Okinawa Prefecture is located on the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. Okinawa is the southernmost and westernmost prefecture of Japan. The Okinawan’s are renowned for their amazingly long life and excellent health. It all stems from the abundance of fresh food available on their doorsteps including seafood, fruits and vegetables.
One such vegetable is a bitter melon known as Goya. Okinawan’s swear by this melon and eat it religiously. It is an extremely bitter melon but it is also very nutritious. It belongs to the family of Cucurbitaceae and is found in the same group as cucumber, watermelon and zucchini.
Bitter melons are eaten for a variety of reasons one of which is their cooling and cleansing effect. It is good for the liver, gall bladder, kidney stones and for reducing water retention. It purifies the blood and detoxes the body and helps with things like eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Goya is low in calories and it is also detoxifying. It can detox you from any nasties, like alcohol, drugs or anything that is consumed in excess. It can stimulate digestion and help with constipation. Goya can also be used as a weight-loss aid and it has been proven to prevent cancer.
Goya contains a wide array of vitamins and minerals such as:
vitamin B – great for mental health and other bodily functions like carbohydrate absorption
vitamin C – important when recovering from coughs, colds, flu or infections
vitamin E – amazing for skin, hair and nails
vitamin K – blood clotting, calcium absorption and for the heart
folates – red cells, and repair cells and tissues
It is renowned as a superfood and Okinawa’s eat it regularly because of all the amazing antioxidants it contains. Just 100 grams of the fruit represents 40% of one’s daily vitamin C intake, which is much higher than oranges or citrus fruits like mandarins found in the western world.
Goya is used by Okinawan’s in salads, teas and smoothies and hot dishes depending on one’s preferences.
One of the most popular dishes is Goya Champuru (meaning something is mixed). It is a stir-fried dish served with tofu, eggs and pork. If you prefer you can substitute the pork for tuna. Traditionally it is served with a dashi (or a liquid soup stock) made from fish and kelp which is poured over the top for extra flavour.
You can also eat stuffed goya, pickles or tempura. It can be fried, baked or added to a fresh salad. Another alternative is to also add the fruit to a juicer and mix it with other vegetables and fruits if you like and turn it into a smoothie.
Goya is very bitter so it is recommended that you try and pick goya which are dark green in colour and firm to the touch. The darker the fruit the less bitter they are.
Also, it is recommended to remove the inside of the fruit and seeds completely which reduces the bitter taste and making it more palatable. You can also soak the goya in salty water for at least 15 minutes to reduce the bitter taste prior to preparation.
In Australia, you can find prepackaged imported goya drinks such as goya tea, soft drinks, beer, highly concentrated supplements or cosmetic products.” However, the nutritional value of these goya products is questionable. If you can find raw goya fruit at a Japanese fruit and vegetable store or Asian grocer, then this is by the far the healthier option.
From treating cancer to helping to detox the body, it is a great fruit that is added to your diet. The Okinawans are known for longevity because of the rich variety of diets that they consume. We should take a leaf out of their book and eat a variety of foods which are rich in antioxidants and minerals like goya.
Here’s to the superfood goya!