Bitter melon, balsam pear, or most commonly known as bitter gourd, is a unique fruit-vegetable combination. People worldwide consume this edible pod that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. The same family also includes cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelon, squash, and more. It is considered the most bitter-tasting amongst all culinary vegetables and fruits.
While people condemn bitter gourd for its bitter taste, it truly can sweeten our well-being. It is due to the virtue of its health-promoting and disease-preventing phytochemical compounds. Bitter gourd is also beneficial for patients suffering from intestinal and stomach problems, diabetes, and more.
Types of Bitter Gourd
People in tropical parts of the world like Asia, South America and Africa cultivate bitter gourd. However, it is highly treasured in India and China specifically. It is 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. On the other hand, the Chinese type is typically long and covered with wart-like bumps. If you aren’t aware of the magical benefits bitter gourd offers, check out the helpful information about these pods in the following sections.
Bitter Gourd: Nutritional Value
100 grams of raw bitter gourd contains:
- Calories – 16
- Dietary Fiber – 2.6 g
- Carbohydrates – 3.4 g
- Fats – 158 mg
- Water – 87.4 g
- Protein – 930 mg
Proven Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd (Bitter Melon)
Several clinical studies evaluate the efficiency of bitter gourd for human health. The majority of these studies reveal that consuming bitter gourd is beneficial for human health.
Most of us aren’t very fond of bitter gourd due to its bitter taste. However, once aware of the plentiful health benefits, you will probably change your mind.
Bitter Gourd for Weight Loss
Since bitter gourd is bitter, it has components that prevent your body from absorbing extra sugar. Therefore, it helps lower and maintain blood sugar levels in your body. Moreover, it increases the number of beta cells in your pancreas responsible for secreting insulin in your body. When the insulin levels in your body are regulated, the blood sugar levels ultimately decrease, resulting in weight loss.
Bitter gourd contains vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, and reasonable amounts of protein and fibre. All these keep you feeling full throughout the day, preventing you from munching at odd hours. In addition, fibre helps curb hunger. The low amounts of carbohydrates and fats help prevent excess fat build up in the body and ensure that your food digests properly.
Recent reports suggest that bitter melons enhance the conditions leading to obesity and hyperlipidemia or blood with too many fats.
Bitter Gourd Promotes Good Gut Health
Regular consumption of bitter gourd has a positive impact on gut health. It treats intestinal disorders like constipation and stomach ache. In addition, it 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 fibre count, doctors recommend bitter gourd for maintaining good digestive health.
According to a microbiological study, bitter gourd works on gut microbiota structure or the assemblage of microorganisms.
Bitter Gourd Helps Manage Diabetes
Doctors and nutritionists prescribe bitter gourd to diabetic patients. It is one of the most crucial health benefits of bitter gourd known to all. It contains three active substances with anti-diabetic properties. The active substances (polypeptide-p, vicine, and Charanti) have insulin-like properties and blood glucose-lowering effects.
These compounds work together or individually to help lower blood sugar levels. Moreover, bitter gourd contains a lectin that helps reduce blood glucose concentrations by suppressing appetite and acting on the peripheral tissues.
According to experts, lectin is responsible for triggering the hypoglycemic effect. It 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.
Remember, it works wonders for people with type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin for blood absorption. In the case of type 1 diabetes, you should consult your doctor before consuming it.
Bitter Gourd Boosts 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 the multiplication of the immune cells and white blood cells (WBCs).
It strengthens the immune system and helps in preventing allergies. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C is 98.5 mg, which bitter gourd easily fulfils.
Research to check inflammation responses in mice with sepsis suggests that this plant food provides medical benefits for numerous conditions.
Bitter Melon Purifies Blood and Cleanses Liver
The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of bitter gourd help remove toxins. As per studies, it can help wipe out all kinds of intoxication settled in your liver. Thus, bitter gourd heals many liver problems and 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 alcohol intoxication, thereby making you feel active.
Bitter Melon Protects against Cancer
Free radicals are the primary cause of cancer. In addition, they can affect the way our body functions. Thus, keeping your body free of free radicals is essential. Free radicals are a by-product of our metabolism. Their count increases with smoking, pollution, and stress.
