Karela or bitter melon or bitter gourd is a vegetable, commonly consumed in India. The fruit, seeds, leaves, vines and roots of the bitter gourd have been commonly used as a food and remedy for various types of diseases. Though karela is the most bitter amongst all vegetables and fruits it is loaded with lots of nutrients - vitamins A and C, carotenoids, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Karela fruit is also a source of minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and phosphorus. It is a good source of dietary fiber. It contains a good amount of antioxidants..Nutritional values of 100 g of karela Nutrients\tNutritive valueEnergy\t 25 kcalCarbohydrates\t 4.2 gProtein\t 1.6 gFat\t 0.2 gFiber\t 0.8 gSodium\t 5 mgPotassium\t 296 mgVitamin C\t 84 mgFolate\t 72 mgCalcium\t 20 mgIron\t 0.6 mgPhosphorus\t 70 mgSource: Nutritive value of Indian foods.Health benefits of karela•\tKarela has anti-inflammatory properties•\tKarela is low in calories, fat and carbohydrates and loaded with fibers, helps in reducing weight. As it is high in fiber, it makes you feel full for long.•\tAs it is an excellent source of antioxidants, it helps to boost your immunity and is good for the skin. It helps in treating various skin problems like ageing, acne, psoriasis etc.•\tIt helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems as it is rich in fiber.•\tAs karela is loaded with vitamin C, it is very helpful to lower the pain caused by gout.•\tPotassium present in bitter gourd helps to reduce or maintain blood pressure.•\tKarela helps to lower bad cholesterol.Karela and Type 2 DiabetesClinical study published in the Journal of Lipids in 2015, conducted by Md. Ashraful Alan et al., concluded that karela contains compound like polypeptide-p that may help to control blood sugar and lower blood lipid levels.Karela contains 3 active substances that have anti-diabetic properties. These are charantin, vicine and insulin like substance polypeptide-p. Polypeptide-p is plant insulin known to lower the blood sugar levels. It contains charantin which is a hypoglycemic agent. The important role of charantin is to increase the glucose uptake by adipose or muscle tissues and inhibit glucose absorption from intestine and glucose production from liver. These 3 compounds together may be responsible for lowering of blood sugar levels.A clinical study for hypoglycaemic effect of karela compared with metformin (a drug used to reduce blood sugar levels) in people newly detected with Type 2 Diabetes, published in the Journal of Ethnopha.rmacology , concluded that people with Type 2 Diabetes who consumed up to 2000 mg of karela extracts per day had less impact to lower blood sugar levels than people who took 1000 mg metformin per day. Kare/a contains lectin, that helps to reduce blood sugar levels by acting on peripheral tissues and suppressing appetite.How to consume karelaKare/a can be consumed as a vegetable. It can be added to smoothies or soups or juices or pickles. The leaves, seeds and vine are used in traditional medicines and alternative medicines. Kare/a chips are a popular snack. Kare/a powder can be added to cha.patti flour. PrecautionsBefore adding karela to your diet, consult a registered dietician. Eating karela with anti-diabetic medicines may cause low blood sugar levels. Ask the dietician how best you consume karela to suit your health parameters.Karela can cause abdominal discomfort, abdomen pain and sometimes diarrhoea when consumed frequently or in excess.Note: The use and dosage of karela is not approved by the Indian Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine for Diabetes and any other health complications.Ms Rutuja Mahajan is a Consultant Dietician.