Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon or Momordica charantia, is a green-skinned vegetable that belongs to the gourd family and is related to the cucumbers. This plant is a vegetable of many names. In India, it’s called Karela, Ku-gua in China, Nigari in Japan, Ampalaya in the Philippines, and Goya in Okinawa.
With a taste that matches its name, bitter gourd is cultivated globally for its fruits which stand as an essential add-on in different types of Asia cuisine.
Various varieties of bitter gourd exist, but the most common are Ku-Gua (China) and karela (India). Ku-Gua is typically long, looking more like a pale-green cucumber with bumpy skin, while karela is narrow with pointed ends and rough, jagged spikes on the skin.
Though having this rough, jagged appearance with a bitter taste, bitter gourd is still packed with various amazing health benefits. Let’s look at five bitter gourd benefits that’ll leave you amazed at what this bitter vegetable offers.
Notable Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd
· Packed with essential nutrients
Bitter gourd is a natural source of various key nutrients. Some of which include vitamin c (an essential micronutrient that helps in disease prevention, of wounds, and bone formation.), Folate (a nutrient needed for growth and development), as well as little amount of zinc, iron, and potassium.
In addition, the Indian bitter gourd is a good source of Gallic acid, Chlorogenic acid, Catechin, and Epicatechin – all considered powerful antioxidant compounds that protect the cells against damage.
· Bitter gourd and heart health
Bitter gourd is said to benefit the heart in many ways greatly. First, it aids in lowering the rate of bad cholesterol while clearing off any blockage in arteries. Research shows that high cholesterol levels cause fatty plaques to accumulate in your arteries. This blockage compels your heart to work harder to pump blood, increasing your risk of heart disease. By taking some Indian bitter gourd juice, you’ll have a controlled blood sugar level that efficiently pumps the heart.
· Good remedy for weight loss
Since it’s low in calories yet rich in fiber, bitter gourd makes a great addition to a weight-loss diet. Fiber moves through the digestive system slowly, helping you feel much fuller for a long time or period and reducing hunger and appetite. So if you want to shed extra pounds, I’ll advise you to swap all those high-calorie ingredients you’ve been consuming with Indian bitter gourd. Doing so will increase your fiber intake and cut down calories.
· Helps in fighting cancer
Some studies show that bitter melon seeds and fruit extracts help suppress the development of various types of cancer. It’s highly effective at killing various cancer cells in the colon, lung, nasopharynx (area at the back of the throat, i.e., behind the nose), and stomach.
Also, other studies show that bitter melon extract suppresses the growth and spread of breast cancer cells while fostering the death of the cancer cells.
· Can help with diabetes
Bitter gourd has been used for decades by native populations globally to help treat diabetes, all thanks to its powerful medicinal properties. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the cells cannot absorb blood sugar or due to the insufficient insulin produced by the pancreas. The bitter lemon juice comes in handy here as it helps lower blood sugar levels in the body. This boosts and maintains the level of insulin secretion by the pancreas.
Bitter gourd is a fruit with a distinct appearance and flavor that’s not only high in essential nutrients’ but has proven to be beneficial to health. To avoid complications along the line, pregnant women and those on medications (especially sugar-lowering medications) should consult their health care provider before consuming this fruit.