The word “karela” comes from the Sanskrit language, meaning “bitter melon.” In India, it is known as balsam pear or Indian cucumber.
What Is Karela?
Karela is a fruit native to Asia with a long history dating back thousands of years.
It was originally used for medicinal purposes but has also been grown as an ornamental plant since ancient times.
Karela has become popular in many countries across the world because of its nutritional value and health benefits.
It contains more than 100 nutrients including vitamins A, C, E, B1, B6, folate, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Because of this, it is considered one of the most nutrient dense fruits.
Karela’s flavor resembles watermelon and honeydew melons, which makes it easy to prepare into different dishes.
The taste is sweet without being too heavy.
Its color ranges from green to yellow depending on the variety.
There are four main varieties of karela — the large round type, the small round type, the elongated type, and the elongated oval type.
You will find all four types at your local grocery store.
Depending on where you buy them, they may come in other colors besides just white, green, yellow, and red.
What Are The Benefits Of Karela?
Karela has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times.
The plant contains many nutrients, including vitamin C, calcium, protein, iron, manganese, potassium, and zinc.
In addition, it also provides many health benefits such as anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant activity, blood pressure regulation, and cholesterol reduction.
In Ayurvedic medicine, karela is considered an excellent digestive aid because of its high fiber content.
Furthermore, it helps with weight loss by increasing metabolism.
You may have heard about karela growing up but did you know that this vegetable was originally grown in tropical regions like Southeast Asia and Africa? It is now cultivated around the world due to its nutritional value.
Health Benefits of Karela Juice
- Antioxidant Activity — The juice of the karela fruit acts as a powerful antioxidant. One study found that karela extract inhibited lipid peroxidation (the process where free radicals damage cells) and increased glutathione levels which protects against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress contributes to cancer, heart disease, neurodegeneration, diabetes, arthritis, aging, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Blood Pressure Regulation – A recent study showed that karela extracts reduced blood pressure in hypertensive rats. This effect might be due to the presence of flavonoids and saponins in the karela fruit.
- Cholesterol Reduction – Several studies suggest that karela reduces serum total cholesterol levels. However, more research needs to be done before making any conclusions.
- Weight Loss – Karela promotes weight loss by helping your body metabolize food efficiently. Research shows that people who consume at least 2 cups of karela daily lose 3% more fat than those who don’t eat it regularly.
How Can Karela Be Cooked?
Karela has been used for centuries by Ayurvedic practitioners to treat various health conditions including indigestion, diabetes, skin ailments, fever, coughs, allergies, and infections.
Karela contains high amounts of vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and magnesium.
It also contains saponins which help detoxify your system.
You may have seen this vegetable at Asian grocery stores or supermarkets.
You will find them fresh, canned, frozen, and dried.
They come in different colors like green, white, red, purple, orange, yellow, black, etc.
In addition to being eaten raw, you can use karela in many recipes such as curries, soups, salads, desserts, and beverages.
How to prepare karela for cooking
- Wash thoroughly with water so dirt does not affect the taste or color of the vegetables
- Cut off the stem and cut into cubes
- Remove any impurities on the surface using a clean cloth
- Dry the pieces well before frying or boiling
Benefits of karela
Here are some of the major health benefits of karela:
1) Helps fight cancer cells: Karela acts as an antioxidant because it contains antioxidants called flavones that protect against free radicals. These compounds stop cell damage caused due to aging, radiation exposure, smoking, pollution, poor diet, and stress.
These antioxidants neutralize harmful substances found in cigarette smoke and prevent DNA damage. The presence of these antioxidants also helps reduce inflammation and slow down tumor growth.
2) Promotes bone strength: Karela is rich in vitamin K, which supports bones and muscles. Vitamin K also plays a role in blood clotting, preventing bleeding after surgery. As a result, karela is helpful when treating osteoporosis.
3) Improves sleep quality: Karela is rich in tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood). Serotonin deficiency causes depression and anxiety disorders. Tryptophan is also involved in the production of melatonin, which promotes restful sleep.
4) Boosts immune function: Karela reduces infection risk because it contains luteolin, which stimulates the body’s natural defenses. Luteolin is an active ingredient in garlic, and both contain anti-inflammatory properties that boost immunity.
5) Protects against asthma: Karela contains quercetin, another compound that fights respiratory problems like asthma. Quercetin works by suppressing histamine release, which triggers allergic reactions.
