Talk of bitterness and you cant escape thinking of bitter gourd. But as life will teach you, only by enveloping the bitterness can you make a clean start. Here is what the bitter gourd offers.
Kerela/bitter gourd: Bitter gourd, like all gourds, is very low in calories and provides only 17 cal per 100g. Its pods are rich in phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
It contains notable amounts of phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels and another hypoglycaemic agent called charantin. Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates; contains about 72 mcg/100g (Provides 18% of RDA). Folate helps reduce incidence of neural tube defects in pregnant mothers when taken during early pregnancy.
It is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100g of raw pod provides about 140% of RDI), which is a powerful natural antioxidant and immune system boosting agent. The vegetable is also an excellent source of flavonoids such as b-carotene, a- carotene, lutein and zeaxanthins. It contains good amount of vitamin A. Other than for good vision, compounds act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
The vegetable is also good source of Niacin (vitamin B-3), Pantothenic acid (vit.B-5), Pyridoxine (vit.B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
Other significant benefits:
- Medicinal use: The plant contains several biologically active compounds, chiefly momordicin I and II, and cucurbitacin B. The plants also contains several bioactive glycosides (including momordin, charantin, charantosides, goyaglycosides, momordicosides) and other terpenoid compounds (including momordicin-28, momordicinin, momordicilin, momordenol, and momordol). It also contains cytotoxic (ribosome-inactivating) proteins such as momorcharin and momordin.
- It is used to treat gastrointestinal diseases, and extracts have shown activity in vitro against the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans.
- It is regarded to be useful for preventing and treating malaria.
- Bitter gourd is also known to be active against viral diseases such as chickenpox, measles and herpes simplex type 1 virus. Recent studies have provided evidence for bitter gourd extract to show activity against HIV as well.
- Bitter gourd has a cardioprotective effect, which it implements by down-regulating the NF-κB inflammatory pathway. This pathway is involved with cell response to stimuli like infection, stress, radical production and UV radiation. Incorrect regulation of NF-κB pathway has been linked to cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, septic shock, viral infection, and improper immune development. The NF-κB pathway has also been implicated in processes of synaptic plasticity and memory.
- It is traditionally known to be a very effective anti-diabetic agent. In the recent years, scientific evidence has been produced for the same. Not only does it have a hypoglycaemic effect, but it is has also shown to be increase insulin sensitivity, regulate glucose uptake, suppress appetite. In 2007, a study by the Philippine Department of Health determined that a daily dose of 100 mg per kilogram of body weight is comparable to 2.5 mg/kg of the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide taken twice per day.
- Recently, bitter gourd has be shown to possess anti-cancer activity as well. It contain α-eleostearic acid in seeds and 15,16-dihydroxy-α-eleostearic acid in the fruit. Both these compounds have shown to induce cell death in leukaemia cells.