Bitter gourd or Karela is also known as the bitter melon, bitter squash and etc has been named as such because of its bitter taste however, it is very healthy and nutritious. It is cultivated in the tropical and subtropical regions (Asia, Africa and etc) of the world and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It was first originated in the Indian subcontinent and started cultivating in the China and other countries of the world during the 14th century. It is very effective and simply found vegetable known for its antidiabetic (insulin like) and hypoglycemic properties. It contains more than 32 types of the active constituents (like Gaba, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and etc) including vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela
Bitter gourds are considered as the great green vegetable having low calorie, loaded with the vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B9, B6, B5, C, E, K, minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, beta-carotene and good amount of insoluble dietary fibers. Some of the nutritional health benefits of the bitter gourd are mentioned below:
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela in Diabetes
Lowers Down Blood Sugar Level
- It helps in preventing from the diabetes mellitus as it contains a hypoglycemic compound means plant insulin which lowers down the blood and urine sugar level.
Maintains Insulin Level
- It helps in improving the glucose tolerance without any marked increase in the blood insulin level.
- It contains a polypeptide compound called Gurmarin which acts as a bovine insulin in the body thus regulates the blood sugar level among diabetics.
Improves Glucose Utilization
- It has antihyperglycemic property due to the availability of charantin and momordicin which helps in enhancing the peripheral glucose utilization and increasing serum protein levels.
Protects from Diabetic Complications
- It provides help in protecting from the diabetic complications by reducing the harmful effects of free radicals.
- Eating karela on regular basis stimulates the pancreas to secrete more insulin thus beneficial for diabetic people.
- Taking karela powder (dried in shadow) with honey or water helps in curing diabetes. Drinking its fresh juice on daily basis also help.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela Juice
Treats Blood Disorders
- It is very good for treating the blood disorders such as blood boil, itching and etc caused due to the toxemia. Taking the bitter gourd juice and lime juice with empty stomach regularly helps in overcoming the problem of blood disorder.
Removes Toxins from Blood
- It has blood cleansing property and provides relief from the toxemia by removing toxins from blood if 2 tsf of the karela juice is taken daily.
- It also helps in treating the cholera if bitter gourd leaves juice is taken with white onion juice and lime juice.
- Taking 3 tsf of the bitter gourd leaves juice by mixing with a glass of buttermilk in the early morning with empty stomach helps in treating the piles problem.
Treats Respiratory Disorders
- It helps in relieving and treating various respiratory disorders like bronchitis, difficulty in respiration, asthma, pharyngitis and etc if bitter gourd juice is taken with honey (diluted with water) regularly.
- It also cleanses the liver (major body organ) and prevents from the liver disorders including jaundice.
Cures Ear Pain
- Applying its fresh juice or leaves juice (luke warm) to the ear helps in curing ear pain.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela Juice for Skin
Treats Psoriasis and Fungal Infections
- It provides relief from the psoriasis as well as helps in treating various fungal infections (ringworm, athletes feet and etc) if consumed on regular basis.
Improves Skin Health
- It improves the skin health if karela juice is taken with lemon juice on empty stomach.
- It is a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers and other healthy nutrients which helps in nourishing the skin.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela for Liver
Natural Liver Detoxifier
- It is a good liver detoxifier and hepatoprotective in nature helps in activating the liver enzymes like glutathione s-transferase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and etc to prevent from the toxicity.
Treats Hangover Problem
- It provides help in treating the hangover problem and protects liver from the side effects of alcohol by nourishing the liver.
- It is a very effective home remedy to treat the alcohol induced hepatotoxicity.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd for Weight Loss
Improves Body Metabolism
- Its antioxidant nature flushes out the body system and improves the metabolism which helps in managing the body weight.
Contains Low Calorie
- It is very low in calories and high in dietary fibers which tend to reduce the extra body weight.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd for Hair
Makes Hair Shiny
- It provides natural shine and color to the hair if applied the mixture bitter gourd juice and yoghurt to the hair.
- It provides instant relief from the problem of dandruff if the mixture of bitter gourd juice and cumin seeds is applied to the hair.
Relieves Dry and Itchy Scalp
- It provides relief from the problem of dry and itchy scalp if the scalp is massaged properly with karela juice or the mixture of bitter gourd juice and banana is applied to the scalp.
Prevents Premature Hair Greying
- It reduces hair fall and prevents premature graying of the hair by providing better nourishment.
Other Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela
Improves Body Stamina
- It helps in enhancing the body energy level and stamina if consumed properly and regularly.
Regulates Brain Functioning
- It helps in managing the sleeping disorders, treating eye problems and improving eyesight among human beings.
Relieves Gout Symptoms
- It helps in relieving from the symptoms of the gout as it has cleansing effect on the liver, toxic blood and etc by improving the oxygenated blood circulation all over the body.
Strengthens Body Resistance
- It is a natural immune booster which strengthens the body immune system by developing the resistance against various infections.
Improves Digestion and Prevents Digestive System Disorders
- It helps in maintaining a healthy and good digestion, improves metabolism as well as provides relief from the constipation, hemorrhoids and other digestive system disorders by managing the proper functioning of digestive organs.
Regulates Cholesterol Level
- It helps in regulating the bad cholesterol level in the blood thus prevents from the disorders of high cholesterol level.
