By Dr Seema Khanna
The bitter vegetable belongs to the gourd family and is closely related to zucchini, pumpkin and cucumber. This bitter melon (or bitter gourd) is packed with impressive health benefits through the virtue of disease preventing and health promoting physical to chemical compounds rich in Vitamin C, an important micro nutrient involved in disease prevention, bone deformation and wound healing. It is also high in Vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin that promotes skin health and proper vision. It provides folate or folic acid (Vitamin B9) which plays a crucial role in cell growth and formation of DNA.
Helpful for children with juvenile diabetes
Karela is also a rich source of antioxidants that help your cells against damage reducing the risk of cancer. It is a good source of fiber, also reducing constipation and increasing gut motility. It is very helpful for children suffering from juvenile diabetes as it plays a key role in reducing blood sugar levels. It is beneficial for obese children as it helps in aiding weight loss.
To introduce your child to bitter melon, you can deep fry karela, mix it with spices and serve it as snacks. Deep fried gourd can also be prepared with curd, sugar and lemon. This will give a tangy flavour, taking away its bitter taste. Bitter gourd can also be mixed with ladyfinger or potato for a regular preparation.
It is really helpful and beneficial if your child develops the taste for bitter gourd. It can be served as a side dish or stir fry, stuffed with spices. You should introduce your child to bitter melon as soon as he starts to eat solids. However, start with small quantities initially and gradually increase the quantity with growing age. Apart from the above mentioned benefits, bitter melon is also great for breathing problems like bronchitis, asthma, and similar allergies. You can give bitter melon in the form of juice to your child, mixed with water and added honey for improvement of health. Bitter melon is great for bedtime as it provides a calming effect and aids sleep.
Check if your child is allergic to bitter gourd
Although bitter melon has numerous health benefits for children, it should not be served in excess quantity. Bitter melon may cause intolerance in children. Most importantly, it is essential to check if your child is allergic to bitter melon. Look for symptoms like facial redness, excessive salivation, and stomach pain, dimness of vision, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and muscular weakness. If you observe any of these symptoms after introducing your child to bitter melon, it is recommended to stop the intake and consult a doctor at the earliest.
Here are some bitter gourd or karela recipes to try:
3-4 medium sized karela (bitter gourd), 1 medium size onion, 2-3 tbsp oil, salt to taste, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp tumeric, 3-4 tsp dry coriander and cumin powder (dhania and jeera powder), 1/4 tsp garam masala, 2 tbsp jaggery or sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice
Scrape the skin of karelas. Wash them in running water. Slice them, discarding or not discarding the seeds, along with onion.
Heat oil in a heavy bottom kadai and saute onion about four to five minutes or till light brown. Now add karela and mix well.
Add all the masala and salt. Stir well and cover the kadai with a lid. Cook for about 10-12 minutes on a low heat.
In between, stir and make sure the vegetables do not stick to the base and burn.
When the sabji is ready, add jaggery and lemon juice.
Mix well and cook two to three minutes more. Ready to serve with roti or parantha.
Whole wheat or whole grain bread slices 6, onion 1 (chopped), cooked and mashed potato 1 big (white or sweet potato or combination of both), cooked beans (green peas or blackeyed beans or any other beans), 1 cup mashed (use potato masher or place in a small ziplock bag and mash with the help of a rolling pin), pan-fried karela (bitter gourd) 1 1/2 cup or more chopped, salt and turmeric 1/4 th tbsp, curry powder 1 tbsp ( combination of red chilli powder , coriander and cumin powder , garlic cloves and coriander leaves with stem), finely chopped coriander leaves, oil 2 to 3 tbsp
Heat one tbsp oil and saute onions and bell pepper with one tbsp cumin seeds, turmeric and salt. once onions are brown, switch off the stove and transfer to a bowl.
To this add mashed potato, pan-fried and chopped karela, cooked and mashed beans, curry powder and finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well. Check for salt and spices and adjust accordingly.
Divide the mixture into 10 equal portions.
Grease your hands with little oil and shape them like patties.
Remove the crust of bread and sprinkle some water. Place between your hands and press so the Bread slices will be stretched a little bit.
Place the patty on bread slices and cover from all sides. Repeat the process with other bread slices.
Heat a wide pan with little oil and place the kebabs in a single layer.
Sprinkle oil on each kebab and pan fry on both sides till golden brown on medium / medium high flame. Serve with Ketchup.
(The writer is a consultant nutritionist.)