Bitter gourd (karela) is the only vegetable of its kind known to have got the qualities to reduce blood sugar levels. It comes in different shapes, colours and sizes. Some are of miniature size and others are as long as 10” and are oblonge in shape. They are avaiblele in different shades of green. The ones with tender seeds are good to select. If the seed hardens it becomes bitterer. As it gets ripened its seeds become red in colour and the fruit splits on its own. Often people remove the upper poultice with knife thinking it would reduce the bitterness of the vegetable. This is not advisable. It should be cooked and consumed as it is. There is nothing to peel off in the bitter gourd. The miniature ones are usually consumed by preparing stuffed variety. The bitterness is reduced by adding yogurt or onions to the vegetable. In Southern parts of India coconut milk or tamarind juice is added to reduce the bitterness and to enhance the taste of the vegetable.
Now coming to the health benefits of the bitter gourd, it is very low in calories and contains essencial nutrients. It contains calcium, potasssium, vitamins C, B1, B3, folic acid, zink, manganese and ample of diatery fibre. It is good for the liver-related disorders and acts as an anti-tumor agent, and curtail HIV-1 infection. It is rich in iron, beta-carotene, potassium etc.
■ Mix two spoons of fresh bitter gourd juice with little lime juice and sip slowly on empty stomach. This is beneficial in the treatment of blood disorders.
■ It is useful in the treatement of cholera. Two spoons of bitter gourd juice with equal amount of white onion and lime juice should be given daily till the patient gets well.
■ About four table spoons of bitter gourd juice on empty stomach is very good for diabetis as it contains a compound called plant insulin that is highly beneficial in lowering sugar levels in blood and urine.
■ Regular consumption of karela improves energy and stamina levels. It even improves sleeping patterns.
■ Regular usage of bitter gourd alleviates eye problems and improves eyesight.
■ Its juice is beneficial in the treatment of a hangover for its alcohol intoxication properties. It cleans, repairs and nourishes liver problems because of alcohol consumption.
■ Three tea spoons full of karela leaf juice mixed with a glass of buttermilk relieves of piles. It should be taken every morning on empty stomach for about a month.
■ The juice of bitter gourd is helpful in curing psoriasis and other fungal infections like ring worm.
■ Respiratory disorders can be cured with fresh karela juice. Take two spoon of karela juice, two spoons of honey added to a cup of water to get relief from asthma, bronchitis etc.
■ Two compounds extracted from bitter gourd are found to be helpful in preventing cancers like colon cancer and HIV.
■ It is used as abortifacient and is not advised to give to pregnant women.
■ It is traditionally regarded that the tea of its leaves is useful in preventing and treating malaria.
■ Bitter gourd juice removes the toxins from the blood. It cleanses the liver and it is even helpful in curing the jaundice.
■ It also serves as antioxidant, antibacterial and antipyretic agent as the paste of leaves heals cuts and wounds.
Though bitter gourd can be steam cooked and taken daily for health benefits, it should be limited to one or two small karelas. The raw juice should not be taken more than two to four table spoons. Taking of execess juice is not advisable as it leads to diarrhea. Pregnant women should avoid taking this juice.
By Nibhanapudi Suguna