Bitter gourd contains lycopene, lignans, carotenoids, and reasonable amounts of vitamin A, zeaxanthin, and lutein. In addition, it includes primary antioxidants and nutrients. All these help fight free radicals. As a result, it ultimately reduces the formation of tumours in your body.
According to a study, bitter melon has anti-carcinogen and anti-tumour properties, which prevent prostate, breast and cervical cancers.
Bitter Melon Regulates Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels may result in fatty plaque buildup in the arteries. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood. As a result, the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases.
Several studies suggest that bitter gourd may reduce “bad” cholesterol levels and regulate “good” cholesterol to support overall health. In addition, bitter gourd is a good source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, positively affecting the heart.
Bitter Gourd Helps Treat Obesity
Bitter gourd qualifies as a weight-loss food due to its basic yet remarkable nutrient profile. For example, 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 fibre. Thus, it ensures that you feel satiated without adding extra pounds to your weight.
The nutrients help boost the overall metabolism, and the fibre content keeps you full for hours. Thus, it aids in healthy digestion and avoiding binging on junk and unhealthy snacks. The best way to consume bitter gourd for obesity is by drinking raw juice.
It also checks blood sugar levels which are necessary for managing weight. Finally, it activates insulin to prevent the storage of sugar as fat.
Bitter Melon Adds Lustre and Shine to Hair
Bitter gourd promotes hair growth and supports hair health. Components like protein, zinc, and vitamin C in the bitter gourd help keep hair healthy and strong. Applying bitter gourd juice to the hair can help you retain its sheen and lustre. In addition, it ensures that the hair roots strengthen and problems like split ends and hair fall are eliminated. It also treats hair greying, roughness, dandruff, and itchiness.
Bitter Melon Beautifies the Skin
Vitamin C plays a vital role in keeping the skin wrinkle-free and preventing premature ageing. As we know, bitter gourd is a rich source of vitamin C content. It also has other nutrients that aid collagen production, responsible for skin smoothness and elasticity. Furthermore, it reduces skin blemishes and acne, helps treat psoriasis and eczema. In addition, it protects the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Research proves that bitter melon is essential for treating photo-oxidative damage or skin wrinkling and melanogenesis (melanin production). And melanin determines your hair colour.
Bitter Melon Keeps the Eyes Healthy
Doctors and health experts say that bitter gourd helps prevent vision-related problems such as poor eyesight and cataracts. Bitter gourd is rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, healthy for the eyes. Moreover, it is a good remedy for treating dark circles as well.
Bitter Melon Heals Wounds
One of the most commonly known properties of bitter melon is healing wounds. It accelerates the production of growth factors in the affected area. In addition, It induces proliferation, which plays a critical role in wound healing.
Bitter melon also increases the oxygenation of the wound by accelerating capillary circulation. In addition, its antioxidant and antimicrobial effects enable the wounds to contract and close. It also speeds up the epithelialisation process, covering the denuded epithelial surface and the tension of the injury.
Bitter Melon Energises the Body
Regular consumption of bitter gourd in the diet boosts the body’s stamina and energy levels. In addition, it improves sleep quality and eliminates sleep-related disorders like insomnia.
Bitter Melon Clears Kidney Stones Naturally
Kidney stones are excruciating to pass. They are hardened formations of calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate. Including bitter gourd in the diet helps them break down naturally. It also avoids the production of kidney stones by reducing the high acid content. It improves cardiac health too.
Best Ways to Consume Bitter Gourd (Bitter Melon)
There are plenty of ways using which you can consume bitter gourd. Incorporating bitter gourd into your daily diet is effortless. You can simply eat bitter gourd raw as a salad, 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 relatively easy, and you can make it every day.
- Dried or fresh slices of bitter gourd (no seeds): 3-4 slices (bitter gourd leaves can also work)
- Water: 200ml
- Honey or agave syrup/natural sweeteners (optional)
- Take a tea pan, pour some water, and bring it to a boil.
