Bitter gourd, also known as bitter squash, bitter melon, and balsam-pear, is one of the most popular vegetables today. With the scientific name Moordica charantia, it is grown for an edible “fruit” which has a bitter taste.
This fruit is generally consumed and cooked in the green or early yellowing stage and its young shoots and leaves may be eaten as greens. Keep on reading to find out about the health benefits of bitter gourd.
One of the health benefits of bitter gourd is that it is rich in fiber. Fiber is a substance that acts as a sweep, helping the body get rid of harmful substances such as toxins and free radicals. This helps prevent diseases such as heart diseases and cancer.
What is more, fiber increases bulk and roughage of stools, facilitating easier bowel elimination. As a result, fiber helps reduce the chances of digestive disorders such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.
Furthermore, fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, and this helps reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, atherosclerosis,coronary artery disease, and stroke.
Another health benefit of bitter gourd is its anti-diabetic properties. Bitter gourd contains three active substances – vicine, an insulin-like compound, polypeptide-p, and charantin, which demonstrates a blood sugar-reducing effect. The three agents either work alone or as a group to help decrease the glucose levels in the blood.
What is more, bitter gourd is also rich in lectin. Lecitin acts on peripheral tissues and suppresses the appetite as well as decreases blood sugar concentrations.
This vegetable helps get rid of blemishes, acne, and deep skin infections, which include psoriasis, ringworm, scabies, blood boils, and itching. Furthermore, bitter gourd helps delay aging by reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
One recipe that uses bitter gourd is Bitter Gourd Cury or Karela Sabzi. This dish is a “simple everyday curry” that can be eaten with roti or plain rice.
What yo need to make it is: 250 grams of karela, two tablespoons of oil, half a teaspoon of cumin or jeera, green chili slit (optional), one teaspoon of saunf powder or fennel powder or sompu powder, one teaspoon of turmeric or haldi and one tablespoon of coriander powder. Salt, one medium to large onion (chopped finely), one sprig of curry leaves, lemon juice from one lemon, and a handful of coriander leaves.
To prepare the dish, the bitter gourd is washed and sliced thinly; the seeds can be discarded if preferred. Next, oil is heated in a pan and cumin is sauteed until they crackle and add hing. The chopped onions and curry leaves are added and sauteed until they become pink in color.
Then, the bitter gourd slices are added and salt is sprinkled. The ingredients are sauteed for two to three minutes, covered, and cooked again on a very low heat until they become soft. Little amount of water can be added if the curry appears dry. Also, spice and salt can be added to improve the food’s taste.
After that, the coriander leaves are added and stirred and the lemon juice is squeezed and mixed well. Once done, the food is transferred to a serving bowl and is served with rice or roti.