Bitter melon, also known as Momordica Charantia, is a tropical vine that is closely related to cucumber, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, and other gourds.
It is grown all over the world to produce edible fruits, which are staples in many Asian cuisines.
The Chinese variety is usually long and pale green with bumps resembling warts.
The Indian variety, on the other hand, is narrower and features sharpened ends with jagged spikes along the rind.
Bitter melon is known for its distinctive flavor and appearance as well as numerous health benefits.
Here are 6 benefits to bitter melon extract.
1. Packs Several Important Nutrients
Bitter melon is an excellent source of many key nutrients.
One cup (94g) of raw bitter melon:
- Calories: 20
- Carbs 4 grams
- Fiber: 2 Grams
- Vitamin C93% Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
- Vitamin A 44% RDI
- Folate 17% RDI
- Potassium 8%
- Zinc 5% RDI
- Iron4% of RDI
Bitter melon is rich in Vitamin C, a vital micronutrient that plays an important role in wound healing, bone formation and disease prevention.
It also contains high levels of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes proper vision and skin health.
It contains folate which is vital for growth and development.
Bitter melon is rich in catechin, gallic acid and epicatechin. It can also provide powerful antioxidant compounds that help protect your cells from damage.
It’s low-calorie and high-fiber, providing approximately 8% of your daily fiber requirements in one cup (94-gram) portion.
SUMMARY- Bitter Melon is an excellent source of nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C and folate.
2. It Can Help Lower Blood Sugar
Because of its powerful medicinal properties, bitter melons have been used for centuries by native populations all over the globe to treat diabetes-related conditions.
Recent studies have confirmed the role of fruit in blood sugar control.
An experiment of three months in diabetics showed that taking 2,000mg of bitter melon daily reduced blood sugar and hemoglobin, which is a test to determine blood sugar control over three years.
A study of 40 diabetics found that bitter melon consumption for four weeks resulted in a slight drop in blood sugar.
Moreover, the supplement markedly decreased fructosamine levels, another indicator of long-term sugar control.
Bitter melon is believed to increase sugar metabolism and stimulate the production of insulin. This hormone regulates blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, human research is not extensive enough to determine how bitter melon affects blood sugar levels.
SUMMARY Bitter Melon has been shown in studies to improve markers of long-term blood glucose control including hemoglobin A1c and fructosamine levels. More high-quality research is still needed.
3. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
Research has shown that bitter melon contains compounds with anti-cancer properties.
One test-tube study, for example, showed bitter melon extract’s effectiveness in killing stomach, colon, lung and nasopharynx cancer cells.
A second test-tube study reported similar results, showing that bitter melon extract could inhibit the growth and spread breast cancer cells.
These studies were done using concentrated bitter melon extracts on individual cells in a laboratory.
More research is required to determine if bitter melon can affect cancer development and growth in humans when it is consumed in the same amounts as food.
SUMMARY- Test tube studies have shown that bitter melon may be cancer-fighting and could be used against stomach, colon and lung cancer cells.
4. Cholesterol Levels Could Be Decreased
High cholesterol levels can lead to fatty plaque buildup in your arteries. This can make it harder for your heart to pump blood, increasing your risk of developing heart disease.
Numerous animal studies have shown that bitter melon may lower cholesterol levels and support overall heart health.
A study on rats fed high-cholesterol diets showed that bitter melon extract caused significant drops in total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
A second study found that rats given bitter melon extract had significantly lower cholesterol levels than those given a placebo. The greatest reduction was seen in higher doses.
However, most of the current research on bitter melon’s potential cholesterol-lowering effects is limited to animal studies with large amounts of bitter melon extract.
Further research is needed to confirm that the same effects are present in humans who eat the gourd as part of a balanced diet.
SUMMARY- Animal studies have shown that bitter melon extract can lower cholesterol levels. This could be a potential benefit for heart health. However, there is no human evidence to support these claims.
5. May Aid Weight Loss
Because bitter melon is low in calories and high in fiber, it makes a great addition to a weight-loss diet. It has approximately 2g of fiber per cup (94g).
Fiber moves slowly through your digestive system, which helps you feel fuller longer and reduces hunger.
You can swap higher-calorie ingredients for bitter melon to increase your fiber intake and reduce calories to encourage weight loss.
Research has also shown that bitter melon may have positive effects on weight loss and fat burning.
A study showed that taking a capsule with 4.8g of bitter melon extract daily led to significant reductions in belly fat.
After seven weeks, participants lost on average 0.5 inches (1.3cm) in their waist circumference.
Similar results were obtained in rats fed high-fat diets. The bitter melon extract was found to be more effective than a placebo.
These studies were done using high-dose bitter melon supplements. It is not clear if bitter melon can be included in your daily diet to have the same positive effects on your health.
SUMMARY- Bitter Melon is low-calorie, but high-fiber. Animal and human studies have shown that bitter melon extract can help reduce belly fat and bodyweight.
6. It’s Versatile and Delicious
Bitter melon is a strong flavor that can be used in many dishes.
First, wash the fruit and cut it in half lengthwise. Next, use a spoon to remove the seeds from the middle and then cut the fruit into thin slices.
You can enjoy bitter melon raw or in a variety of recipes.
It can also be pan-fried or steamed, or baked. You can even hollow it out and stuff it with your choice fillings.
These are some interesting ways you can add bitter melon to your diet.
- For a nutritious, nutrient-packed drink, combine bitter melon with some other fruits and veggies.
- To increase your health benefits, add bitter melon to your next stir-fry.
- Sauté bitter melon with tomatoes, garlic and onions. Add scrambled eggs.
- For a savory, savory salad, combine seedless bitter melon and your choice of dressing.
- Serve with meat, vegetables, and a black bean Sauce.
SUMMARY- Bitter Melon is simple to prepare and can be used for many dishes and recipes.
Possible Side Effects
Bitter melon, when consumed in moderation can be a nutritious and healthy addition to your diet.
Consuming high levels of bitter melon, or taking bitter-melon supplements can lead to adverse side effects.
Particularly, bitter melon has been associated with diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains.
Women who are pregnant should not use it, as the long-term health effects have not been thoroughly studied.
It can have a negative impact on blood sugar so you should talk to your doctor before you eat it, especially if you are taking blood sugar-lowering medication.
Talk to your healthcare professional before you supplement with bitter Melon.
SUMMARY- Bitter Melon can cause side effects. People with underlying medical problems or pregnant women should consult their doctor before using this product.
The Bottom Line
Bitter melon, a member of the gourd family, has a distinctive appearance and unique flavor.
It is rich in many important nutrients and has been linked to many health benefits including better blood sugar control, cholesterol levels, and improved blood pressure.
People who are pregnant or taking certain medications, especially blood sugar-lowering drugs, should consult their healthcare provider before taking high doses of supplements or consuming large amounts.
However, it is a good addition to a well-rounded diet.
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