Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon or bitter squash, is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. Many people do not find this very palatable as it is known for its extremely bitter taste. But skipping this fruit because of this reason will be a loss as you will be missing out on some of its great health benefits.
What are these health benefits, you ask? Well, that is a great question we will explore in this article.
Science-Backed Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd
1. It's Loaded With Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Bitter gourd is a great source of many essential vitamins and minerals.
It is a very rich source of vitamin C and vitamin A. It also contains vitamin B complex and vitamin E. Other essential components like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and folate are also abundantly present. On top of that, it's a great source of fiber; making it a great food option. But, why does this even matter? Well...
- Vitamin C plays a very important role in maintaining our immune system, wound healing, collagen formation, protection from neurodegenerative diseases, etc.
- Vitamin A maintains our eyesight and bone health,
- Vitamin B complex is involved in many bodily functions as well, including maintaining our nervous system.
2. It May Help You Maintain Your Sugar Levels
Studies have shown that bitter gourd has hypoglycemic effects. Certain properties of bitter gourd, like charantin, vicin, glycosides, karavilosides, lectin, and the polypeptide-P (AKA p-insulin, an insulin-like protein derived from plant), are responsible for the hypoglycemic effect of bitter gourd.
These properties work by increasing the glucose uptake of the cells, inhibiting the enzymes involved in gluconeogenesis (glucose formation), preserving the cells that produce insulin (beta-islet cells), and stimulation of insulin secretion.
If you are a diabetic, especially if you have uncontrolled diabetes, it might be a good idea to add bitter gourd in your regular diet. Although, you should make sure you don't overdo it especially if you are on insulin or other oral hypoglycemic drugs. Hypoglycemia resulting from the combined action of medications and too much bitter gourd juice can be harmful.
Juicing 1 bitter gourd per day, in general, should be sufficient and safe.
3. It Provides Protection to Your Heart
Another great benefit of bitter gourd is that it is cardioprotective in nature. A study conducted in 2018 in Japan suggests that bitter gourd effectively reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol. Yet another study from 2015 shows that it also reduces serum triglycerides (TG), while increases the levels of HDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol and TG are the cholesterol that is responsible for the formation of atherosclerosis, which eventually leads to heart diseases. They are the "bad cholesterols".
On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is the "good cholesterol", that prevents the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in our system. By reducing the harmful cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol, bitter gourd provides long-term protection to your heart when consumed regularly.
4. It's a Powerful Antioxidant
Vitamin A, C, E, phenolics, and flavonoid content of bitter gourd makes it an excellent antioxidant.
Antioxidants neutralize free-radicals and therefore protect us from its harmful effects. These antioxidants give bitter gourd anti-inflammatory action.
They are proven to have a good anti-cancerous effect on tumor cells. They induce spontaneous cell death of cancer cells by inducing DNA destruction of the tumor.
In addition to having antioxidant effects, it also has antibacterial and antiviral effects.
5. Great for Your Skin
Collagen gives the elasticity to our skin and keeps our skin wrinkle-free. Consumption of food rich in vitamin C will help you maintain youthful skin for the longest.
Free-radicals are one major cause of premature aging, and since bitter gourd is an antioxidant, it provides protection from the inflammatory effect of free-radicals on your skin.
Vitamin C and collagen also play a very important role in wound healing. A diet rich in vitamin C makes your body better at healing itself.
6. Improves Liver Function
Bitter gourd has some protective action for the liver as well.
The antioxidant property of bitter gourd prevents inflammation in the liver. One study suggested that it even helps maintain liver enzymes (ALT, AST, ALP), and prevents necrosis and other damages in the liver.
A 2014 study shows that bitter gourd is even protective against alcoholic fatty liver. Although this study was done in mice, and more studies may be needed to see how effective it will be in humans. But it sure seems promising.
7. Aids in Weight Loss
Bitter gourd is a good source of fiber. These fibers are great for weight loss as well. Fibers are digested slowly in our system, therefore keeps you full for a longer duration.
Some animal-based study shows that they even reduce weight in high-fat diet-induced obesity. It prevents weight gain by increasing fat break-down. This way it promotes weight loss.
So, if you are trying to lose weight, this is a great addition.
Possible Side-Effects of Bitter Gourd Juice
Bitter gourd is a pretty safe fruit.
But excess consumption is linked with stomach pain, heartburns, vomiting, and diarrhea. Gastric ulceration is also a potential risk on too much consumption of bitter gourd juice.
Pregnant women should avoid too much consumption of bitter gourd, as it may induce contractions, vaginal bleed, and abortion.
Also, if you are trying to conceive, avoid drinking too much of bitter gourd juice. It has a component called momorcharin which has anti-fertility action and is also responsible for mid-term abortion in pregnant women. This study was conducted in rabbits, and we don't know whether humans will have the same effect, but it's better safe than sorry until proven otherwise.
How to Prepare Bitter Gourd Juice
Bitter gourd juice can be very easily prepared at home.
Wash the bitter gourd, cut it into two halves, and remove the seeds. Further, chop the fruit into smaller pieces for better processing.
If you have a juicer, go ahead and use that. Simply put the fruit from one end, maybe use a little water, and you'll get freshly processed bitter gourd juice from the other end. Though, you may not get a lot of fibers when the juice is prepared using a juicer.
if you don't own a juicer, you can use your blender. Blend the chopped bitter gourd with some water till you are left with a smooth paste. Then strain this blend to remove larger chunks, and voila, your juice is ready.
Most people will find this juice a bit difficult to drink. It is, as the name suggests, bitter! So, if you can drink this juice as it is then great, but if not, you can use a few things that might be available in your kitchen easily to tackle the bitterness.
You can mix some salt, honey, or artificial sweetener of your choice in the drink. You can also add some lemon juice, or mix any other fruit juice of your choice with some natural sweetness in it. This should help it make a little bit more palatable.
Although not for the faint of heart, bitter gourd has some amazing health benefits that you should not miss on.
It's quite safe to use, and easy to prepare at home.
You may need to take a little bit of precaution if you are a diabetic under medication, pregnant or trying to conceive. But its generally safe at moderate doses. Juice from one bitter gourd per day is more than enough. So try it, add your sweetener of choice and reap the rewards.