Know about the many health benefits of the spiny gourd or kantola

The spiky texture of this green vegetable makes it naturally unattractive. However, this veggie is not just healthy but also low in calories.

Seasonal vegetables are great if you are looking for regular intake of nutrition and still go easy on your pocket. The best part of including seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet is their inherent ability to fight seasonal illnesses and flu. “There is a climatic condition according to which farmers yield certain vegetables. If you don’t eat seasonal vegetables then you indirectly consume products from cold storage and they aren’t fresh. It reduces the nutritional counts and value of your food,” points out chief clinical nutritionist head Seema Singh of Fortis hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

One such vegetable is the spiny gourd, with its odd texture, that can be spotted on the carts of your vegetable vendor.

The spiky green vegetable makes it naturally unattractive. However, kantola, as it is commonly known, is a monsoon vegetable which is not just healthy but also low in calories. Its scientific name is Momordica dioica, commonly known as spiny gourd or spine gourd and also as bristly balsma pear, prickly carolaho and teasle gourd.

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Kantola, a species of flowering plants in the gourd family, is used as a vegetable in all regions of India and some parts of South Asia. The fruits are cooked with spices or even fried, and sometimes eaten with meat or fish in certain parts of the world.

Here are some health benefits of the vegetable:

1. It is a great source of phytonutrients, a substance found in certain plants which are believed to be beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases. The vegetable is also low in calories as it contains roughly 17 calories per 100 gm. “Kantola is also high in water content, so is beneficial if you are trying to lose weight,” adds nutritionist Seema Singh.

2. As it is usually found during the monsoons, it is helpful in keeping seasonal cough, cold and other allergies at bay, due to its anti-allergen and analgesic properties.

3. It also reduces blood sugar levels in diabetic patients since it is rich in plant insulin. “Anything that is high in fibre and is loaded with water content is a great choice for a diabetic diet, and kantola ticks all the boxes,” says Singh.

4. Carotenoids, like Lutein, present in this vegetable help in prevention of various eye diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even cancers. Being a source of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant, it removes toxic free radicals from the body reducing the chance of cancer.

5. It helps to keep the skin healthy as it contains various flavonoids such as beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthins that act as protective scavengers. “It also has anti-ageing properties as it is blessed with antioxidants that fight free radicals the body has due to ageing and pollution,” says the nutritionist.

6. It is high in fibre and anti-oxidants and thus very useful for easy digestion and eliminates constipation.

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“However, what people don’t understand is that vegetables that are high in moisture should be cooked in closed lid pans and by adding a bit of water so that their water content does not evaporate while cooking. You can also add a bit of water to these vegetables and avoid overcooking them. The watery gravy should be consumed as the possible nutrients are actually present in its gravy”, explains Singh.

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