Karela (Bitter Gourd): Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 19/02/2024

The initial reaction to anything related to karela, also called bitter gourd or bitter melon, is usually not favourable, given its impression of the sour and bitter taste. Karela is not the most preferred vegetable, especially among children and young adults.

However, the benefits of eating bitter gourd are hard to ignore, especially when the population today is open to experimenting with all things natural for better health and well-being.

This spiky green vegetable is packed with necessary nutrients that increase the nutritional content of your meals significantly, making it crucial to obtain the various bitter gourd health benefits despite the taste gap.

Nutritional Content of Karela

Karela, or bitter gourd, is packed with a list of necessary nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals, that help the body with a nutritional boost, even when consumed in a small portion size.

Let us look at the nutritional value of 100 grams of karela below.

Components  Estimated Value (In mg or grams)
Protein  1 gram
Fibre  2.8 grams 
Fat  0.17 grams
Carbohydrate  3.7 grams 
Calcium  19 mg
Copper  0.034 mg
Magnesium  17 mg
Sodium  5 mg 
Zinc  0.8 mg
Potassium  296 mg 
Vitamin B1 0.04 mg
Vitamin B2 0.04 mg
Vitamin B3 0.4 mg
Vitamin B5 0.212 mg
Vitamin B6 0.043 mg
Vitamin C 84 mg

Top Uses and Benefits of Eating Bitter Gourd for Body

Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

Adding bitter gourd to your diet can help reduce your blood sugar levels significantly. This is because this vegetable improves the absorption of necessary sugar into the body while pushing out the extra to control blood sugar levels.

Additionally, the benefits of drinking bitter gourd juice or consuming it the way you prefer encourages the body to produce more insulin, which is responsible for reducing blood sugar levels effectively. Therefore, this vegetable is beneficial for pre-diabetic people as well as people with diabetes.

Promotes Liver Health

This vegetable is a great addition to your diet to keep your liver healthy and fight hangovers. When you drink or eat karela, all toxins trapped in the liver, along with any remaining alcohol, are washed out.

The science behind it is that bitter gourd increases the efficiency of liver enzymes while also increasing their production to push out any harmful substances from the liver.

Controls Cholesterol Levels

Consuming foods that increase cholesterol levels can be very harmful to the body. They increase the fat content in the arteries, forcing a heavy burden on the heart to pump blood.

Bitter gourd health benefits also include helping eliminate the high levels of cholesterol stored in the body to reduce the risk of many heart diseases and other health issues.

Improves Digestion

From a serving of 100 grams of bitter gourd, your body gets around 3 grams of fibre. This nutrient increases the time taken to digest the food you eat, resulting in a feeling of fullness for longer durations. Additionally, it improves bowel movement to promote better digestion and secretion.

Helps with Weight Management

Bitter gourd is 90% water, justifying the low count of calories in this vegetable. For anyone looking to reduce weight, consuming bitter gourd is an excellent choice. It is known to increase the metabolism of the body and reduce the absorption of fats.

In addition to that, the fibre and protein content in the vegetable makes the meal more filling to reduce cravings and binge eating.

Enhances Respiratory Health

Bitter gourd has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the impact of many respiratory problems like bronchitis, asthma, etc.

From nasal congestion to cough and sore throat, this magic vegetable helps with reduced mucus production to encourage a better flow for breathing.

Improves Immunity

The antioxidants present in bitter gourd help increase the body’s defence mechanism against any virus or bacteria by directly increasing the body’s immunity.

With this increased immunity, the body is able to fight any harmful viruses and bacteria that can otherwise attract many health concerns, including cancer. Some extracts of karela also have anticancer abilities that reduce the formation of tumour cells.

Fights Skin Acne

One significant benefit of bitter gourd juice for the skin is its ability to reduce any inflammation on the skin, which further impacts the acne formation on the face. With regular consumption of bitter gourd juice, your blood purification is better, resulting in a natural glow and clear skin.

However, you can also combine 1 teaspoon each of cucumber and bitter gourd juice and use it on your skin as a gentle exfoliator to remove any dirt particles and makeup residue to avoid acne.

Improves Hair Quality

Bitter gourd is rich in many vitamins and contains zinc and protein that help improve hair quality and strength. The vegetable helps stimulate the hair follicles to promote better hair growth, and the different nutrients present in bitter gourd add shine to the hair strands while reducing dandruff and frizziness.

To use bitter gourd for hair and scalp health, you can use the juice combined with water to rinse your hair. Additionally, you can make a hair mask by combining bitter gourd juice and yoghurt, massage it on your scalp and hair strands and wash it out after 15 to 20 minutes.

