mice), and not necessarily humans. Thus, more studies can help to confirm these effects. Further studies can also help determine the effects of eating the gourd as a part of a balanced diet. Nevertheless, doctors often suggest bitter gourd consumption to keeping your lipid count low.
Weight Loss Benefits
Throw away your pills and decoctions for weight loss. Instead, take the simple step of adding bitter gourd to your everyday meals. It is calorie-sparse, fibrous, and antioxidant-heavy, thus making this an ideal tool to shed those extra pounds. This is because the fibre content passes slowly through your system. Thus, it keeps you fuller for longer and reduces the need to consume more calories.
Other studies show a positive result of bitter gourd on both fat burning and weight loss. For instance, one study feeding participants with just 4.8 grams of the capsule each day finds a decline in belly fat levels. They specifically lost around 0.5 inches (1.3 cms) over a seven-week span.
It is important to note that each of these studies make use of supplements. Thus, there may be observable differences by consuming the real vegetable as a part of one’s diet. However, these will probably be negligible. Make sure to consult a dietician or doctor prior to trying supplements or pills.
Versatility and Taste
As the name suggests, the bitter gourd has a sharp and pungent taste. It is a local food, and thus, is not always popular across contexts. However, you can develop a taste for it through regular consumption. Most importantly, be sure to prepare it correctly to enjoy it in whatever form.
First, wash the vegetable and cut it lengthwise. Next, scoop out the seeds from the centre and cut the remaining fruit into smaller seeds. You can pan-fry, steam, bake or juice this vegetable. Alternatively, you can cut hollow out the centre and fill in another stuffing if you wish. In addition,you can add enough spices to milden the bitterness if you wish.
There are a number of dishes you can prepare with this vegetable. For instance, you can blend the vegetable alongside other fruits and vegetables to prepare a juice. Alternatively, you can cut up and stir fry these instead to make a cooked vegetable skillet. If you are not a vegetarian, you can stuff this with meat and serve it with a black bean sauce, or cook it with scrambled eggs too.
While you may be turned off from bitter gourd at a first glance, don’t shy away. This nutritious and versatile vegetable offers you a range of long term benefits. For instance, it can reduce blood sugars, cholesterol levels, and overall weight. Further, it is a versatile ingredient to add to your daily meals.
Check out some Ayurvedic steps for healthy weight loss here.
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