Why is Karela (Bitter Gourd) an excellent vegetable for diabetics?
Bitter gourd or Karela: Momordica charantia is a flowering vine in the family Cucurbitaceae. It is a climbing perennial bearing elongated fruits. It is a tropical plant that is widely cultivated in Asia, India, East Africa, and South America. Its bitter fruits are commonly used in cooking and as a natural remedy for diabetes.
The plant possesses over 225 different medicinal constituents, these different compounds may act either separately or together to exert various medicinal effects. It has been widely used as a complementary or alternative therapy for treating diabetes as well as delaying the late complications of diabetes in many countries. Bitter gourd may be eaten as part of a healthy and varied diet. People with high blood glucose levels can restore normal blood sugar by eating fresh bitter gourd directly or drinking juice.
Apart from antidiabetic effects, it is known to impart antiviral, antibacterial, anti-cancer, and immune-modulating properties. Several mechanisms are responsible for the anti-diabetic properties of bitter gourd. Antidiabetic effects of bitter gourd are due to the presence of bitter chemicals like charantin, vicine, and polypeptide-P which are thought to have glucose-lowering effects. Polypeptide-P is an insulin-like compound present in bitter gourd fruit and seeds. It reduces glucose in the blood as it stimulates glucose uptake into skeletal muscles. It contains another bioactive compound lectin that has insulin-like activity. Research shows that people who consumed bitter gourd have lower fasting glucose readings due to improved function of insulin compared to insulin resistance. Reports indicate that it also improves insulin release from pancreatic beta cells, and repair or promote new growth of insulin-secreting beta cells. It reduces hyperglycemia by regulating intestinal flora and stimulating several key enzyme actions resulting in blood glucose control.
Bitter gourd is rich in nutrients like thiamine, beta-carotene, folate, riboflavin, vitamin C, Niacin and minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium, magnesium, zinc and dietary fiber. Regular use of bitter gourd juice boosts body stamina and prevents fatigue. The beta-carotene content in bitter gourd helps in controlling eye disorders and enhances eyesight. Bitter gourd is a rich source of antioxidants, flavonoids, and other polyphenol compounds thus regular consumption of this vegetable is found to be effective in reducing the risk of various health issues and complications
Gao Ya et al., (2021). Bitter Melon and Diabetes Mellitus. FOOD REVIEWS INTERNATIONAL. 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/87559129.2021.1923733.
Joseph, B., & Jini, D. (2013). Antidiabetic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) and its medicinal potency. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease, 3(2), 93–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2222-1808(13)60052-3.Web MD: https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-bitter-gourd#:~:text=These%20compounds%20are%20responsible%20for,better%20process%20and%20store%20glucose