Bitter Melon

The Bitter Melon or the bitter gourd as it is more commonly known as is a tropical and subtropical vine from the Cucurbitaceae family. It is widely grown in Asia, Africa, and The Caribbean. The fruit which is the main edible part is bitter in taste and the varieties can differ according to shape and the bitterness. It is believed to have originated in India and introduced in China in the 14th century.

Due to its bitter taste, the fruit was not so popular around the world but it has excellent medicinal qualities which have made people realize the importance of it. Moreover, the bitter melon fruit is a prime dish in southern parts of India and cooked as the main ingredient along with other items and herbs.  The plant grows up to 5m or 16ft in length and individual plants have their separate yellow male and female flowers. The flowers grow mainly from June to July and the fruiting happens during September & November.

Shape & Size

The shape varies as per the taste. The plant grown in China is 20-30cm  long and has an oblong shape with blunt ends and a pale green color giving a wavy shade. The skin is warty and uneven. The Indian variety differs slightly with a dark green color and a much narrower shape with pointed edges and the other varieties found in the subcontinent differ slightly between these two. A very tasty dish when fried and cooked with herbs, it gives a bitter taste with the crackling effect of the herbs.

Scientific Name

Momordica charantia

Nutrient  Contents

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.2 g 0%
Saturated fat 0 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 13 mg 0%
Potassium 602 mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 7 g 2%
Dietary fibre 1.9 g 7%
Sugar 1 g
Protein 3.6 g 7%

 

Vitamin A 48% Vitamin C 92%
Calcium 4% Iron 5%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 40%
Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 23%

Health benefits

Children are sometimes tricked to consume this veggie due to it’s medicinal and health importance. The medicinal use of Bitter melon has been there from the last 600 years and till now researchers are finding traces of its benefits for various medical uses.

Strengthens Immunity!

  • The veggie is rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants. A 100 gram serving of the vegetable has 80 milligrams of Vitamin C
  • It stimulates the immune system giving it the strength to fight against problems like common cold and flu
  • The antioxidants form a stout wall of protection against strong viruses
  • They attack the free radicals and other toxins which causes ailments

Relief from Hemorrhoid/piles!

  • Piles is a condition which causes extreme pain and irritation on a daily basis and it becomes very difficult for people to get rid of it. Bitter Melon has excellent anti-inflammatory attributes which help to cure it
  • A paste of this food, when applied on the swollen tissue, alleviates pain and stops bleeding
  • Used to treat sore skin conditions by making a paste

 Vision Sharpener!

  • This vegetable contains eye health-promoting flavonoids like the alpha Carotene, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. When compounded, they improve the sight and night vision and also reduces the chances of macular degeneration
  • They also fight numerous oxidizing agents, thus fighting the effects of early aging

Antihistaminic & antiviral!

Histamine is a nitrogenous organic compound in our body which activates when it feels there is some threat to the immune system even if there isn’t. It can take any possible way to remove the threat accordingly.

Therefore when we have allergies, the harmless triggers like pollen and dust are thrown out of our body by the histamine which causes excess sneezing and irritation in our nose which also increases the blood flow in the allergen affected area causing inflammation.

  • Bitter melon contains antihistamine and antiviral properties which tame the allergy symptoms and stops the histamine from getting released thus stopping inflammation
  • Due to these properties, it brings relief to those with Asthma and bronchitis and let them have a sound sleep

Antibacterial & antifungal!

  • The vegetable contains Antibacterial and antifungal compounds which help fight different skin conditions and diseases
  • For centuries Chinese medicines and Ayurveda practices have included Bitter Melon as an effective ingredient for treating skin problems like ringworm, scabies, and psoriasis
  • The extracted juice and the paste works wonder in affected skin

Inhibits Carcinogens!

  • The free radicals created in our body destroys healthy cells which can cause dreaded problems like cancer
  • The rich amount of antioxidants present fights those free radicals
  • Bitter melon also contains anti-tumor and anti-carcinogenic properties which have shown a tremendous effect against cancer and can be a better alternative for painful chemotherapies

Treat HIV & Herpes

  • The phytochemical properties of the veggie help to stop the activities of HIV and assists in AIDS treatment
  • Its antiviral properties help to treat and prevent the herpes virus

Improves Bone Density!

  • The abundance of Vitamin K present in the vegetable regulates blood clotting and assists calcium to maintain the bone density thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis
  • Lack of Vitamin K makes the bone fragile and can cause fracture. It also causes abnormal blood clotting

Fewer Calories!

  • Bitter melon is very low in calories with about 17 calories per 100 gram and rich in Dietary fibres and Vitamins making it a super waist-friendly food
  • It adds fewer calories to your body and gives important nutrients which helps in the proper metabolism of the digestive system and peristaltic movement of food wastage

Treats Type2 diabetes!

  • This vegetable contains three antidiabetic matter namely the charantine, vicine, and the polypeptide-p.
  • These when compounded help to regulate the blood sugar levels something like insulin does
  • It also contains lectin which reduces blood sugar levels by suppressing appetite

Interesting facts

  • You might be wondering why does this food taste so bitter. The bitterness is actually the plants own natural defense mechanism from pests!
  • The juice of the bitter melon is an effective blood purifier
  • The leaves of the plant are very effective in the treatment of alcoholism

During Pregnancy!

Bitter melon is an excellent food with high quality medicinal values . But something so good is also harmful in many situations and one of them is a prime and special time of a woman that is during pregnancy.

The veggie contains a wholesome amount of nutrient for the growth of the fetus but certain chemicals in Bitter Melon infuse abnormal menstrual bleeding and even the side effects are not known during breastfeeding! So it’s better to avoid the urge to have a bitter and spicy dish during pregnancy.

Other names

  • African Cucumber
  • Ampalaya
  • Balsam Pear
  • Bitter Apple
  • Bitter Gourd
  • Carilla Fruit
  • Carilla Gourd
  • Melon Amer
  • Karela
  • Margose
  • Paroka
  • Wild Cucumber

Culinary uses

The bitter taste of the food does not make it a very popular choice when it comes to having something lip-smacking but due to its excellent medicinal qualities, people feel the need to incorporate it in their daily diet!

So people used their creativity and tried to pacify the angry bitter taste as much with the magic of herbs and other condiments.

  • Used as snacks and appetizers.
  • The Indians and the Chinese use it as a snack by stir frying it.
  • Best tasted when sautéed with onions, Tomatoes, and other spices.
  • The oblong shaped outer cover is sometimes stuffed with paste mixture of the inner of the fruit and different spices and herbs.
  • Boiled and used in soups for getting most of its health benefits especially in the Indian Subcontinent
  • Bitter melon curry is a very popular south Indian cuisine

References

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