6) Increases energy levels: Karela contains beta carotene, which increases oxygen intake in the body. More oxygen allows your heart and lungs to work better and improves stamina. Beta carotene is also responsible for maintaining good vision and eyesight.
7) Reduces cholesterol: Karela contains phytosterols, plant sterol compounds that lower bad LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Phytosterols block absorption of dietary fats, thereby reducing cholesterol absorption.
8) Relieves menstrual cramps: Karela seeds act as pain relievers during menstruation. They relieve discomfort associated with painful periods through their anti-inflammatory effect.
Side effects of karela
There are no serious side effects reported from eating karela regularly, but there might be mild ones depending upon how much you consume. Here are common side effects of karela consumption:
1) Nausea: If you eat too much karela, it could cause nausea. But if you limit yourself to one serving per day, then you should experience no adverse symptoms. However, if you don’t get enough karela then it may cause stomachache.
2) Diarrhea: Eating large quantities of karela could lead to diarrhea. Try to avoid consuming more than four servings per week to avoid this.
3) Constipation: Consuming lots of fiber-rich foods could make you constipated. Eat less karela if you want to avoid this problem.
4) Gas: When preparing curry dishes, karela can produce gas. So, avoid eating this while making hot food.
5) Headaches: If you experience frequent headaches, then you may need to decrease the amount of karela you eat.
6) Stomach ache: Too much karela can cause stomach ache. To avoid this, don’t overindulge!
What Are The Side Effects Of Karela?
Karela has been used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine for its detoxifying properties, but there have not yet been any long-term studies on the safety of this plant.
However, because karela contains high levels of vitamin C and beta carotene, some people may experience mild gastrointestinal upset when they consume large amounts of raw karela juice.
Additionally, while karela is generally considered safe for consumption by humans, there is no scientific evidence available regarding its use in animals.
Benefits of eating karela
- Helps maintain blood sugar levels.
- Promotes liver health.
- Contains anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Supports heart function.
- Boosts immune system.
- Do not take more than one teaspoon (5ml) of fresh karela per day.
- If you choose to supplement with karela, do so only after consulting your doctor.
To make karela juice at home, first wash the fruit thoroughly before peeling off each piece of skin.
Then cut the peeled karela into small pieces and place them in a blender along with 1 cup of water.
Blend until smooth.
What Is The Dosage Of Karela Recommended?
Karela contains vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese.
It also has antioxidants, which help protect your body against free radicals and oxidative stress.
Thus, consuming karela regularly will enhance your immune system and boost its overall health.
A research study published in Nutrition Journal showed that people who consumed karela had lower blood pressure than those who took placebo pills (sugar-free tablets).
The researchers suggested that this may have been due to the antioxidant properties of karela since an increase in antioxidant activity was observed after consumption.
However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that taking more than one teaspoon per day of karela causes adverse reactions.
As of now, there isn’t enough data available on how much of karela should you consume daily to get optimal benefits.
How to make karela juice at home
- Put all ingredients into blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Strain through cheesecloth.
Are There Any Interactions With Karela And Other Drugs?
Karela has some negative effects on your body if you take too much at once.
If you have an allergic reaction to this plant, then you should avoid using it altogether.
- If you have kidney problems, you will want to drink plenty of water so that you do not experience dehydration.
- Avoid consuming large amounts of karela because it may lower blood pressure and cause low potassium levels.
- Consuming excessive amounts of karela could also lead to nausea and vomiting.
- There is no known interaction between karela and prescription medications.
Can I consume karela raw?
Raw karela contains high levels of oxalic acid which can damage the kidneys.
Therefore, you must always consult with a doctor before ingesting raw karela.
Is karela safe for children?
Yes. Karela is safe for both adults and kids.
The only thing you need to be careful about is how much you eat at one time.
Children who tend to overindulge in food should talk to their parents first to determine whether they are eating enough calories throughout the day.
How long does karela stay fresh?
You can keep karela for up to two weeks after purchasing it.
You can store it by placing it in the refrigerator but make sure that you rinse off the seeds and remove them before storing.
Also, wash the leaves thoroughly before chopping them into smaller pieces.
What Are The Contraindications Of Karela?
Karela has been used for centuries by Ayurvedic doctors to treat various ailments such as fever, coughs, colds, diarrhea, asthma, jaundice, and skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
There have not yet been any reported side effects or negative reactions caused by consuming karela over long periods of time.
However, some people may experience digestive problems if they consume too much at once.
Karela should only be consumed when needed because its high doses can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and even death due to dehydration.
