Bitter melon, balsam pear, or most commonly referred to as bitter gourd, is a unique fruit-vegetable combination that is consumed widely. It is an edible pod that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family that also includes cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelon, squash, and more. It is considered the most bitter tasting amongst all culinary vegetables and fruits. While bitter gourd is condemned for its bitter taste, it truly can sweeten our well-being through virtue of its health promoting and disease preventing phytochemical compounds. Bitter gourd is highly beneficial for patients suffering from intestinal and stomach problems, diabetes, and more.
Bitter gourds are mostly cultivated in tropical parts of the world, such as Asia, South America, and Africa. It is highly treasured in India and China specifically, and is considered a staple in the majority of their cuisine. The Indian variety has a narrower appearance with pointy ends and jagged, rough spikes on the rind. The Chinese variety, on the other hand, is typically long and covered with wart-like bumps. If you aren’t aware of the magical benefits bitter gourd offers, check out the useful information about these pods in the following sections.
Nutritional Value in Bitter Gourds
100 grams of raw bitter gourd contains:
- Total Calories – 16
- Dietary Fiber – 2.6 g
- Carbohydrates – 3.4 g
- Fats – 158 mg
- Water – 87.4 g
- Protein – 930 mg
What are the Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd?
A number of clinical studies have been conducted for evaluating the efficiency of bitter gourd for human health. The majority of these studies revealed that consuming bitter gourd is beneficial for human health. While most of us aren’t very keen on trying bitter gourd due to its bitter taste, once aware of the plentiful health benefits, you will probably change your mind.
1. Promote Gut Health
Regular consumption of bitter gourd has a positive impact on gut health. It not only treats intestinal disorders like constipation and stomach ache but is equally beneficial for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as it helps kill parasites that enter the digestive system. Moreover, it contains antioxidants that help stimulate digestive enzymes and support digestion. Due to its natural laxative property and high fiber count, bitter gourd is recommended by the doctors for maintaining good digestive health.
2. Manage Diabetes
Anyone who is diagnosed with diabetes is prescribed to eat bitter gourd. This is one of the most crucial health benefits of bitter gourd known to all. It contains three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, namely polypeptide-p, vicine, and charanti, which have been confirmed to have insulin-like properties and blood glucose lowering effects. These compounds work together or individually to help lower blood sugar levels. Moreover, it has also been found that bitter gourd contains lectin that helps reduce blood glucose concentrations in the body by suppressing appetite and acting on the peripheral tissues. According to experts, lectin is responsible for triggering the hypoglycemic effect, which means that the blood sugar levels are down. The flesh and seeds are both beneficial in this aspect. Consuming bitter gourd juice daily in the morning on an empty stomach can help you keep your diabetes under control.
3. Boost Immunity
Bitter gourd is a rich source of vitamin C that comes with plenty of antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are necessary for our body as it helps in multiplication of the immune cells and white blood cells (WBCs). This not only strengthens the immune system but also helps in preventing allergies. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C is 98.5 mg, which bitter gourd easily fulfills.
4. Purifies Blood and Cleanses Liver
The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of bitter gourd help in removal of toxins. Moreover, it can help wipe out all kinds of intoxication settled in your liver. Thus, bitter gourd heals many liver problems as well as cleanses your bowel. It also aids the proper functioning of the bladder. According to experts, if you are hungover, consuming bitter gourd juice can help you reduce the alcohol intoxication from your body, thereby making you feel active.
5. Protect against Cancer
Free radicals are the primary cause of cancer. They can affect the way our body functions. Thus, keeping your body free of free radicals is important. Free radicals are a by-product of our metabolism and the count increases with smoking, pollution, and stress majorly. Bitter gourd contains lycopene, lignans, and carotenoids, along with good amounts of vitamin A, zea-xanthin and lutein, which are the primary antioxidants and nutrients that fight and scavenge these free radicals. This ultimately reduces the formation of tumors in your body.
6. Regulate Cholesterol
High levels of cholesterol result in the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries that makes your heart work harder to pump blood. This increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Several studies have found that bitter gourd may reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol and regulate “good” cholesterol to support overall health. Bitter gourd is a good source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which all have a positive effect on the heart.
