A vegetable that is low in calories, fat, and carbs and high in nutrients, fibre and water content – that’s Ash Gourd (or Wax Gourd) for you. It gets its name from the ash-like waxy coating on its outer skin and grows on creeper vines. The vegetable mostly grows oblong or round in shape. As a result, it has one of the longest shelf lives among vegetables.
It is also called winter melon, boodh kumbalkaayi, kumbalanga, kushmaand, komora, kohla, torobot, petha, rakhiya, rakh lauki and even petha kaddu. The petha kaddu indicates its most popular use in North India – the famous Agra petha. It is used for medicinal benefits in many parts of India and is a common home remedy for many ailments. Even the Chinese use it in their traditional medicines. Perhaps, you might already have heard of the one glass of ash gourd juice in the morning nuska? It is a great detoxifying drink and helps us remain healthy.
Ash gourd is highly nutritious and contains many essential minerals such as Manganese, Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, Iodine, Calcium, Copper, and Phosphorous. The Vitamins present in it are A, B6, C, and E, while it also contains some amount of Ammonia and Potassium. The high water content and fibre with zero cholesterol and very little fat and carbohydrates make it a coveted addition to the diet. It is also rich in two essential antioxidants, namely carotenoids and flavonoids. These antioxidants lend it anti-inflammatory properties as well, making it a very healthy vegetable to consume.
Good for Digestion
A lot of water and the presence of dietary fibre is good news for digestion, and thus, ash gourd helps improve gut health. It prevents bloating and constipation and eases the digestive process, aiding in better absorption of the nutrients. The soluble fibre contained in it also forms a gel-like substance in the gut, giving a feeling of fullness. This feeling will stop you from snacking in between meals and help maintain the weight. It is an alkaline vegetable that helps neutralize the acidity and cucurbitacins present, rids free radicals in the intestines.
Improves heart health
Ash gourd contains riboflavin which regulates stress hormones, and this is beneficial for overall health. It reduces stress eating, and the feeling-full aspect ensures people eat less and will not become obese. Obesity causes a lot of issues, a major one being heart issues. It contains no cholesterol and helps improve blood circulation as well. Traditional Ayurvedic medicines suggest ash gourd inclusion in the diet to promote blood circulation and treat issues like palpitations.
Good for the lungs
Ash gourd has natural expectorant properties because of which it is used in traditional medicines to treat respiratory diseases. It helps loosen excess phlegm and mucus secretions and also prevents allergic reactions. In addition, it helps improve breathing due to these properties.
Since it contains 96% water, it is a natural coolant like cucumber and helps keep your body hydrated. This cooling effect makes it a perfect summer food and also keeps your mind sharp.
Heals the skin
The natural cooling and hydrating properties make it great for your skin. The gel version is used as a moisturizer and helps heal skin irritation, especially rashes and sunburn. This aspect also makes it great for dandruff treatment as it helps cool the scalp, while the anti-microbial properties remove the fungi causing dandruff. Vitamin E contained in it also nourishes hair growth and is used as an Ayurvedic remedy for hair fall and even alopecia.
Improves kidney function
The ash gourd improves kidney functions and acts as a detoxifying agent. In addition, its digestive and hydrating properties are helpful in the detoxification process to remove accumulated toxins from the body.
Ash gourd has mild, natural sedative properties and helps relieve symptoms of anxiety. It helps your body to relax and unwind and helps you sleep naturally. So it is because ash gourd helps lessen the activity of neurotransmitters, thus promoting calmness and sleep.
Good for joints
The minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous help build bone mass and improve flexibility in joints, keeping them healthy. Also, the anti-inflammatory properties of ash gourd help with conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis.
Vitamin B3 in ash gourd increases the body’s energy levels. In traditional medicines, people suffering from anaemia are advised to consume them. The fact it betters body metabolism also helps in energizing the body.
It can be consumed raw as juice, raita or salad or used in many varieties of gravies. If you have a sweet tooth, you could also try the halwa or the petha. With so much going for it, and the versatility in cooking, you could try out different options to consume it.