Okinawa has become famous worldwide as one of the areas with the most centenarians, and much attention is focused on the Okinawan diet. When the prefecture spends a day in May honoring a vegetable, it clearly suggests that this is one staple to which the locals attribute much of their wellbeing.
What It Is
Goya, also known as “bitter melon” or “bitter gourd” in English, is the green, bumpy, cucumber-shaped vegetable you will find in abundance in the fresh produce section of any Japanese supermarket. As the English name suggests, it has a very distinct and often acquired taste that can be either loved or loathed. Regardless of the taste preferences, there is no denying the amazing health benefits of this Okinawan classic.
In addition to being rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, goya has also long been used as a medecine for a range of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes. Goya possesses a phytonutrient, polypeptide-P, which has the ability to lower blood sugar levels in the body. In addition, there is a unique substance found in goya, called charantin, which increases the metabolism of glucose in the body.
Goya stimulates digestion, can regulate bowel movements, aid in weight loss, and has been used in treatments to kill cancer cells.
Ayurveda (traditional Hindu medicine) and traditional Chinese medicine have long used bitter melon for its blood purifying and detoxifying qualities. The bitter element of goya has a cooling and cleansing effect on the body, which is especially good for the liver, gallbladder, treating kidney stones, and reducing water retention. The blood purifying properties believed to be present in goya can have a positive effect on the skin and reduce conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.
In addition, goya stimulates digestion, can regulate bowel movements, aid in weight loss, and has been used in treatments to kill cancer cells. Goya is high in vitamins B, C, E and K as well as folates, while being very low in calories. It is also said that it can help with hangovers.
How to Use It
Goya can be cooked in various dishes, used in salads or drank as juice or smoothie. The classic goya dish in Japan is goya champuru, a stir-fry easy meal cooked with eggs and tofu. But you can get more creative with the vegetable and make stuffed goya, pickles, tempura, or simply fry or bake it and add to a healthy salad. If you have a juicer at home, another alternative is to get your goya fix through an amazing green detoxifying elixir (see recipe below).
One of the biggest challenges with this vegetable can be its palatability. If you find eating goya a challenge, try some of these tips:
- Buy dark green, firm and young goya. These are less bitter.
- Slice lengthwise and remove the inner seeds and rind. These parts are for the very seasoned goya eater. Once seeds and rind are removed, soak or boil in salted water for five to 10 minutes to reduce the bitterness of the melon.
- Add small quantities of goya to stir-fries along with lean meats, tofu, egg and other vegetables in order to become accustomed to the strong taste.
Recipe: Green Goya Juice
- 1 goya (inner seeds and rind removed)
- 1 small green apple
- 2 cucumbers
- 2 sticks celery
- ½ lemon
- Small piece of ginger (optional)
- Wash all fruit and vegetables well.
- Add all ingredients through a juicer, stir well and drink immediately. Feeling better already?
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