How to use karela safely
- Consume small amounts of the fruit or vegetable daily rather than large quantities all at one time. Karela contains oxalates which can bind calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and selenium in your body. Consuming a lot of these minerals at once will result in gastrointestinal distress, cramps, bloating, constipation, and possibly kidney stones.
- Avoid using karela if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, suffering from any allergies, or have chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, low blood pressure, liver/kidney issues, obesity, gallbladder infection, anemia, or malabsorption syndrome.
- Do not eat karela raw – always boil it first before eating.
What Is The Mechanism Of Action Of Karela?
Karela (Indian Cucumber) has been used for centuries by Ayurvedic practitioners to treat various ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, ulcers, kidney stones, skin diseases, inflammation, heart disease, cancer, etc.
This popular vegetable contains numerous active compounds which have anti-inflammatory properties, thus making them an effective remedy against many ailments.
The most important compound found in Karela is called glycosides, also referred to as saponins.
These compounds work by inhibiting enzymes responsible for causing inflammation in the body.
Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory effects, Karela is often prescribed for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
However, there are still some controversies regarding this herb as studies have shown conflicting results related to its efficacy on reducing symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions.
It is recommended that you consult your physician before using any herbal products to avoid any potential adverse reactions.
Benefits of Karela
- Aids in digestion
- Reduces cholesterol levels
- Boosts metabolism
- Relieves joint pain
- Stabilizes blood sugar level
- Helps fight infection
- Strengthens bones
What Is The History Of Karela?
Karela was cultivated by ancient civilizations such as Persia, Egypt, China, Greece, Rome, and Turkey.
The first record of its cultivation dates back to 2500 B.C., but it wasn’t until 500 A.D. that it became popular in Western Europe and North America.
In the early 2000s, scientists discovered new medicinal benefits for this plant.
They found that karela contains compounds called triterpenoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
These compounds are also present in turmeric (a spice commonly used in Asian cuisine), ginger, and black pepper.
Researchers believe that these ingredients may help prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading throughout your body.
Another benefit of eating karela is that it increases your metabolism rate, helping you burn fat more efficiently.
Lastly, it helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood stream.
Therefore, if you want to lose weight and feel better about yourself, try adding some karela to your diet.
How Has Karela Been Used Traditionally?
Karela was an important part of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
The vegetable is rich in vitamin C and contains high levels of antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene.
The bitter taste actually helps stimulate your digestive tract so you feel fuller longer after eating it.
In traditional Chinese medicine, karela is also known as jiuxiangzi (joo-ex-chang-zee).
According to Chinese folklore, this vegetable was created by the god of longevity himself when he took on human form.
As legend goes, the plant grew inside his stomach until it became too big.
He then ate some seeds and they sprouted into a small tree with flowers.
From these blossoms came beautiful fruits which were eaten and enjoyed by all who tasted them.
Karela has many health benefits because of its potent antioxidant properties.
These include strong anti-inflammatory action, blood sugar regulation, detoxification, cholesterol reduction, increased energy, improved digestion, weight loss, reduced risk of cancer, and enhanced immune system function.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 250 grams bitter gourd
- 200 grams onions
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
- salt as per taste
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
- ½ to 1 teaspoon dry mango powder
- Heat two teaspoons of oil in a kadai or other pan. Any oil with a neutral flavor can be used.
- Allow the oil to heat up. The chopped karela is then added after lowering the heat to low.
- Sauté chopped karela in oil over a low to medium heat. While cooking, stir often.
- Karela should be sautéed for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add after that sliced onions.
- Combine the karela and the chopped onions.
- Add salt, kashmiri red chili powder, and turmeric powder to taste. Mix thoroughly.
- Continue to sauté over low heat, stirring frequently. If the onion or karela starts to stick to the pan, add more water. Continue to sauté while you mix and deglaze any bits that are sticking to the pan.
- Until the karela and onions are done, sauté the karela sabji for 10 to 12 minutes. By this time, the onions will have likewise turned golden and caramelized. Keep stirring often.
- Sprinkle dry mango powder and garam masala once the onions have begun to softly caramelize and the bitter gourd pieces are soft and tender.
- After thoroughly combining, turn off the heat.
- Karela sabzi should be served with phulka, paratha, and a bowl of plain or sweetened fresh curd. This bitter gourd curry also pairs well with dal rice or kadhi chawal as a side vegetable dish or as an accompaniment. If you like, you can add some coriander leaves as a garnish.
- It can be included in a lunchbox along with some paratha or flatbread.