If you’re not familiar with the yellowish-green, cucumber-looking vegetable known as the bitter melon (bitter gourd, Momordica charantia), then you’ve been missing out, my friend.
While bitter melons have been a dietary staple in tropical regions like India, Thailand, Central American and the Caribbean, they’ve only just started to infiltrate the Western palette. And it’s a good thing, too!
Bitter Melon Nutrition Facts
One full, raw pod typically rounds out at only 20 calories/cup (roughly half the melon).
Combined with their densely rich vitamin A, K and C amounts, fiber intake, calcium and potassium, they are as close to guiltless as any food can get.
It is also one of the best alkaline foods and offer you numerous health benefits.
Biter Melon Benefits
With a staggering amount of nutritional benefits enough to make any health-conscious individual being, there quite simply isn’t a reason not to try a bitter melon. Take a look for yourself at all this one vegetable can do.
Bitter Melon And Diabetes
As rates of Type I and Type II diabetes continue to climb, people are turning to natural approaches to help curb glucose levels and improve the health of the all-essential pancreas.
Why the pancreas, you ask? It’s simple. The pancreas is a central organ in your digestive and endocrine systems.
When your body breaks down the sugars in foods, it routinely enters the bloodstream in the form of glucose, a neat little energy source nearly all cells in our body need.
The problem though is if too much glucose builds up in blood. Diabetic symptoms will then begin to ensue, things like fatigue, constant thirst, frequent urination and stomach pain.
Cue the pancreas. One of its main functions is to produce hormones like insulin, which, in turn, takes glucose from the blood and helps convert it into glycogen, an energy compound which is preserved in muscles and the liver.
This is a natural recycling process for your body and keeps things running in homeostasis.
In many ways, bitter melons compliment the pancreas’ insulin regulation. They contain a unique protein compound very similar to that of insulin itself, thus boosting insulin production and naturally lowering blood sugar.
Multiple studies have gleaned bitter melon in nearly any form (raw, tea, or leaves) works in this essential way.
Bitter Melons Work To Reduce Cholesterol
While your body innately needs a certain amount of fat to line nerve cells, produce hormones and store energy, the levels at which we see it in today’s modern diet are simply excessive.
The problems of disproportionate body fat go beyond the number you read on a scale. Internally, fat wreaks havoc on your arteries in the form of bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
These can cause massive buildup in your arteries, the kind that inevitably leads to heart attacks, strokes and inflammation.
Bitter melons have been shown to reduce the inflammatory effects of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, keeping your arteries clear and clean and pumping smoothly.
Bitter Melon Has Impressive Antiviral And Antibacterial Agents
Stemming from a growing list of documented herbal properties, bitter melons routinely display some mean antiviral and antibacterial features.
It has a long history of being used by the indigenous populations in tropical areas to combat a host of illnesses and pathogens, from curtailing fevers to measles and hepatitis.
Externally, it is grounded and added to salves to reduce swelling and prevent wound infection.
All this is due to the vegetable’s potently unique chemical makeup of triterpenes, proteins and steroids.
In particular, what researchers have dubbed the bitter melon’s H and M extracts point toward exciting detoxification and immune-enhancing benefits.
Bitter Melons Fight Free Radicals
Of the increased research being funneled into bitter melon health extracts, some of the most inspiring revolve around possible cancer cures – especially those aligned with free radical damage.
Bitter melon’s cancer-fighting capabilities pack a real punch, starting with their high scores in fighting free radicals.
When too much oxygen builds up or isn’t being regulated and recycled by the cells in your body, they undergo molecular changes that make them unstable and damaging.
Bitter melons, with their antioxidant count, directly latch on to free radical molecules and inhibit their growth – one of the leading theories behind cancer cell’s reproduction.
Bitter Melons Contain Anti-Tumor Agents
Bitter melons go one step further with their ability to regulate a rogue cell system’s energy sources.
In some truly groundbreaking work, scientists at Colorado’s Cancer Prevention and Control Centre found bitter melons use their rare set of bioactive compounds to activate AMPK, an enzyme located in places like the colon and pancreas.
Once activated, AMPK can target glucose metabolism pathways and restrict their flow, essentially choking of the nutrients cancer cells need to multiply and build tumors.
Similar enzyme activations have also been found in breast cancer studies to inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis. Fancy doctor jargon aside, all in all, it seems bitter melons know how to kick cancer to the curb.
Bitter Melon Boosts Libido
Once you’re done snickering over this one, do read on. After all, foods as aphrodisiacs have been documented to go together nearly as long as humankind itself.
It’s extremely common for men and women alike experience sexual dysfunction as they age. And for as natural as decreased sex drives and blood flows are, it sure isn’t an enjoyable occurrence.
By curbing the problematic blood sugar levels explained above, bitter melons open passageways and make blood flow to sexual organs easier.
This is especially good for men with low testosterone that leads to weak erections, improving erectile tissue and stimulating healthy libido levels.
