English: bitter gourd Deutsch: Bittermelone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First of all, for all of us with metabolic syndrome, PCOS and other manifestations of insulin resistance, bitter gourd increases insulin sensitivity and reduces weight. There are over 100 studies to this effect, I've just cited one (1). In addition, bitter gourd is antibacterial and antiviral. It's antiviral effects work against HIV and Hepatitis C (2). Bitter gourd is also anti cancer with efficacy on breast and prostate cancer, skin cancer, melanoma, leukemia and other common malignancies.
There are two varieties of
bitter gourd. A darker green karela, looking like a warty cucumber, can be
bought at Indian markets and a smoother, ligher green one at Oriental markets.
The oriental variety is less bitter and cooks faster but the Indian one is
probably more medicinal precisely because more bitter. Here's a picture of the Oriental variety and the other photo, above, shows the Indian variety,
English: Bitter melon Tiếng Việt: Khổ qua, mướp đắng (Momordica charantia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back when we were wandering sadhus in India, Sadananda and I would sit down by the roadside, set up our three stone and three stick cooking 'stove' and simply steam our bitter gourds on top of rice. We thought of ghee and spices as decadent luxuries and felt fortunate even to have salt! Today we still eat bitter gourds every week, but our recipes are more sophisticated now we have decided spices are an Ayurvedic necessity rather than a luxury. You can stir fry or steam bitter gourds and spice with turmeric, cumin and hing (asafetida). Or here's a recipe I created using another vegetable that lowers blood sugar--eggplant.
White Eggplant sabji (Purple Eggplant works, too)
Eggplants are valuable in reducing cholesterol. White eggplant is said in Ayurveda to be very beneficial in diabetes. Here is a recipe combining two vegetables revered in Ayurveda for their antidiabetic properties. White eggplant is seasonally available and bitter gourds are available at India's Grocery.
1lb white eggplants
1lb bitter gourds
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp garam masala
1Tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
Cube the eggplants and marinade for at least an hour in the tumeric. Meanwhile, slice the bitter gourds and remove the seeds. In a wok, heat the oil or ghee and then fry the mustard seeds ,cumin seeds and fenugreek until the mustard seeds turn grey and pop.Add the ginger. As soon as the ginger begins to pop, add the tomato. Cook for a few minutes, then add the bitter gourds. Stir-fry the bitter gourds for about 20 minutes, than add the eggplants and garam masala. Continue cooking until the vegetables are soft. Remove from the flame and add the salt and cilantro. Enjoy!
(1)M. G. Sridhar*, R. Vinayagamoorthi, V. Arul Suyambunathan, Z. Bobby and N. SelvarajBitter gourd (Momordica charantia) improves insulin sensitivity by increasing skeletal muscle insulin-stimulated IRS-1 tyrosine phosphorylation in high-fat-fed rats British Journal of Nutrition (2008), 99, 806-812 doi: 10.1017/S000711450783176X q The Authors 2007