Okinawa, Japan is known for its high life expectancy, and their diet plays a crucial role in their longevity. The residents of this region consume a particular ingredient almost daily alongside green beans. This ingredient is called “yeoju,” and it’s frequently consumed as a side dish. Yeoju is a crop known for its excellent ability to lower blood sugar and prevent diabetes.
Yeoju contains compounds such as polypeptides (P-insulin), which are similar to insulin secreted to lower blood sugar, and charantin, which have an anti-diabetic effect. Due to its unique properties, Yeoju is often referred to as “natural insulin.” Moreover, it has almost no side effects compared to medication, making it a safe and effective way to manage diabetes.
Apart from stabilizing blood sugar levels, Yeoju is also high in vitamin C. According to the Food and Nutrition Information of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, 100g of raw Yeoju contains 73mg of vitamin C, more than an orange (50.5mg).
However, Yeoju has a strong bitter taste, which is why it’s also known as “bitter cucumber” or “bitter melon.” But the components that give it a bitter taste are known to help lower blood sugar and improve stomach and intestinal function. When the green fruit is ripe, it has a sweet taste, but when it’s young, it’s rich in vitamins and antioxidants, making it an excellent ingredient for cooking.
Although Yeoju has a strong bitter taste, it can be used in various dishes such as smoothies, stir-fry dishes, and pancakes. It can be sliced like a cucumber and eaten as a side dish with chili paste, or made into pancakes like zucchini pancakes. Yeoju can also be cooked with meat dishes such as pork stir-fry or galbi.
If you find the bitter taste of Yeoju overwhelming, you can reduce it by soaking it in cold salt water for 10 minutes or neutralizing it with sweet ingredients such as bananas in smoothies or parfait.
Until 2000, cultivation of Yeoju was rare in South Korea. However, with the increasing interest in health, the cultivation area has been increasing steadily. In 2017, it grew rapidly from 10 hectares to 606 farms covering 107.9 hectares. Yeoju has been gaining more attention recently for its effect in preventing diabetes, and it’s becoming more widely available in health food stores.
In conclusion, incorporating Yeoju into your diet can be a delicious way to improve your health and prevent diabetes. Give this unique ingredient a try and experience its many benefits for yourself.