Aloe vera is one of the most well-known and widely used plants that is known for its medicinal and general health benefits. It is not only considered great for health of the body, but is also said to be great for the skin and hair. Also known as ghritkumari in Hindi, aloe vera has found widespread acceptance around the world, due to its many incredible health benefits, as well as relative ease of growing it. Aloe plants can be found in the kitchen gardens and indoor potted plant gardens of numerous houses, because the plant grows easily and quickly. It requires minimal care and the gel from the leaves, which is the main edible part, can also be easily extracted and put to various uses.
A lot of people only use aloe vera and its products to improve the quality of their skin and hair. Aloe vera juices are widely available in grocery stores and online. But aloe vera is said to be at its nutritional best, when consumed raw and unprocessed. This is why it is grown at homes and often used in foods and drinks. It has a mild herbaceous flavour and almost a neutral taste, which is what makes it a healthy ingredient to add to your diet. Let's look at the health benefits of aloe vera, before looking at the various ways that we can add it to our diets.
Aloe Vera Nutrition and Health Benefits
1. Rich in Antioxidants:
Aloe vera is said to have a number of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, due to the abundance of plant compounds polyphenols in it. Aloe vera, both when applied topically and consumed, can improve your skin and hair quality.
2. Boosts Digestion:
Aloe is said to be great for ensuring smooth functioning of the digestive system. According to the book, 'Healing Foods' by DK Publishing House, aloe has laxative properties and is great for improving and balancing intestinal flora. This means that it increases the levels of good bacteria in the gut and expels harmful parasites from the digestive tract.
3. May Help Diabetics:
Some human and animal studies have shown that aloe vera may help people suffering from Type-2 diabetes by enhancing insulin sensitivity and may help manage blood sugar levels. However, this benefit may need more research before it can be established as a fact.
4. May Promote Weight Loss:
Consuming aloe vera may also help a person manage their weight. The gel is known to have detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is also known to boost immunity and digestion, which may indirectly help in weight loss.
How To Consume Aloe Vera
1. Juice it: The easiest way to consume aloe vera is to juice it. Cut your aloe leaf into small sections, remove the upper bright green layer of the leaf and then scoop the gel out. Make sure the thin yellowish latex layer between the leaf and the gel is also removed. Wash the gel and add it to food processor along with coconut water/plain water and a little honey for sweetening, and blend. You can add your favourite juices including apple or cucumber juice to the mix.
2. Add the leaves to salads: Apart from the gel, aloe vera leaves are also generally considered safe for consumption. You can wash and chop fresh aloe vera leaves (make sure you remove the spiky ends, separate the flat green leaves from the latex and the gel and wash it thoroughly) and toss it along with your summer salads. Aloe leaves can add crunchiness to your salads.
3. Add the gel to salad dressings:Aloe vera gel can be added to salad dressings. Due to its slimy texture, it can be mixed with ingredients like olive oil, vinegar easily. Aloe vera can make for a nutritious salad dressing.
4. Freeze it as ice-cubes: Aloe vera is used to soothe burns. The diluted gel can be poured into an ice-cube tray and frozen and then applied to the affected area for immediate relief. These cubes can also be put to use in smoothies. Just add a few of these aloe gel cubes to your blender while making fruit smoothies and blend!
While preparing aloe vera for consumption at home, one must make sure that the latex is completely removed as that's the only part of the plant that may have side-effects. It's not recommended to consume aloe vera daily and it is advisable to speak to a dietitian or a nutrition expert before adding aloe vera to your diet.