Bitter melon, otherwise known as balsam pear or bitter gourd, is found to have numerous nutritional as well as health benefits. Read on for some details about the same.
As the name rightly suggests, bitter melons are bitter in taste. In fact, they are considered as the most bitter ones among all fruits. Bitter melon plants (Momordica charantia) are vines that are commonly found to be grown in the tropical regions across the globe. The fruits are almost oblong in shape with a whitish pith studded with seeds. The skin is thin as compared to the pith that may turn reddish as the fruit gets ripe. The edible skin has an outer warty surface. There are many different types of bitter melon that may vary in size and bitterness. Even the shape may vary slightly from one type to another. These fruits are said to have high nutritional value and is also attributed with numerous health benefits.
Bitter Melon Nutritional Value
Apart from being rich in vitamins and minerals, bitter melon contains antioxidants and other beneficial components too. This fruit is rich in iron and its calcium content is said to be twice that of spinach. Even the beta carotene content in bitter melon is double the amount of this nutrient in broccoli. It is also a rich source of potassium, phosphorous, dietary fiber, etc. Let us take a look at the nutritional value of 100 grams of raw bitter melon, which amounts to 17 calories only.
|Dietary fiber||3 g|
|Vitamin A||471 IU|
|Vitamin B3||0.4 mg|
|Vitamin C||84 mg|
The above said is only a brief overview about the nutritional content in bitter melon. These fruits are low in calories and do not contain sugars, fats and cholesterol.
Bitter Melon Health Benefits
With its high nutritional value, bitter melons are definitely good for health. These fruits are also used in the traditional medicine of various regions, like African countries, India, China, Malaysia Philippines, Sri Lanka, etc. The following are some of the so-called health benefits of this vegetable.
- One of the most important health benefits of bitter melon is its blood sugar lowering properties. So, it is said to be best for diabetics. It is said that those with diabetes must consume raw bitter melon juice, on an empty stomach.
- Consumption of bitter melon is also said to be beneficial for those with intestinal parasites. In some regions, this fruit is used as a remedy for certain gastrointestinal conditions and to improve digestion.
- Bitter melon is also believed to have antibacterial and anti viral properties. In some African regions, this fruit is used for prevention and treatment of malaria. It is also used for treating certain skin conditions, like psoriasis.
- It has been suggested by researchers that bitter melon extract may be beneficial in treating certain forms of cancer as well as AIDS. This fruit is also said to be good for improving cardiovascular functions too.
- Bitter melon is also claimed to be useful for cleansing blood, increasing libido, boosting immunity and balancing hormones. Being rich in antioxidants, this fruit is also good for fighting free radicals, thereby preventing diseases.
You may include this fruit in your diet (in moderate amounts) and reap its goodness. Nowadays bitter melon dietary supplements are also available in health stores. If you intend to use such supplements, contact a qualified herbalist for the right dosage. It is not advisable for pregnant and nursing women to use these supplements. Even those with diabetes must take bitter melon supplements only as per the instructions of a herbalist. He must be informed about your current medication as well as medical conditions. Those with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency may develop favism after consuming the seeds of this fruit. Though there is no scientific evidence to prove the health benefits of this vegetable, use of bitter melon fruit in moderate amounts may prove good for health. But, use of its supplements must be under the strict supervision of a herbal practitioner.