Health Benefits of Karela (Bitter-Gourd)

| March 23, 2013 Comment

health benefits of karela

The health benefits of karela (bitter-gourd) are greater than those of many vegetables. Karela’s bitter taste is generally attributed to the quinine it contains. Cooked bitter gourd stimulates the appetite, cleanses the liver, purifies the blood, and provides many other benefits.

Grown in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, karela (aka bitter-melon, kaakarakaya) is unsavory yet very nutritious and healthy. Karela comes in many different varieties and is similar in shape to a cucumber. In the Indian grocery stores in the US, you’ll find the the Indian, dark green, spiky variety, while in the Asian stores, you’ll find the lighter-green bitter-melons that are larger with a bumpy peel.

A really delicious type of karela is kantola or kakrol (aa-kaakarakaya). These are small, round or oval with tiny, prickly spikes, and are not bitter at all or only slightly bitter. These taste great sliced into thin chips and either stir-fried or deep-fried. Fresh kantola are a rare sight in the US but are widely available frozen.

In South India, karela and kantola, are soaked overnight in brine or buttermilk and sundried, and then deep-fried as needed, and like pappadums, served as crunchy accompaniments or added to soups and stews. These vadiyams or vadams are available in Indian grocery stores.

Karela and Health

Quick Facts

In Indian medicine, such as Ayurveda, bitter-gourd juice (from the gourd or leaves) has long been used as a remedy for diabetes and liver problems. Karela juice is also used to treat skin problems like psoriasis, and is generally good for skin health as it purifies blood.

Ayurvedic doctors also prescribe bitter-gourd juice for digestive problems and to boost immunity. A glass of karela juice with a dash of lemon, taken on an empty tummy, is supposed to improve general health as well as skin health.

Karela contains a chemical called charantin which reduces high blood glucose levels, and hence the best home remedy for diabetes (as a curry or juice).

Pregnant women are advised to avoid this vegetable as it can cause miscarriages.

Along with fiber, karela contains several vitamins, minerals, and trace elements like vitamin C, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. Like most vegetables, karela is low in calories, and as such great for weight-loss. Studies show that bitter-melon extract can help prevent breast cancer.

It makes sense to include karela in your diet as it offers so many health benefits.

Cooking Tips

  • Use tender, green karela for best taste. Though the bitterness varies depending on the variety, usually, tender karela are less bitter. If using tender karela, you can use them with the pith and seeds; otherwise, remove the pith and seeds.
  • To reduce the bitterness, cut the karela and rub salt and/or lime juice on the pieces and let sit for 1-2 hours; squeeze out the water before cooking.
  • To reduce bitterness, add tamarind, jaggery, grated coconut, lime/lemon juice to the curries or combine with beans and legumes like chickpeas.
  • To make them more palatable, stir-fry, deep-fry, or stuff with potatoes and other spices, or add them to lentil and vegetable soups and stews.
  • Wrap the karela in plastic and store in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for upto a week.

Sources

Home Remedies for Common Ailments, H.K. Bakhru

http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2010/02/24/

2010-02-24_bitter_melon_shows_promise_in_protecting_against_treating_breast_cancer_study.html

http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/research/AsianVeg/cucurbit.htm

http://food.oregonstate.edu/glossary/b/bittermelon.html 

Related Content
Health Benefits of Ash Gourd (Winter Melon)
The health benefits of ash-gourd have long been known. The ash-gourd is mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita for its many nutritional and medicinal ...
READ MORE
Crisp Karela
This Crisp Karela is to die for! Bitter or not, karela (bitter gourd/bitter melon) sure tastes better when it's all crispy and crunchy! Add bitter gourd to your meals as ...
READ MORE
Karela-Onion Fry
Karela-Onion Fry is an easy and nutritious curry. Karela (bitter melon/bitter gourd) is not popular with everyone because of its bitter taste, but in this recipe, the onions add a ...
READ MORE
Karela-Potato Gravy Curry
Karela-Potato Gravy Curry is a South Indian recipe from Karnataka, India, and is called nalahari. The gravy is a sweet-sour mix of tamarind and jaggery which lessens the bitterness of ...
READ MORE
Karela Curry
This Karela Curry is sure to please even those who don't much care for the taste of karela (bitter melon/bitter gourd). This recipe uses jaggery and tamarind which remove the ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Bottlegourd
The varied health benefits of bottlegourd have long been recognized in Indian medicinal systems like Ayurveda. Bottlegourd has wonderful health-promoting and curative properties and is used as a remedy for ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Eggplant
The main health benefits of eggplant are in the low calorie content it has (1 cup cooked provides 27.7 calories), the fiber it provides, and the antioxidants it contains. It ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Cluster Beans
The health benefits of cluster beans are in the protein and fiber they provide. Cluster Beans (known as gawar or guar phalli, goru chikkudu or kothavara) are a type of green ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Bell-Pepper
The main health benefits of bell-pepper are in the vitamins A and C that it provides. One raw bell-pepper provides more vitamin C than one cup of orange juice. Bell-Peppers or ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Amaranth
The health benefits of amaranth are being rediscovered in the Western world today, but they were recognized long ago by people from countries like Mexico, Argentina, and India. Believed to ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables
The health benefits of green leafy vegetables are many, and as such they should be an important part of a healthy diet. Greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
The health benefits of cauliflower are in the antioxidants that it contains which help protect against cancer and other diseases. A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower means "cabbage flower" derived from the ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Ash Gourd (Winter Melon)
Crisp Karela
Karela-Onion Fry
Karela-Potato Gravy Curry
Karela Curry
Health Benefits of Bottlegourd
Health Benefits of Eggplant
Health Benefits of Cluster Beans
Health Benefits of Bell-Pepper
Health Benefits of Amaranth
Health Benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables
Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Category: Health

Leave a comment