Bitter Melon is a fruit commonly referred to as Bitter Gourd or Bitter Squash in various parts of the world. Although botanically it is a fruit, many use Bitter Melon as a vegetable in various types of cooking. Found in abundance in Asia and Africa, this edible fruit which belongs to the family of Cucurbitaceae is consumed for its numerous health properties. This article brings to light bitter melon health benefits and nutrition facts.
Bitter Melon has been used as traditional medicine and alternative treatment for ailments. It is also used as a vegetable in cuisines from around the world.
Health benefits of Bitter Melon
Although bitter melon has a peculiar bitter taste, it is consumed the world over because of its healing properties. Presence of anti oxidants, minerals, dietary fiber and vitamins is the reason why this bitter melon pods are popular all over the world. Health benefits of this vegetable have been accepted by medical practitioners all over the world. Bitter melon herbal supplements are used as natural therapy and treatment for diabetes and retroviral infections.
Various Bitter melon health benefits
1 The presence of Polypeptide P ensures that blood sugar levels are controlled. Charantin, a hypoglycemic agent present in this fruit is known to be beneficial for glycogen synthesis in adipose tissue, liver, and muscle. Polypeptide P and Charantin substances have proven extremely effective in treatment of diabetes. Bitter melon juice reduces high level content of sugar in blood and urine and improves glucose tolerance.
2. Flavonoids beneficial for good health present in bitter melon are Zeaxanthin, Beta carotene, Lutein and Alpha carotene. These compounds have proven effective in slowing down skin aging and also reducing risk of cancer.
3. Individuals suffering from prolonged constipation and indigestion have benefitted significantly from fresh bitter melon. This vegetable stimulates the digestion process and also enhances bowel movement.
4. Bitter Melon contains approximately between 71-100g of folates essential for nerve functions and production of red blood cells. High content of folic acid in this vegetable prevents homocysteine build-up.
5. Bitter melon is used as a natural treatment to purify blood. Dermatologists and skin experts recommend juice of bitter gourd to cleanse toxins present in blood. It is also used to treat blood disorders caused by Toxemia.
6. Bitter melon extracts are used in traditional treatment and herbal treatment for measles and chickenpox. Bitter melon paste mixed with tea tree oil has proved effective in treating, rashes and inflammation. Consumption of 30 ml of fresh bitter gourd juice in recommended for individuals that suffer from acne conditions. Bitter melon has antiviral properties which is why it is used as a treatment for HIV patients. Global research in laboratories across the world suggest anti retroviral drugs with bitter melon extracts maybe used for treatment of HIV in the future.
7. Alpha- eleostearic present in seeds of bitter melon and 15, 16-Dihydroxy- Alpha-eleostearic acid in pulp (fruit) of bitter melon have proven effective in killing leukemia cells. Research reveals bitter melon extracts used in dietary supplements minimize the risk of colorectal cancer (colon cancer). Extracts of seeds and fruit are used in various Ayurvedic treatments. Bitter melon has proven highly effective in preventing cancer cells from multiplying, especially in breast cancer.
8. In Asia and Africa bitter melon is used for prevention of malaria. Leaf extracts of the plant and pastes of the fruit mixed with ginger are used in South America as traditional medicine to cure insect bites and dimpled skin.
9. Bitter Gourd is used as a home remedy to get relief from hangovers. Fresh juice of this vegetable provides quick relief from drowsiness and alcohol intoxication. Individuals with liver problems are recommended bitter melon juice as part of their diet by nutritionists.
10. Bitter melon juice is known to build an individual’s immunity system thereby increasing resistance of body against infection. This vegetable juice mixed with carrot juice is known to improve eyesight.
