Bitter Gourd…Karela

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.

karela pic

karela pic

Nutritional value

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:

  1. 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.
  2. It is used to treat gastrointestinal diseases, and extracts have shown activity in vitro against the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans.
  3. It is regarded to be useful for preventing and treating malaria.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.