7. Treat Obesity
Bitter gourd qualifies as a weight loss food due to its basic yet remarkable nutrient profile. 100 grams of raw bitter gourd contains only 16 calories, 0.15 grams of fat, 0.93 grams of protein and 2.6 grams of fiber. Thus, it ensures that you feel satiated without adding extra pounds to your weight. The nutrients help boost the overall metabolism and the fiber content keeps you full for hours, thus aiding in healthy digestion and avoiding binging on junk and unhealthy snacks. The best way to consume bitter gourd for obesity is by drinking the raw juice.
8. Add Luster and Shine to Hair
Bitter gourd promotes hair growth and support hair health. Components like protein, zinc, and vitamin C in bitter gourd keep hair healthy and strong. It has been found that applying bitter gourd juice to the hair can help you retain its sheen and luster while ensuring that the roots are strengthened and problems like split ends and hair fall are treated.
9. Beautifies the Skin
Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping the skin wrinkle-free and preventing premature aging. As we know, bitter gourd is a rich source of vitamin C content among other nutrients that aids in the production of collagen, which is responsible for skin smoothness and elasticity. Furthermore, it reduces skin blemishes and acne, helps in treating psoriasis and eczema, and protects the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
10. Keeps the Eyes Healthy
Doctors and health experts say that bitter gourd helps in preventing vision-related problems such as poor eyesight and cataracts. Bitter gourd is filled with vitamin A and beta-carotene that are healthy for the eyes. Moreover, it is a good remedy for treating dark circles as well.
Bitter Gourd for Weight Loss
Since bitter gourd is bitter in taste, it has components that prevent your body from absorbing extra sugar and helps in lowering and maintaining the blood sugar level in your body. Moreover, it increases the number of beta cells in your pancreas that is responsible for secreting insulin your body. When the insulin levels in your body are regulated, the blood sugar levels ultimately decreases. This leads to weight loss. Bitter gourd contains vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, along with good amounts of protein and fiber. All these keep you feeling full throughout the day, preventing you from munching in odd hours. Fiber helps curb hunger and the low amounts of carbohydrates and fats help prevent the buildup of excess fat in the body and ensure that the food you eat is properly digested.
Best Ways to Consume Bitter Gourd
There are plenty of ways using which you can consume bitter gourd. Incorporating bitter gourd in your daily diet is quite easy. You can simply eat bitter gourd raw as a salad, or simply blend it into a tasty beverage, or make bitter gourd tea.
Bitter Gourd Tea
You can make healthy tea out of bitter gourd at home. The recipe is quite easy and you can make it every day.
- Dried or fresh slices of bitter gourd (no seeds): 3-4 slices, bitter gourd leaves also work
- 200 ml water
- Honey or agave syrup – natural sweeteners (optional)
- Take a tea pan, pour some water, and bring it to boil.
- Boil the water on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Put bitter gourd slices and into the boiling water and stir properly so that all the nutrients are immersed into the water.
- Turn off the stove, add honey and let it sit aside for a couple of minutes.
- Use a strainer and filter the content.
- Serve hot
Stir-Fried Bitter Gourd
Bitter gourd fries are the best and tastiest way to consume bitter gourd.
- Olive oil or vegetable oil – 1 tablespoon
- Two sliced bitter gourds – seeds removed
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 finely chopped tomato
- 1 small onion – finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- Pepper powder
- Salt to taste
- Heat up the stove, place a saucepan, and pour oil
- Add finely chopped onion and crushed garlic cloves to the pan
- Stir the mixture until you achieve medium-brown texture
- Now add chopped tomatoes into the pan and stir properly
- After 2-3 minutes of stirring, add sliced bitter gourd to the pan
- Cook until the bitter gourd turns translucent
- Whisk two eggs and pour the mixture into the pan
- Continue to stir until the eggs are cooked
- Turn off the stove and season the content with salt and pepper
- Eat as it is or serve it with noodles or rice
Bitter gourd is an essential dietary element that can help you keep your health intact and free of diseases. Apart from its bitter taste, it is packed with nutrients and essential minerals, which are necessary for your well being. The above two recipes are just a glimpse of how interestingly you can make bitter gourd a part of your healthy diet. You can add more to this list with your delightful ideas as it will add more health and well-being to your life.