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Health benefits of bitter gourd, 5 reasons why it must be in your diet

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Most of us cringed, cried and fought when we were force-fed karela as a child. Being told it was good for us didn’t make an iota of difference. If anything, obstinate kids resisted it even more. But now that we’re grown up and struggling with lifestyle diseases and modern day disorders, it’s about time we made up with bitter gourd and adopted it in our diets. Its health benefits are exactly what we need today.

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Mumbai-based health experts Dr Roshani Gadge, diabetologist consultant, Gadge Diabetes Centre, Mumbai, and Jaee Khamkar, Dietician, Fortis Hospital, share all you need to know about bitter gourd:

High on nutrition

Bitter gourd is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins like A and C. It contains twice the calcium of spinach and beta-carotene of broccoli. Various anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds are present in bitter gourd.

It also helps in lowering the bad cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. That’s not all. It strengthens the immune system, improves respiratory health, boosts skin health and contains anti-ageing properties.

Bitter gourd helps in lowering the bad cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Great for diabetics

Bitter gourd contains polypeptide, an insulin-like compound called and charantin, which has anti-diabetic properties. These components actively help in reducing the blood sugar levels. It also helps to prevent unpredictable spikes and drops in insulin levels by regulating the metabolism and use of sugar the body has consumed. Bitter gourd acts as a hypoglycemic agent. It is rich source of soluble fiber and is low in glycemic index, which helps in lowering the blood sugar level.

Aids digestion

It is an excellent source of dietary fiber. Regular consumption of bitter gourd contributes to relieving constipation and indigestion. It supports healthy gut bacteria, which favours digestion and nutrient absorption.

You can saute bitter gourd in olive oil to reduce the bitterness, and toss it with your choice of veggies and egg.
(Shutterstock)

Boosts weight loss

Bitter gourd is low in calories, fat and carbohydrates. These properties together help in weight management. It keeps you full for longer, so you avoid over-eating. It stimulates the liver to secrete bile acids that are essential for metabolising fat in the body. Moreover, bitter gourd contains 80-85% water, which is a universal suppressant of hunger. It also improves metabolism.

How to consume bitter gourd

Bitter gourd can be consumed in vegetable form, juice, or can be made in smoothie by adding apples and spinach to it. You can also have it as a soup, in the form of baked chips, make parathas from it and turn it into a chutney and pickle.

How to make bitter gourd less bitter:

* Sprinkle salt all over the bitter gourd pieces and let it sit for about 10 minutes. This will minimise the bitter taste of the gourd making it more palatable.

* Soak it in tamarind juice for a few minutes.

* Boil equal parts sugar and vinegar. Pour this mixture on bitter gourd and let soak for some time.

* Sauté it in olive oil.

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