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Guard Your Weight With Gourds

Updated on January 5, 2018
A mosaic of nutrition
A mosaic of nutrition

Gourds, what are they?

Gourds are vegetables belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. Gourds can be round, long, small or big. These are probably one of the first plants domesticated by humans and there is evidence indicating their consumption several centuries ago. One of the best advantages of gourds are, good nutrition content and low calories. Gourds contain high water content and fiber. They are natural remedies for constipation. Due to low calories, they are excellent choices for a calorie deficit diet. These are the best vegetables you can include in your diet to cut back on excess calories. There are several hundreds of varieties and species of gourds that are both edible and inedible.

Gourds have the unique characteristic of filling your tummy without adding calories. These are some of the few foods you can eat without guilt or limits. The most common edible gourds are pumpkins, bottle gourd, snake gourd, ridge gourd and ivy gourd. Typically they need warm or temperate climate and therefore found in abundance in tropical and subtropical areas. They do not tolerate frost. Read on to get an idea of these magic veggies.

Ash gourd and Hubbard squash

Ash gourd
Ash gourd
Hubbard squash
Hubbard squash
Particulars
Ash Gourd
Hubbard Squash
Calories in 100 gms
13 calories
45 calories
Nutrition
High in Vitamin C and Dietary Fiber
High in Vitamin A, C and other minerals
Other Benefits
Prevents stomach ulcers, Beneficial for skin and hair
Has good antioxidant and anti inflammatory benefits

These humongous pumpkins taste amazing if prepared the right way. By the way, when I say pumpkin, I do not mean the huge orange ones you buy on Halloween. Those are not great for eating. The ones I really mean are ash gourds and hubbard squash. These are the perfect gourds you can include in your diet.

Ash Gourd

Ash gourd is also known as the winter gourd, both for its ashen, pale green colored skin and the cooling effect it has on the body when consumed. It has white flesh and pale custard colored seeds. This gourd has almost no discernible taste when eaten by itself. Hence, it is added to vegetable or meat stews, so that it soaks in the flavors. It is also used as an ingredient in pastries and sweets. This gourd is consumed in several countries like Vietnam, China, Philippines, India and Nepal. 100 grams of this gourd has just 13 calories! Can you believe that? However, due to its bland taste, a different approach to cooking needs to be taken. A lot of spices are added to increase the flavor and its appeal.

Hubbard Squash

This gourd has pale to bright orange flesh and long seeds. It has a sweet taste, almost like a fruit but not intense. It is also heavily spiced when prepared in different countries. However this variety can be baked or added in soups and stews as it has its own distinct sweet flavor.

Bottle Gourd or Opo squash

Bottle gourd or opo squash
Bottle gourd or opo squash
Particulars
Bottle Gourd
Calories per 100 gms
14 calories
Nutrition
Good source of potassium and calcium. Also has good amount of carbohydrates and phosphorus
Other Benefits
Good for respiratory system, cough and heart health. Has anti oxidant and anti hyperglycemic properties

This gourd is also known as opo squash or long melon. It is long and cylindrical, almost like a big club. It has green skin and white flesh. This gourd is claimed to contain anti hyperglycemic and antilipidemic properties. It is also a powerful anti-oxidant and has a good fiber content. This gourd is cultivated in several countries and is widely consumed. It is stewed with milk or fried or cooked with other vegetables. It is also roasted, baked or pureed and added to dishes. You can add this to your salads or sandwiches. Always select an opo squash which is firm to the touch and has smooth wrinkle free skin. It has a subtle chlorophyll taste. 100 grams of this gourd has about 14 calories. That should be sufficient for you guys to hit the stores now.

Snake Gourd

Snake gourds vine
Snake gourds vine
Particulars
Snake gourd
Calories per 100 gms
33 calories
Nutrition
High in carbohydrates and healthy fats. Also has good protien
Other benefits
Good digestion, detoxes the body, boosts immunity among other benefits

The scientific name of this plant is Trichosanthes cucumerina. It is a vine which grows predominantly in tropical and subtropical areas. It is also called as Chichinda, Serpent gourd and Padwal. The gourd is long almost like a snake and can reach a few feet in length. It has an almost leathery type skin and a hollow interior with seeds. This gourd is bitter when unripe and becomes too bitter to consume once it ripens. However unripe gourds when cooked, lose the bitterness and develop an interesting fishy taste which many people like. The gourd is typically cut open and the seeds are scraped out with a spoon and then cut into small pieces for cooking.

Ridge Gourd

Ridge gourd
Ridge gourd
Particulars
Ridge gourd
Calories per 100 gms
13 calories
Nutrition
Good source of Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium
Other Benefits
Controls blood glucose, good for eye sight, prevents constipation

This dark green gourd has an extremely tough skin with ridges running along its length. It is also known as Luffa. The skin is so tough and fibrous that it is often used for scrubbing vessels and surfaces. Due to such high fiber content, a special dish is made purely from the peel to aid in digestion and as a cure for constipation. The internal flesh of the gourd is actually quite sweet when cooked. It is spiced and stewed or baked. It is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Ridge gourd juice is good for the liver and also for the blood. It contains natural insulin like peptides and alkaloids which help maintain blood glucose. People with diabetes regularly drink ridge gourd juice to regulate their glucose levels.

Ivy gourd

Ivy gourd
Ivy gourd
Particulars
Ivy gourd
Calories per 100 gms
18 calories
Nutrition
Contains Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, calcium, iron and other minerals
Other Benefits
Good for heart, prevents kidney stones and regulates blood sugar

Scientifically, Ivy gourd is called coccinia grandis. It is a vine which grows in tropical climate and can become an infestation. The gourd itself however, is quite small in size and is consumed popularly in many countries in Asia and Africa. The unripened gourd is usually harvested and cooked. As the gourd ripens, it turns orange inside and develops a mild sweet taste. The gourd is chopped up into little pieces and is fried with other vegetables or meat. It has small seeds inside which are very soft and easily edible. It is claimed that eating ivy gourd increases metabolism and therefore it helps fight obesity. It is also high in anti oxidants and helps regulate blood glucose levels. The seeds do not get digested and are a good source of fiber.

Best way to prepare gourds

Gourds have very subtle or mild taste. Some of them are bitter when eaten raw and therefore it is advisable to cook them. Being great absorbents of flavor, it is best to use spices such as turmeric, cumin, mustard, chilies and herbs like garlic, parsley or curry leaves. They cook really fast because of their water content. You could even scrape out the seeds of the gourds and stuff them with meat to make them more palatable. You can find several recipes on Youtube. So people, a good diet is not just about identifying what foods to avoid, but also about choosing the right foods to eat.

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