But don’t worry ladies, bitter guards have you covered as well! Its neuromuscular properties work to better “warm up” your own sexual organs, stimulating pleasure areas and allowing enhanced sensation.
Bitter Melons Hold Promising HIV Treatments
Certain studies have pointed to the seeds of bitter melons as containing a chemical compound strong enough to prevent HIV from infecting human cells.
Though such research is still very much in infancy, they have isolated two specific proteins – MAP 30 and momorcharain – which dramatically reduced the spread of the virus in lab experiments.
The results are positively linked to the same kind of reduction in pancreatic and breast-cancer tumors, where the proteins were able to target problematic areas, induce apoptosis (controlled cell death) and encourage new, healthier and functional cell replacements.
Bitter Melons Are Brimming In Beta Carotenes
You’ve probably heard beta carotenes mentioned in the context of fruit and veggie pigments. Think the radiant orange of carrots or the deep blues and purples of blueberries.
Indeed, it’s a plant’s unique beta carotenes configuration that supplies its coloration.
In bitter melon’s case, each large pod holds twice the beta carotene amount as broccoli, a much more familiar option in the west.
Such a high dose your body needs to convert vitamin A, which then goes on to build glowing skin, healthy vision, mucus membranes, immune system tissue and free radical-fighting antioxidants.
Bitter Melons Break Apart Kidney Stones
Needless to say, kidney stones really, really hurt. Anyone whose had the displeasure of trying to pass one knows the sooner they’re out, the better!
Bitter melons contain organic acid reducers and fiber counts strong enough to literally bust apart a kidney stone. They also help block further stones from developing, even if you have a predisposed history.
But the best part? They can do so with minimal intake. A few ounces of bitter melon powder mixed with warm water or bitter lemon juice cuts straight to the source and will help expedite that pesky pain.
Bitter Melons Can Help You Lose Weight
The exact properties that make it good for blood sugar, calorie counters and the digestive tract all combine to make bitter melons a weight loss staple.
With a fiber dose to keep you full, bitter melons go the extra yard in activating your liver to produce optimal bile secretion.
When the liver is in full-gear, you’re better able to break down fats and metabolize them into energy, all while maintaining proper blood glucose levels.
You get all this – and so much more – from one little vegetable.
See also: Best Fat Burner Pills For Men And Women
Bitter Melon Side Effects
The bitter melon contains very few calories and has a high content of vitamin C. It also contains vitamin A, fiber, folic acid, minerals (potassium, zinc, iron), antioxidants.
Despite the fact that it is healthy, bitter melon should be taken with caution. Especially when you drink bitter melon juice..
If you consume bitter melon in excess you can experience some negative effects. Symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), chest pain may occur.
Diabetics, pregnant women and nursing mothers must consult their doctor before taking bitter melon.
Bitter Melon How To Cook
All parts of this vegetable are bitter. Unripe bitter melons are an extremely good source of vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus and can be eaten fresh or in other dishes.
Dried leaves are edible and are used to make tea. The melon itself can be cooked, baked and fried.
Despite the bitter taste, this vegetable can be prepared in various dishes. Bitter melon dishes require a lot of time for preparation and dedication, but due to the exceptional properties of this plant, they are worth every effort.
Bitter melon is used for dishes while it is green or slightly yellow. The leaves and young stem of the bitter melon are also edible.
In Chinese cuisine, bitter melon is used because of its bitter taste – especially in combination with pork, soups, sushi. Here is my favorite recipe with bitter melon.
Pork With Bitter Melon
2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed, cooked, and cut into 1″ pieces
1 yellow or white onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (or more to taste)
1 tsp olive oil for sautéing
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 (16 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 sliced bitter melons
Shredded Monterey jack or sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Lime wedges and diced onion, for serving
Bring the pork shoulder to a boil in lightly salted water along with half of the diced onion and jalapeno and reduce to a simmer, add half of the oregano and cumin and simmer for 3-4 hours or until the meat is thoroughly cooked and tender.
Cut the meat into 1″ pieces and sauté along with the other half of the onion, bitter melon slices, jalapeno, and spices until browned. Put some black beans and cook until the beans are heated through.
Top with a little shredded cheese and diced onion. Serve hot with lime wedges.
This dish is extremely healthy and easy to prepare and will awaken all your senses.
Bitter Melon Juice
You will not need much time to prepare this juice. After removing the peel, seeds and pulp from the melon, cut the fleshy part into small pieces and then put it in the juicer.
Bitter melon juice is concentrated, and should be diluted with water, in a ratio of 2: 1 in favor of water.
In addition to its healing properties, bitter melon juice is great for weight loss and you can include it in your diet.
Note: Consumption of Bitter melon juice is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women, due to substances that act on uterine contractions and are transferred through milk.
Bitter Melon Tea
To prepare bitter melon tea, you need to remove the leaves, dry it well, and, when the leaves are dry enough, you can prepare this healthy drink.
Bitter melon tea is especially beneficial for stomach problems. It also helps with chronic constipation with its laxative effect.