Besides the above health benefits, bitter melon is also used as treatment and cure for:
• Fungal Infections
• Bile Anaemia
• High Cholesterol
• Kidney Stone
• Stomach Disorders
Bitter Melon Medication
Bitter melon medication in the form of tablets, capsules, pastes, oils, powders and tinctures are available with herbalists, medical practitioners and Ayurveda practitioners. Often bitter melon medication is recommended by Doctors along with prescribed drugs. Consulting your doctor before starting bitter melon medication is essential.
Nutrition facts of Bitter Melon
Bitter Melon is a vegetable that is rich in, vitamins, minerals, and anti oxidants.
• Vitamin A, Vitamin B Vitamin C
• Antioxidants in the form of alpha carotene and beta carotene (excellent for skin and eyes)
• Folic Acid that helps in cellular metabolism and minimizes riskof liver failure, heart failure, stroke, and heart disease.
• Polypeptide-P and Charantin, both compounds responsible for reducing blood sugar level in type-2 Diabetes.
• Zeaxanthin and Lutein compounds that protect against diseases, most notably cancer.
• Niacin- vitamin B3, Pyridoxine- vitamin B6 and Pantothenic Acid- vitamin B5
• Minerals- Magnesium, iron, potassium, manganese and zinc.
Bitter melon pods have 2.6g dietary fiber and 1.6 to 3.5 g carbohydrates in a serving. A low calorie count of 17 cal/100g makes it an excellent health food for low-carbohydrate weight loss diet plans.
Use of Bitter Melon in food
Many are of the opinion that bitter melon does not taste good as a food item, that’s because those many are not aware of how to cook bitter melon. Of course, taste is a personal choice, but here’s a healthy bitter melon recipe you will enjoy.
You will need:
• 1 bitter melon and cut it into rings
• 1/2 cup of diced white mushrooms
• 1/2 cup of diced spring onions
• 1/2 cup of diced chili pepper
• 1/2 cup small pieces of boneless chicken (roasted)
• Chilli Sauce- 2 table spoons
• Tomato sauce- 3 table spoons
• Soya sauce- I table spoon
• Olive oil- 1 tablespoon
Put the bitter melon rings in a pan with olive oil under a medium flame till the rings turn crisp. Transfer the rings in another bowl. Put diced mushrooms, spring onions, chili pepper and chicken in the pan again on medium flame. Keep stirring the ingredients in the pan on low flame and add the crispy bitter melon rings. Add chili sauce, tomato sauce and soya sauce to ingredients in the pan and reduce the flame. Stir again. Once the vegetables get a glazed color you should know your dish is ready. Sauce added should be in accordance with preference. This recipe is medium spiced with a tinge of sweetness. The bitterness of bitter melon gives a distinct flavor to the dish.
Although Bitter melon is used in various recipes from across the world, the most common dish globally is stir fry. Preparations of stir fry bitter gourd dishes differ from region to region. A number of countries in Asia use stir fry bitter melon dishes as accompaniments with soups.
In India Bitter Melon, known as Karela, is used in various sabji (vegetable) preparations. Dry bitter melon vegetables made with a variety of spices are preferred in North India. Thick curry dishes with made with grated coconut, karela, tamarind chutney and spice are preferred in South India. Bitter gourd pickles made with turmeric powder, red chili powder, mustard seeds, fenugreek, jiggery and asafetida powder are popular exported all over the world.
In Japan bitter melon is used in a number of Okinawan food recipes, the most popular being ‘Goya Chanpuru’ a stir fry preparation made with eggs, tofu, pork, onion, and bitter melon as the main ingredient giving it the delightful flavor.
Stir fried of bitter melon foods made with tomatoes, minced beef, oyster sauce and eggs are popular in Philippines. Shrimp soups that contain bitter gourd are popular in Vietnam. In Southeast Asia a variety of salads are prepared with this vegetable as the main ingredient.
Bitter melon consumption in Europe and US is increasing significantly. In the western world bitter melon health drinks and teas have become popular. Because of its low calorie count, this vegetable is recommended in several diet plans for weight loss by dieticians and nutritionists.