Bitter melon is a vine that progressively becomes bitterer as it ripens. It is also known as bitter gourd or Momordica charantia.
Bitter melon is a member of the gourd family together with pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, and squash. Due to its edible fruits, bitter gourd is cultivated in many parts of the world including East Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia.
It has been used to manage very many medical problems. May researchers believe that it can be used in treating diabetes as it has been associated with lowering blood sugar levels. Additionally, bitter melon is packed with a variety of nutrients that gives it the health benefits it has.
This article will take a look at some of the amazing health benefits of bitter melon.
1. Bitter Melon Provides the Body With Lots of Nutrients
Several studies have shown bitter melon to contain lots of important nutrients. According to the database in the FoodData Central of the United States Department of Agriculture, 94 g or one cup of bitter melon contains the following nutrients:
20 calories, 4 g of carbs, 2 g of fiber, 93% of the daily recommended value (DRV) for vitamin C, 44% of the DRV for vitamin A, 17% of the DRV for folate, 8% of the DRV for potassium, 5% of the DRV for zinc, and 4% of the DRV for iron.
Some studies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information have shown that the abundant micronutrient in bitter melon, that is vitamin C, is important in disease prevention, supports bone formation, and promotes wound healing. Similarly, bitter melon may help promote skin health and support good vision as it contains vitamin A which is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Additionally, folate in this vine has been linked to support growth and development. What’s more, bitter melon provides powerful antioxidant compounds that have the potential to cushion body cells from oxidative damage. These antioxidants include gallic acid, catechin, and chlorogenic acid.
2. May Help Reduce Blood Sugar
Bitter melon has powerful medicinal properties that have been utilized in various ways, treating diabetes included. Blood sugar control property is more embedded in the fruits of bitter melon than any other part.
One study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information investigated 24 diabetic adults for 3 months by giving them 2,000 mg of bitter melon per day. By the end of the study period, their blood sugar levels and levels of hemoglobin A1c were significantly reduced. Hemoglobin A1c is used as a testing parameter to measure blood sugar control over 90 days.
Another study also yielded the same results when 40 diabetic individuals taking 2,000 mg of bitter melon daily for 28 days had their blood sugar levels reduced. In this study, it was also observed that bitter melon reduced fructosamine which is another determinant of chronic blood sugar control.
Bitter melon is thought to work by improving the consumption of sugar within your tissues and stimulate the secretion of insulin, which is the hormone responsible for the regulation of blood sugar levels.
These studies are limited in humans and are thus not easy to draw a conclusion whether bitter melon can effective in treating diabetes. Therefore, intense and high-quality studies need to be carried out in the general population.
3. May Help Fight and Protect From Cancer
Researchers postulate that some compounds in bitter melon have cancer-fighting properties. One test-tube study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that extracts of bitter melon effectively helped at killing cancer cells of the colon, stomach, nasopharynx, and lung.
The same body of research realized similar findings in another test-tube study. Researchers found that extracts of bitter melon had the potential to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells in the breast whiles also promoting apoptosis (programmed cell death).
4. Can Help Lower Cholesterol Levels
Accumulation of cholesterol can be fatal as it can form fatty plaques along your arteries, narrowing the pathway of blood. This forces your heart to work extra harder to pump blood thus increasing your likelihood of developing heart disease.
Current studies have shown that cholesterol levels may be decreased with bitter melon thus supporting heart health.
Researchers at the National Center of Biotechnology Information researched with rats on high cholesterol diet. They observed that the levels of total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides were reduced significantly with the administration of bitter melon extracts.
It is worth noting that these studies are mostly limited to animals where larger doses of bitter melon were used to achieve the results. Therefore, more studies need to be done particularly in humans to determine whether consumption of bitter gourd can lower cholesterol levels.
5. May Promote Weight Loss
According to the database in USDA’s FoodData Central, 94 g of bitter gourd contains approximately 2 g of fiber. This makes bitter melon a perfect combination to a weight loss diet since it has fewer calories but is high in fiber.
Several studies have shown that fiber passes through your alimentary canal slowly. This promotes and maintains the feeling of fullness for long while reducing appetite. Therefore, if you want to take your weight loss program to another level, you may need to swap high-calorie foods with bitter gourd. That way, you will increase your fiber intake and reduce calorie intake.
One study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that consuming 4.8 g of bitter melon extracts resulted in a decent decrease in belly fat. By the end of the 7-week study, participants lost an average of 1.3 cm of fat from their waist circumference.
Bitter melon is a vine that is grown in many parts of the world including Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean, and India. It is also referred to as bitter gourd or Momordica charantia. Bitter melon provides many important nutrients and powerful plant compounds. Similarly, it contains several antioxidants which help in protecting the body from damages of oxidative stress. Health benefits of bitter melon include lowering blood cholesterol levels, promoting weight loss, and fighting cancer just to mention.