Bitter gourd/Kareela Khushk (کریلہ خشک) also known as Bitter Melon, Bitter Squash, Balsam Pear and Momordica Charantia is a young, tender, edible fruit-pod in the Momordica genus of climbing vines. Although its bitter taste might turn some people away from it, in-fact, it really can sweeten your health through virtue of its disease preventing and health promoting phyto chemical compounds.
Bitter melon is one of popular edible pod vegetable in many Asian countries. It is grown widely as a field crop as well as backyard vegetable and, in fact, is among the most bitter tasting of all culinary vegetables.
Health benefits of Bitter gourd:
- Bitter melon is very low in calories, carrying just 17 calories per 100 g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich sources of phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
- Bitter melon notably contains phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. In addition, it composes hypoglycemic agent called charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis inside the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Together, these compounds may have been thought to be responsible for blood sugar levels reduction in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
- Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, carrying about 72 µg/100g (18% of RDA). Vitamin folate when taken by mothers during their early pregnancy time, would help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
- Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100g of raw pod provides 84 mg or about 140% of RDI). Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural antioxidants which helps scavenge deleterious free radicals from the human body.
- Further, it is an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. It also contains a good amount of vitamin-A. Together, these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
- Bitter melon stimulates easy digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel until it is excreted from the body. Thus, it helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
- In addition, it is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
- Early laboratory tests suggest that certain phytochemical compounds in bitter melon might be effective in the treatment of HIV infection.
Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Bitter melon is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken during pregnancy. Certain chemicals in bitter melon fruit, juice, and seeds can start menstrual bleeding and have caused abortion. Not enough is known about the safety of using bitter melon during breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: Bitter melon can lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and take medications to lower your blood sugar, adding bitter melon might make your blood sugar drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar carefully.