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Pregnancy will bring so many changes that you will barely be able to keep up. One significant consideration for you is to change your diet, as what you eat is closely linked with the health and development of your baby. Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated is compulsory. But what constitutes a balanced diet? Read through to find out the benefits and risks of consuming the popular Indian vegetable, the bitter gourd.
Is Eating Bitter Gourd Safe While Pregnant?
Bitter gourds are rich in nutrients that promote both your baby’s and your health. However, there have been a few controversies due to the risks associated with consuming bitter gourd during your pregnancy. The jury is still out on this matter, so it is up to you to add bitter gourds to your diet or avoid them entirely.
Bitter gourd, or Karela, is a dark green vegetable brimming with vitamins, minerals, fibre; everything you and your growing foetus need. Here are some benefits of eating bitter gourd during your pregnancy:
Rich in Folate
Folate, also known as Vitamin B9, is one of the most crucial dietary requirements during pregnancy. It safeguards the foetus from defects relating to neural tube development that can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths and neurological impairment. A couple of bitter gourds in your daily diet will supplement you with more than a quarter of your daily requirement of folate.
Rich In Vitamins
Aside from folate, bitter gourds contain several other vitamins. Dietary vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, thiamine and riboflavin are essential for foetal development.
Rich in Minerals
Potassium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium are some of the minerals present in bitter gourds. Of these, iron is crucial to deter pregnancy anaemia, while calcium helps build foetal bones and teeth.
Antioxidants are essential for everyone, but more so if you’re pregnant. They strengthen the immune system, preventing many illnesses. For example, Bitter gourds are rich in Vitamin C, which help prevent bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Vitamin C also helps promote wound healing.
Prevents Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is fraught with complications that threaten the health of your developing baby. However, bitter gourds are known to contain several antidiabetic molecules, for example, Charantin and polypeptide-P, which help you avoid diabetes during your pregnancy. These nutrients can also treat concurrent diabetes by fixing the imbalances in your blood sugar levels.
Controls Digestive Problems
Pregnant women face several digestive issues such as constipation and haemorrhoids. Many reasons such as oversecretion of pregnancy hormones, uterus increasing in size, and such, play a role in this. Bitter gourds can ease the discomfort caused by these disorders, such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain, due to their high fibre content. The fibre forms the roughage in the digestive tract, which keeps bowel movements running smoothly.
Controls Weight Gain
The dietary fibre in bitter gourds can also fill you up with each meal, preventing you from overeating. It is especially important in women who are obese, or prone to putting on weight easily. Staying full between meals will also reduce your pregnancy food cravings, making it less likely you will resort to unhealthy snacks and junk food.
Side Effects of Eating Bitter Gourd
The amazing benefits offered by bitter gourds are countered by the dangers posed by their consumption. Some of the risks of eating bitter gourds during pregnancy are:
If you are new to bitter gourds, it is safest to avoid them entirely as it is unclear how you might react. For example, some women experience favism, that is the destruction of red blood cells, due to a molecule found in bitter gourds known as Vicine. This could lead to anaemia and have disastrous repercussions on your pregnancy.
Bitter gourds are known to contain molecules such as quinine, morodicine and glycosides. These substances can poison the body, leading to intestinal pain, problems with vision, vomiting, tiredness, muscle fatigue, nauseous feeling, and overproduction of saliva.
Overeating bitter gourd has been known to stimulate the uterus into triggering preterm labour. This could result in painful contractions, blood loss, miscarriage, stillbirth or premature babies. It is recommended to shun bitter gourds at least during the first few weeks of your pregnancy.
Bitter gourd consumption can result in stomach aches, indigestion, diarrhoea, pain in the abdomen, and so on. These effects can also come from eating bitter gourd seeds.
How to have Bitter Gourd during Pregnancy
Here are some bitter gourd recipes you can try instead of having plain bitter karela juice.
Bitter Gourd Curry
Make the usual curry but try adding coconut milk, tamarind and a little jaggery for flavour.
Put karela in a cooker, add water and salt. Cook them until on whistle. Add oil to the pan and add jeera, let it splutter. Then add roasted peanut powder, besan and masalas and fry a little. Add sugar and lemon juice and remove it off the flame. Take this masala and stuff it in the karela. Stir fry these karelas.
Bitter Gourd Fry
Heat the oil and deep fry bite-size bitter gourd pieces. Sprinkle salt, chat masala and red chilli powder to these fried pieces.
Not everything that is organic and natural should be consumed, especially when it could put your baby at risk. If you think consuming bitter gourds will improve your health, ask your doctor if bitter gourds are alright to eat, as well as how much and how often to have them.