Karela (Momordica charantia) is a unique fruit-vegetable food. It derives from a flower and usually bears seeds, and in culinary classification, any part of a plant can be a vegetable – roots, stems, flowers, fruits and leaves.
But whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable, one thing is certain. Karela is a healthy food.
Karela is native to India, China, and in Japan. It favors warm weather but can grow well on moist soil throughout the year as long as it is not exposed to extreme cold conditions.
Karela comes in various names – bitter gourd, bitter melon, balsam-pear, bitter apple, carilla fruit and ampalaya.
This cucumber-like fruit with ugly bumps all over it, is famous for its various health and medicinal purposes. Others often overlooked these benefits because of its not-so-friendly bitter taste.
The signature bitter flavor of this plant is due to a type of alkaloid momordicine compound which is produced in its fruit and leaves. And the most common specie of Karela with highly sour taste is the one that bears a small and round fruit.
Karela can be eaten raw or added to stir-fries and other recipes. To lessen its bitterness before cooking : slice,take the inner seeds then soak in saltwater for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you want to consume it as an extract, you can add some honey or pair it with sweet fruits like apple or pears. Lemon juice can lessen its strong taste too or a pinch of blackpepper and ginger.
But enough of Karela’s bitter taste. Check out its sweet benefits to your health.
Blood Sugar Regulator
The seeds of Karela contain polypeptide-P, an insulin-like substance which lowers your blood sugar level. But for patients taking anti-diabetic drugs, check first with your doctor before taking too much Karela.
Karela contains anti-bacterial substances as well as anti-virus compounds which are capable of fighting the occurrence of infections like stomach ulcers. It can also be also combined with cinnamon, long pepper, rice and chaulmugra oil to heal wounds.
Karela juice is usually used to clean the liver from alcohol intoxication. It improves liver function thus preventing liver diseases. It has a natural laxative effect and helps relieve constipation and lessens any intestinal disorders.
It purifies blood toxins resulting to healthy and brighter skin. It contains provitamin A which protects the retina against blue light and harmful free radicals.
Karela is a cancer-fighting food. It has anti-tumor compounds which promote detoxification and inhibit free radical invasion which contributes to cell mutations and tumor growth.
It is also capable of preventing respiratory illnesses like coughs, mucus, and allergies.
Other Therapeutic Effects
Karela is packed with nutrients that can prevent obesity and other symptoms related to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.
Pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant and women who are breastfeeding should not consume Karela because of its abortifacient properties – can cause menstrual bleeding, miscarriages and anti-fertility capabilities.
Post-surgery patients (and those who fast before surgery) should avoid Karela (hypoglycemic effect) also because it can add to your dizziness and you might faint.
It can cause mild diarrhea and abdominal pain, especially if taken first thing in the morning.