These are not the kind of melons you want to pick and eat straight from the vine, but this is exactly the kind of plant you want to incorporate into your diet. Although “bitter” doesn’t sound terribly appetizing, there is a myriad of health benefits.
Health Benefits: Where Does Bitter Melon Come From?
Bitter melon, or Momordica charantia, is also known as bitter gourd and balsam pear. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes:
Bitter melon is a tender pod vegetable that’s grown as a field crop and a backyard crop in many Asian countries. A tropical, fast-growing vine, it is said to have originated from parts of Southeast Asia. This gourd is native to Southern China, but it is widely cultivated in certain subtropical regions around the world, such as in Africa and South America. The East treats bitter melon primarily as a food, incorporating it into various dishes. In the States, most people simply count as a beautiful, ornamental vine.1
The Bitter Truth
Bitter melon lives up to its name. In fact, it is possibly one of the most bitter-tasting vegetables in the culinary world.
Some people believe that the melon’s bitterness comes from its high concentration of quinine, though this hasn’t been proven.2
Why would anyone want to cook with something so bitter? Believe it or not, bitter melon can be incorporated into delicious dishes. The keyword is “cooking.” Eventually, your taste buds may get used to the bitterness. You’ll find this melon stuffed with various meats, and cooked with ingredients that have strong flavors. This helps to neutralize the bitterness of the gourd.
If you want to cook with bitter melon, it might be best to start with the young ones, which are milder when it comes to the sharp taste. The older the vegetable, the more bitter it is because its bitter level intensifies as the pods mature.3
Note: Never make changes to your diet without first consulting with your doctor. This is especially true of pregnant women and those who have or have had a medical condition. Bitter melon has been shown to have adverse effects on pregnancy.4 If you are pregnant or nursing stay clear unless told otherwise by a medical professional.
Health Benefits Of Bitter Melon?
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to add bitter melon to your routine, here’s what you should know about its potential health benefits.
Bitter melon is packed with at least 32 active chemicals. It is also loaded with vitamins. It is a nutritionally-packed, powerhouse vegetable that is rich in iron.
It has twice the amount of beta-carotene in broccoli, twice the amount of potassium in bananas, and twice the amount of calcium in spinach. In addition, bitter melon is rich in fiber, phosphorous, minerals, and antioxidants.5
Is it any wonder that our bodies may benefit in numerous ways from bitter melon extract?
Ask your doctor if bitter melon will be of any benefit to your health. Here are some of the most notable potential benefits of this plant.
Supports Regular Digestion
Bitter melon is rich in dietary fiber, which can help support normal bowel movements. In addition, it may help with digestive issues. So if you have sluggish digestion, this melon might prove helpful.6
Supports Immune Function
Bitter melon also contains high concentrations of vitamin C, a nutrient that may support immunity. Vitamin C plays an important role in helping to keep your body healthy.7
Supports Healthy Skin
We’ve already established that bitter melon is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can support immunity. However, vitamin C may also work to help the skin fight off cell damage caused by free radicals.
Research suggests that bitter melon may also aid your body’s natural skin repair process.8
May Assist In Weight Loss
Bitter melon may support a healthy metabolism, which in turn may facilitate weight loss.9
Tips To Putting This Melon To Use
1. You want to find the purest bitter melon you can. So, make sure you find a healthy, ripe, green fruit. Double-check to make sure the fruit is not bruised and that it hasn’t cracked anywhere. Furthermore, you want to keep the bitter melon stored in a cool, dry place – refrigeration is best. You can keep your bitter melon for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, but once spots appear, make sure you discard it.
2. When you purchase the entire bitter melon pod, the tastiest way to prepare it is to create a stir-fry using a wok or skillet. Try adding flavorful Gundry-approved vegetables, like sweet potatoes, fresh garlic, and onion, along with wild-caught shrimp or salmon. Not only will this mask the strength of the smell and taste, but it will also be a great source of protein and other much-needed nutrients.
3. You can also make a simple dish of bitter melon and omega 3 eggs. It’s a lectin-free take on a traditional Chinese recipe and a really easy, tasty way to prepare the bitter melon. Now, several recipes do tend to hide its flavor, but this dish is perfect for people who have gotten accustomed to the taste and even come to enjoy it.
- Simply cut the bitter melon in half (the long way) and then scoop out the seeds. Then you can continue to slice the melon thinly. Heat some coconut or olive oil in a wok, and stir fry fresh garlic until it grows fragrant.
- Next, add the slices of bitter melon, and stir fry on high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. The melon will be slightly translucent. Finally, beat 2 omega 3 eggs and pour them over the stir-fried slices. Continue to cook until the egg is done. Season with salt and pepper.
Again, never make changes to your diet without first talking to your doctor. They will be able to tell you whether or not bitter melon is safe for you to try.
What About Bitter Melon Extract?
Bitter melon extract may be a more convenient way to get some of the same benefits. The extract is available as a liquid or in the form of a capsule.
The liquid form comes with a dropper and can be added to sugar-free drinks or recipes – you can even take the liquid directly if you can handle the taste.
When you’re looking to purchase pure bitter melon extract in capsule form, do your best to find a certified organic extract. You’ll also want to make sure it is non-GMO, synthetic additive-free, and gluten-free.
Another great way to benefit from bitter melon extract is to look for health-boosting formulas that contain the extract(there are even some featured right here on this site).
The Not-So-Bitter End
The benefits of this bitter little melon and its extract, known for centuries throughout Asia, are now becoming widely accepted in the Western world. If approved by your doctor, this “beauty gourd” can be undeniably beneficial for supporting your good health.
1 Health Benefits | National Bitter Melon Council. Bittermelonorg. 2016. Available at: http://bittermelon.org/heal/healthbenefits. Accessed October 18, 2016.
2 Health Benefits | National Bitter Melon Council. Bittermelonorg. 2016. Available at: http://bittermelon.org/heal/healthbenefits. Accessed October 18, 2016.
3 Rudrappa U. Bitter gourd (Bitter melon) nutrition facts and health benefits. Nutrition And Youcom. 2016. Available at: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/bitter-gourd.html. Accessed October 18, 2016.
5 Health Benefits | National Bitter Melon Council. Bittermelonorg. 2016. Available at: http://bittermelon.org/heal/healthbenefits. Accessed October 18, 2016.
6 Dandawate P, Subramaniam D, Padhye S, Anant S. Bitter melon: a panacea for inflammation and cancer. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines. 2016;14(2):81-100. doi:10.1016/s1875-5364(16)60002-x.
7 Wu SNg L. Antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of wild bitter melon (Momordica charantia Linn. var. abbreviata Ser.) in Taiwan. LWT – Food Science and Technology. 2008;41(2):323-330. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2007.03.003.
8 Maheshwari R. DIETETIC COROLLARY OF MOMORDICA CHARANTIA FOR VIVACIOUSNESS AND SANGUINITY. I J PRBS. 2014;3(2):141-154.
9 Alam M, Uddin R, Subhan N, Rahman M, Jain P, Reza H. Beneficial Role of Bitter Melon Supplementation in Obesity and Related Complications in Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Lipids. 2015;2015:1-18. doi:10.1155/2015/496169.