Reduces Wound Healing Time

Given the high content of vitamin C in bitter gourd, along with its anti-inflammatory properties, with regular consumption of this vegetable, your body benefits from faster wound healing.

When bitter gourd enters the body, it begins to manage and control the blood flow, especially around the affected area, thus reducing the risk of infections and increasing the tissue repair process time.

Ways to Consume Bitter Gourd

Side Dish - You can make a dry preparation of bitter gourd with spices and oil to eat as a side dish with meals.

Curry - Bitter gourd can also be prepared as a curry by adding other vegetables to the mix to consume with flatbreads (chapatis).

Pickle - A common use of karela is making a pickle with it, which is tangy in taste.

Juice - If you do not wish to eat it, you can make bitter gourd juice by adding a few pieces of this vegetable with a glass of water in a mixer and then straining it before drinking.

Karela Chips - For fried food lovers, karela chips can be a great way of adding this vegetable to your diet.

Tea - For tea lovers, you can combine some water and a few slices of bitter gourd in a pan and let it boil for 10 - 12 minutes on medium flame. Leave the tea unattended for a few more minutes before straining the tea and drinking it. You can also add a sweeter of your choice to enhance the taste.

Potential Side Effects of Karela

  • A possible issue that can arise from the consumption of bitter gourd is an adverse stomach reaction, especially if the intake is very high.

  • Some people can get an allergic reaction after eating karela due to the high levels of different nutrients.

  • Headache is also a common side effect of consuming a high amount of bitter gourd in one go.

  • Due to aversion to certain food groups, bitter gourd consumption can cause vomiting and nausea for some people.

Precautions for Consuming Karela

Avoid taking bitter gourd in any form a minimum of 2 weeks prior to any surgery as it impacts the blood sugar levels.

  • If you are allergic to muskmelon or cantaloupe, avoid eating karela, as it can lead to an allergic reaction.

  • For all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, consult a doctor before consuming bitter gourd in any form, as it can be harmful to your and your baby’s health.

  • If you plan to use karela on your skin, beware of possible rashes and redness due to the texture of this vegetable. Remember to remove the peel before applying it to the skin, and choose to combine the juice of the vegetable instead of raw pieces in your skincare routine.

  • If you are taking any medications for blood pressure, sugar, and similar prolonged health conditions, avoid karela till you consult a doctor to check if it is safe to eat along with the prescribed medicines.

Conclusion

Karela is packed with the proper nutrition to help your body fulfil its nutritional needs. From protein to potassium and a range of vitamins, karela, regardless of its unfavoured taste, is an excellent addition to your diet.

Explore the different ways of cooking and consuming karela or bitter gourd that can enhance the taste of this vegetable and make it an exciting dish to look forward to. If you cannot see yourself eating it, consider consuming its juice to get the necessary bitter gourd health benefits without much hassle.

Role of Medical Insurance

A healthy body and mind requires a balanced diet with the inclusion of organic and natural foods. However, at times, even with the correct nutrition and care, your health can deteriorate due to other factors.

Treatment for any health concern today is a significant financial expense as healthcare costs are very high in the country. To reduce the risk of exhausting your finances in times of medical emergencies, purchasing a health insurance plan is highly beneficial.

Tata AIG offers comprehensive health insurance policies that can be customised as per individual coverage requirements and budget for maximum financial support in tough times.

Some of our primary benefits of health insurance plans include coverage for room charges, treatment costs, doctor fees, ambulance fees, etc.

Additionally, you can customise your health insurance plans with a wide range of add-ons and opt for cashless treatments at any hospital around you or in the country. #GoCashless

FAQS

What are the top benefits of drinking bitter gourd juice?

Whether you consume bitter gourd in a curry or drink it as a juice, the bitter gourd health benefits remain constant. Some of them include blood purification, blood sugar level and cholesterol management, healthy weight management, glowing skin, and improved digestion.

Does bitter gourd have any medicinal uses?

Given that bitter gourd is low in calories and high in nutrition value, bitter gourd can help reduce risks of various health issues. The benefits of eating bitter gourd are renowned for managing diabetes, reducing constipation, fastening wound healing process, etc

Can I consume dairy products with bitter gourd?

When you combine dairy products like milk, cheese, or yoghurt with bitter gourd, the combination of nutrients entering the body together can lead to indigestion or slower absorption of nutrients.

Is there any way to reduce the bitter flavour of karela?

To mellow down the bitterness of karela, try to soak it in warm salted water for 30 to 40 minutes before dish preparation. Additionally, you can also mix it up with different vegetables that have a stronger taste, such as onions, garlic, etc., to reduce the bitter taste.

Disclaimer: This is a general guide on the benefits and uses of Karela (bitter gourd). It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. It is advisable to consult a qualified health professional for treatment in severe cases.

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