Updated: August 21, 2017
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Healthy Superfood Alert: Japan's goya!

This is one of Japan's staple summer vegetables. The bitterness of the goya has a cooling effect, which is one of the reasons why Japanese love to eat it in the summer. It was originally mostly eaten in Okinawa, but know its popularity has spread to all of Japan, and because of its surprising nutritional value, its popularity is also spreading quickly around the world.

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What it is

Goya (also known in English as bitter gourd or bitter melon) is a vegetable of the gourd family that grows on a vine-like plant of approximately 5 meters in length. It is a summer vegetable that resembles a cucumber with bumpy skin. As its English name implies, the goya's taste is very bitter! It is most definitely an acquired taste for most people unfamiliar with the vegetable. In recent year, the goya's popularity has sky-rocketed as its health benefits have become known.

Nutrition and health benefits

Okinawa is know as "the longevity island". It is the place in the world with the highest proportion of centenarians and it is also the place where the goya is most consumed!
The primary health benefit of the goya is its capacity to fight diabetes because of a phytonutrient which lowers blood sugar levels. In addition, it has purifying and detoxifying effects on the liver and gall blader, and is great for reducing water retention. If that wasn't enough to convince you to try goya, note that its skin contains about twice as much vitamin as lemon even when cooked! It also has a high content of vitamin B, C, E and K. Lastly, it is said to be great for treating skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.

How to use it

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Knowing all the health benefits of this super-vegetable, perhaps the intense bitterness won't put you off as much anymore. There are some very delicious meals to be made from it! One of them is the an Okinawa stir fry called goya champura. It is a dish in which there are slices of goya, eggs, tofu, various vegetables, sliced pork or spam. Yes, spam! This is due to the historical presence of the US Navy on the island. If you haven't tried goya already, this delicious meal would serve as a nice introduction!
Another great way to add goya to your meals is by making a salad out of it! All you need to do is cut the goya in half and remove the middle part with the seeds (this part is very bitter so it is better not to use it). Slice the two halves thinly and add them to boiling water for a minute. Drain and add cold water. Finally, squeeze the slices to remove the water from the vegetable. There you go. Now you can use your goya to make delicious salad!
Mayonnaise-based salad dressing works well with the goya! Add in a couple of your favorite vegetables and you get a delicious-looking salad such as the one shown in the picture above.


You have got to try this summertime nutritious Japanese superfood. It will cool you down while providing you with a plethora of health benefits! If you're in Japan, goya meals are sure to be found in any Okinawan restaurant.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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