Protects from Infection and Allergies
- It boosts the body immune system power and protects from various infections, diseases and allergies.
Treats Worm Infestation
- Its bitter taste and nature is very effective against worm infestation.
Improves Lipid Profiles
- It is hypolipidemic in nature helps in improving the lipid profiles and reducing total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Promotes Wound Healing
- It helps in enhancing the wound healing process, treating malaria and various viral diseases (measles, chicken pox, herpes etc).
Kill Cancer Cells
- It has some compounds which have ability to kill cancer cells by preventing the growth and spread.
- It contains high level of beta-carotene which helps in improving eyesight and alleviating eye problems.
Cures Gastrointestinal Diseases
- Its anthelmintic property helps in curing various gastrointestinal diseases.
Prevents Age Related Damage
- It has antioxidant property thus prevents from age related damage caused due to free radicals.
Fights Age Related Ailments
- Its vitamin C availability makes it a powerful antioxidant which helps in fighting the age related ailments as well as eliminating harmful free radicals.
Makes Skin Smooth
- It makes skin smooth and bright by protecting from wrinkles and other symptoms of ageing process.
Prevents from UV Rays
- It also acts as a protecting veil against ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Provides Required Vitamin K
- It is the good source of vitamin K which helps in strengthening bone, blood clotting mechanism and boosting anti inflammatory property.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela Seeds
Protects from HIV and Cancer
- Karela seeds have a very effective compound called anti-HIV-protein (MAP-30) which has ability to protect from the HIV and cancer because of the strong antiviral and antitumor properties.
- It helps to check vomiting problems among kids if the mixture of karela seeds and black pepper seeds is taken.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela Powder
- Karela powder (powdered after drying karela in shadow) helps in curing diabetes by regulating the blood sugar level and reducing the presence of sugar in the urine. 5-10 grams of the karela powder can be taken daily two times.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd/Karela Leaves
Treats Urinary Tract Problem
- Juice of the bitter gourd leaves is also helpful in treating urinary tract problems by inducing the proper flow of urine if it is taken with a pinch of Asafoetida.
Treats Skin Diseases
- Juice of the karela leaves helps in treating skin diseases if it is applied to the affected area on the skin.
Relieves Intestinal Parasite Problem
- It provides relief from the intestinal parasites by removing them from the intestine if fresh karela leaves juice is taken with hot water.
Nutritional Benefits of Bitter Gourd per 100 g
(Source: USDA Nutrient database)
Energy: 17 Kcal
Carbohydrate: 3.70 g
Protein: 1 g
Total Fat: 0.17 g
Dietary Fibers: 2.80 g
Thiamin: 0.040 mg
Riboflavin: 0.040 mg
Niacin: 0.400 mg
Pantothenic acid: 0.212 mg
Pyridoxine: 0.043 mg
Folates: 72 µg
Vitamin A: 471 IU
Vitamin E: 0.14 mg
Vitamin K: 4.8 μg
Vitamin C: 84 mg
Sodium: 5 mg
Potassium: 296 mg
Calcium: 19 mg
Copper: 0.034 mg
Iron: 0.43 mg
Magnesium: 17 mg
Phosphorus: 31 mg
Selenium: 0.2 mcg
Manganese: 0.089 mg
Zinc: 0.80 mg
Beta-Carotene: 190 µg
Alpha-Carotene: 185 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin: 170 µg
How to Select and Store
Always select dark green, fresh, bright color, unripe, soft, firm and small bitter gourds from the market. Avoid buying yellowish, orange, spotted, ripe, large size, lose, bruised skin and wrinkled bitter gourds from the market. It can be stored for 3-5 days in the refrigerator in the air tight poly bags. Before storing bitter gourds, they should be washed properly under running water with soft brush to get rid of clay inside.
How to Enjoy
It can be enjoyed in many ways by cooking variety of dishes properly at home such as bhujua, kalaunji, soup, fried slices, pickles, curry, karela and chana pulse, stuffed karela (with tomato, onions, garam masala, green chilies, curry leaves, garlic and etc) and many more. In order to lessen its bitterness, slices of karela should be mixed with salt and lime juice and marinate for 1-2 hours then cook it after squeezing the water.
Side Effects, Precautions and Disadvantages
Eating bitter gourds need some precautions as it causes some side effects and disadvantages if eaten without precaution. Some of are mentioned below:
- It should not be consumed over 2 bitter melons a day as it may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.
- It may interfere with the hypoglycemic medications thus should be consumed carefully or must consulted by doctor.
- It should be strictly avoided by the pregnant women as it causes uterine contraction (due to the laxative property) which stimulates the uterus and lead to the preterm labor, vaginal bleeding, unwanted abortion or miscarriage.
- It contains some alkaloids (quinine, morodicine, saponic glycosides, resins and etc) which are generally intolerable for some people.
- Its bitter taste may develop toxicity symptoms like facial redness, blurred vision, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, muscular weakness and etc.
- It may also stimulate menstruation thus excess use should be avoided.
How Much Bitter Gourd to Eat Daily
Normally it should not be eaten more than two ounces or 2-3 bitter gourds a day as it may cause some harmful health effects. However, daily limits of eating the bitter gourd may vary according to the age and health conditions of the person.
Find the Benefits of other Similar Vegetables