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Before we get to some easy homemade Bitter Melon or goya recipes, we should first get to know a little bit more about this exotic and unknown vegetable. So, here we go.
What is Goya?
Goya is a staple vegetable (though, some also call it a fruit) used in Okinawa, and adds a unique, bitter flavor to the Okinawan dishes it’s present in. It’s also known as bitter melon or balsam pear. Goya is a great vegetable to eat for its numerous vitamins and health benefits, and although it gets some getting used to as far as the flavor goes, goya is an under appreciated vegetable that deserves some recognition!
While it is pretty popular in Asian countries, goya does not find much ground in US or European soil. It’s starting to, but ever so slowly…
Before We Go Further, Why is Goya So Bitter?!
I thought this would be a good question to answer! The reason why goya is so bitter is because of the substance charantin, which is known to help lower blood glucose levels. Diabetics… This veggie is so good for you! If you’re diabetic and you haven’t tried this, maybe give it a shot~ Even though goya is considered the most bitter fruit or vegetable by most, the health benefits are awesome!
Which leads us to…
Goya (Bitter Melon) Health Benefits
For diet-goers, this vegetable is for you! At 17 calories per 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces), goya is super flavorful and packs a crunch! And the crunch isn’t the only thing that goya packs in… It has a great amount of dietary fiber, minerals, anti-oxidants, and, of course, vitamins! The most notable nutrient that goya possesses is a phyto-nutrient called polypeptide-P, which has that charantin in it that helps blood glucose levels, but it’s also noted to have plenty of vitamin A, B, and C.
According to scientific experiments on mice, bitter melon, or bitter squash, could help prevent the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world after cardiovascular disease. According to WHO, cancer caused 8.8 million deaths in 2015 alone, or one in six died from cancer. Among the risk factors are: age, genetics, but also bad lifestyle.
It has been proven that alcohol, tobacco, sedentary lifestyle or poor diet can contribute to the development of cancerous tumours. Also, many scientists are looking for solutions by improving the diet of suffering patients.
According to a new study in the journal of Cell Communication and Signaling, bitter melon, also known as bitter squash, could help prevent the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.
Originally from the state of Kerala, in southern India, bitter melon spread from the 14th century with Chinese exports and then to regions of Africa and the Caribbean. In Asia, it not only very popular in cooking, but it is also lent many medicinal properties, including against diabetes. Professor Ratna Ray of the University of St. Louis in Missouri (USA), who grew up in India, therefore wondered about possible anti-cancer properties of this plant.
Her colleagues and she decided to use a bitter melon extract on various types of cancer cells. Laboratory tests showed that the extract prevented these cells from replicating. It could therefore be used to effectively prevent the spread of cancer. Then, using the extract of the plant on mice, they discovered that it was able to reduce the occurrence of tongue cancer too.
A reduction of about 50% in tumor growth
Then, Ratna Ray and her team studied the action mechanism of the bitter melon and preventative effects over cancer cells. Using mice again(oh, poor little animals), the researchers found that the extract interacts with molecules that allow glucose and fat to move around the body, in some cases feeding cancer cells and allowing them to grow.
By interfering with these pathways, bitter melon extract stopped the growth of cancer tumors and even led to the death of some cancer cells. ” All the studies we have conducted on animal models give us similar results, which is about a 50% reduction in tumour growth, ” says Professor Ray.
“Our next step is to conduct a pilot study in (people with cancer) to see if bitter melon has clinical benefits and if it is promising, there will be additional therapy measures applied to current treatments,” she continued, convinced that the plant is nevertheless very beneficial to human health.
“The use of natural products as preventive medicine”
“Some people take one apple a day, and I would eat one bitter melon a day. I really like the taste” ” she says. And to conclude: “natural products play an essential role in the discovery and development of many drugs for the treatment of various types of life-threatening diseases, including cancer. Therefore, the use of natural products as preventive medicine is becoming increasingly important.”
In particular, it has been proven that the Mediterranean diet, characterized by abundant consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, herbs, olive oil, fish and dairy products, moderate consumption of eggs and wine, and low consumption of meat, would be beneficial against breast cancer.
But unfortunately, studies showing associations between diet and cancer often contradict each other. For example, there is a big controversy about soy consumption and breast cancer. While some scientists assure that this is harmful to the sick, others are convinced on the contrary that it decreases the risk of cancer and disease recurrence.
In addition, goya or bitter melon is beneficial in aiding digestion and also eliminating dangerous free radicals that cause cancerous tumors in the body. Some lab tests are also being conducted that suggest that goya can be effective towards treating HIV. If I ever heard of a super food, this is one of them!
ONE NOTE, HOWEVER: Pregnant woman should avoid goya, as there have been cases that goya induces the menstrual cycle, which can abort the baby. So, if you are pregnant don’t eat that vegetable!
What Does Goya Look Like?
Goya come in all shapes and sizes, but the two most common ones are those from China and India. The Chinese-type goya, shown on the right side, features a smooth, but warty looking skin, and is pale green compared to the other popular variety. The Indian goya, shown on the left, is jagged on the outside, ending sharply at its edges. These goyas can be green to white in color.
Goya is picked when it is in green, and will be consumed when it is this color or at its early yellowing stage. When it becomes too ripe, the goya bursts open, and the seeds inside spill out. It’s kind of cool to look at, but then you’re all like, “awww, I can’t eat it now.” Goya ripens pretty fast, too, so try to always cook it the day of or store in the fridge for a couple of days.
How Goya is Used For Consumption and a Few Bitter Melon Recipes
Now it all comes down to how goya is prepared. As well as being in stir fries (which, by the way, try out my Goya Champuru recipe! It’s really yummy), goya can be juiced, served raw, or even deep-fried! Because people complain about the bitterness of this vegetable, most people will slice it very thinly and salt for a little bit to try and extract the bitter juices.
Some popular dishes and Goya (bitter melon) recipes that you might want to also try are:
- Goya Champuru— Okinawan stir fry with pork and shiitake mushrooms
- Canh Khổ Qua— Vietnamese stuffed goya soup
- Pinakbet— Filipino stir fry with various veggies
- Karele ka Achaar— Northern India’s pickled goya with spices
Also, check out my yummy Saba Shioyaki Recipe.
So, what recipes have you tried that make goya super tasty? Do you like goya? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂
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