- Boil the water on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Put bitter gourd slices into the boiling water and stir properly. It allows all the nutrients to immerse in 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
- One finely chopped tomato
- One small onion – finely chopped
- Two eggs
- Pepper powder: ½ tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Heat 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 a 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: Possible Side Effects and Precautions
When it comes to your health, excess of anything is hazardous. Thus, you should limit the use of bitter gourd to your dietary requirements. It can cause some side effects and even obstruct certain medications’ effectiveness.
Diarrhoea, vomiting, and other intestinal issues:
Bitter gourd can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and other intestinal issues due to its toxicity. According to studies, excess bitter gourd juice can become toxic.
Vaginal Bleeding, contractions, and abortion:
During the early months of pregnancy, women should refrain from consuming bitter gourd. It may trigger contractions, vaginal bleeding, which can lead to abortion.
Lowering of blood sugar if taken with insulin:
Bitter melon acts like natural insulin. If you take it with insulin, it becomes excessive. The cells use this glucose and move it to your liver.
Our liver is the main organ for regulating homeostasis or stability. Monorcharins, one of the bitter gourds’ components, causes liver toxicity if consumed in high quantities.
Favism breaks red blood cells in the body. It may further lead to anaemia, fever, stomach pain, and coma. Someone with G6PD (a type of glucose) deficiency may develop favism after eating bitter gourd seeds.
Altering drug effectiveness:
When your medications are ongoing, and you eat bitter gourd, it may affect drug effectiveness.
Blood sugar control:
If a patient has surpassed a recent surgery, they should not have bitter gourds. It may cause problems with blood sugar control.
Hence, be aware before eating healthy to maintain your nutritional standards.
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 rich in nutrients and essential minerals 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the health benefits of the bitter gourd?
A. Bitter gourd is rich in calories, carbs, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, potassium, zinc, and iron. As a result, it helps reduce blood sugar levels, decrease cholesterol levels, and even fight cancer.
Q. Who should not eat bitter gourd?
A. You should not eat bitter gourd if you have diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Also, pregnant women should avoid its consumption.
Q. What are the side effects of the bitter gourd?
A. It may cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and other intestinal issues. In addition, it might lead to vaginal bleeding, contractions, and abortion in women.
Q. Can bitter gourd be eaten daily?
A. Yes, you can eat bitter gourd daily as it prevents skin ailments like psoriasis and fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. In addition, drinking bitter gourd juice detoxes your body.
Q. Which vitamin is found in bitter gourd?
A. Bitter gourd is full of vitamin C. It is rich in antioxidants as well.
Q. Is bitter gourd bad for kidneys?
A. Bitter gourd removes kidney stones by naturally breaking them down. However, it also reduces high acid content that can worsen the situation.
Q. Is bitter gourd acidic or alkaline?
A. Bitter gourd is neither acidic nor neutral but rather basic.
Q. Can I drink bitter gourd juice daily?
A. You should drink bitter gourd juice daily to maintain blood sugar levels, lowers harmful cholesterol levels, and glowing skin and lustrous hair.
Q. Why should bitter gourd not be eaten at night?
A. Bitter gourd has the least citric juices that can irritate the intestine.
Q. Does bitter gourd cause high blood pressure?
A. No, bitter gourd does not cause high blood pressure. It instead helps in naturally reducing blood pressure.
Q. Is bitter gourd good for acidity?
A. Yes, bitter gourd acts as a digestive stimulant and is helpful in indigestion. It increases saliva production and promotes both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.
Q. Does bitter gourd reduce blood sugar level?
A. Bitter gourd juice immediately lowers the blood sugar level in around 30 minutes.
Q. Can we drink bitter gourd juice daily?
A. You can drink bitter gourd juice daily, but the quantity you consume should be moderate.
Q. Is bitter gourd juice harmful?
A. Bitter gourd juice may be harmful only if it is not processed carefully and following your dietary needs.
Q. Is bitter gourd juice harmful to the kidney?
A. Bitter gourd is not harmful to kidney structure and function unless consumed for a longer duration.