A bitter melon is probably the last veggie you’d think of cooking for that weeknight dinner. But it is a taste well worth acquiring. This knobbly green vegetable, also called the bitter gourd or balsam pear, can be a great source of nutrients that do everything from building stronger bones to improving immunity, and possibly even protecting against cancer. Here’s a lowdown on all its goodness.
If you have a family history of diabetes or have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus, bitter melon can really help. The extract from bitter melon is believed to be structurally similar to animal insulin and can lower blood glucose levels in someone who has type 2 diabetes. In one study, patients who consumed 2000 mg of bitter melon daily saw levels of fructosamine drop significantly, alongside a “modest hypoglycemic effect.” What you must remember, though, is that bitter melon cannot be a substitute for medication you take.
Vitamin A is a nutrient your eyes love. Besides helping prevent the development of cataract or even night blindness, this vitamin promotes good eye health in general. It is needed for normal function of your cornea and conjunctival membranes. A typical serving of bitter melon gives you nearly a third of the vitamin A recommended for your body daily.
Bitter gourd contains high levels of vitamin K, a nutrient essential for building bone.Without it, all that calcium you consume (of which bitter melon is again a good source) will not be worth all that much, because it works in tandem with this vitamin to improve your bone density. You could easily ward off osteoporosis and osteoarthritis if you have enough of this vitamin, and even lower chances of having a fracture. So if you’d like to be a little less “breakable,” help yourself to a generous portion of bitter melon.
Bitter melon is taken as “liver tonic” because of its ability to help digestion, purify blood, and detox your body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, bitter substances like bitter gourd can help remove any excess heat in your body, act as a natural detox, and restore balance. The vitamin K in bitter melon also cuts the risk of bleeding related to liver disease. What is attracting more followers to the vegetable is its role in lowering triglyceride levels in your liver. Animal studies on multiple varieties of bitter melon have found they all impact hepatic triglyceride levels to varying degrees.
Bitter melon also offers hope to those with cancer. The various parts of bitter melon, from seed extracts to the pericarp and placenta, have been used in research against leukemia. These studies have found that the vegetable extracts have the potential to cause apoptosis or cell death of HL60 leukemia cells in humans. Studies exploring the impact of bitter melon extract treatment on breast cancer cells have found that the remedy reduces cell proliferation significantly. The extract also cause apoptotic cell death of these cancerous cells, making it a good alternative therapy to consider alongside medical treatment. Its effectiveness in stimulating apoptosis of pancreatic cancer cells is especially heartening, given the poor prognosis associated with this form of cancer.
Studies have found that bitter melon can cut the accumulation of tissue fat in your body.This is a result of bitter melon’s ability to stimulate the breakdown of lipids or fats, while also inhibiting fatty acid or triglyceride synthesis, making it a good choice for someone on a weight-loss plan. If you are counting calories and trying to stay fit, there’s more. Because the bitter melon isn’t very calorific, you will be able to get in vitamins A, C, K, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium without consuming too many calories.
Bitter gourd also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. The phenolic compounds gallic acid, catechin, and caffeic acid in bitter melon are powerful antioxidants, making a serving of the vegetable immensely beneficial for your immunity.15 For those with diabetes, animal studies indicate that it might even help normalize antioxidant status that is otherwise impaired. As one study found, the intake of this gourd can help induce systemic and intestinal anti-inflammatory responses.