Awesome Health Benefits of Bitter Gourds
Most of us have an innate dislike for bitter gourds and tend to not including them in our diet. This is owing to their unpalatable taste and pungent smell. However as implicative as their name bitter gourds are the most bitter vegetables on earth. Yet do you know that these unpleasant tasting gourds are an excellent health source complete with an array of healthy nutrients are after all not bitter for health and offer innumerable benefits?
Bitter Gourds- What are they?
Belonging to the same Curcurbitcaceae family as cucumbers, melons and squashes, bitter gourds grow in the tropical and subtropical regions of South East, Asia, Carribean and Amazon. Hence, they are often referred to as either bitter gourds or bitter melons. Scientifically known as Momordica Charantia they are also known as Karela, Balsam Apple, Balsam Pear, Papailla, Sorci, Sorossiand Peria in other parts of the world. These grow on climbing vines with heart shaped leaves bearing male and yellow coloured flowers separately.
Bitter Gourds’ Nutritional Profile
|Bitter gourd or Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), fresh, raw, Nutritive value per 100 gm. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.17 g||0.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.80 g||7%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.212 mg||4%|
|Vitamin A||471 IU||16%|
|Vitamin C||84 mg||140%|
Profuse with an array of healthy nutrients bitter gourds contain loads of iron, with two times excessive betacarotene amounts of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and two times more potassium than bananas. They also consist ample quantities of dietary fibre phosphorus, A, B1 to B3 and C vitamins. Besides these, they host thirty two active components such as GABA, citrulline, beta-sitosterol-d-glucoside, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin. There are also some undocumented claims attributing their extreme bitter taste to high concentrations of quinine, an amazing antidote for malaria.
Health Benefits of Bitter Gourds
For centuries, these gourds, have been one of the most important substances used in folk medicines to treat a plethora of ailments both in the ancient Chinese and Indian alternative system of Ayurvedic medicine. Although most parts of the plants were utilised as medicine, the most widely used were the fleshy gourds, consumed raw or as juice extracts and their powdered seeds. They are also taken as capsules available commercially.
1. Anti Diabetic Effects
A mixture of steroidal saponins called charantin, a unique phyto constituent, that exist in the gourd provides hypoglycemic effect. Another constituent akin to insulin known as polypeptide-P, -a plant insulin- enacts the role as an insulin replacement therapy for diabetics improving glucose tolerance to a great extent. Moreover, a glycolic alkaloid substance called vicine, along with a number of phytochemicals like steroid, protein, triterpene, certain phenolics substances and inorganic lipids provide anti diabetic properties inhibiting sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels due to effective stimulation of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas.
2. Anti hyperlipidemic activity
The flavonoids in the gourd offer anti hyperlipidemic activity helping to balance the lipids in the body. Besides managing triglyceride levels in the blood they restrain a sharp rise in the LDL and help increase the HDL cholesterol in the body. They also safeguard from possible risk of atherosclerosis, particularly in diabetics.
3. Destroy Free Radicals
The vitamin C antioxidant elements scavenge and destroy the free radical elements preventing oxidative stress, one of the precursors for risk of serious ailments.
4. Anti Cancer Properties
Possessing anticarcinogenic, anti tumour and potent antioxidant properties in bitter gourds inhibit growth of tumours and destroy them by inducing death (apoptosis) to deadly cancerous cells. A protein known as momordin, alpha-momorcharin and cucurbitacin B that exist in this gourd provides anticancer activity against leukemia and cancers of the breast, prostate and pancreas.
5. Natural Immunity Booster
Bitter melon hosting innumerable minerals, vitamins and antioxidant elements proves beneficial for overall health. The Vitamin C substances plus the potent antioxidant substances which scavenge and fight free radical elements released during cell metabolism enhance the body’s defence mechanism and help combat various ailments.
6. Safeguards Foetal Health
With loads of folate, bitter gourds make an excellent option for pregnant women. Including them as part of their diet prevents neural tube defects for the foetus on the womb.
7. Alleviates Respiratory Conditions
The anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antihistamine and expectorant properties in bitter melons helps overcome respiratory disorders such as bronchitis, rhinitis and asthma.
8. Effective Blood Cleanser
The gourd works as an amazing blood purifier and cures blood related disorders and conditions such as septicaemia (poisoning of the blood) by getting rid of toxins. Apart from this, the a-eleostearic acid and the 15,16-dihydroxy-a-eleostearic acid make wonderful antidote for blood irregularities such as anaemia and leukaemia. They also enable production of healthy red blood cells and help balance the white blood cells. Furthermore, they promote circulatory health, controls blood flow and accelerate healing of wounds and bruises.
9. Heals Skin Conditions
With natural blood cleansing, antifungal and antibacterial properties they avert skin diseases and infections in the bloodstream. They are effective for treating psoriasis, athletes foot and ring worms and help prevent symptoms associated with them.
10. Bitter Gourds Boosts Digestive health
Consisting of good loads of cellulose, bitter gourds bulk up fibre which prevent digestive related disorders. Hence, they prevent indigestion, flatulence, gas, acidity,stomach bloating, nausea and constipation. They stimulate the digestive juices and help better absorption of nutrients. Besides these they keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy by eliminating parasites and encouraging the friendly flora in the gut.
11. Weight-Loss Solution
Extremely low in calories these melons have the ability to enhance secretion of bile acids by stimulating the liver, essential for metabolism of body fats. Furthermore, an analysis on human fat cells proved that they can dislocate fat cells and also inhibit formation of new (fat) cells.
12. Improves Vision health
Comprising of vitamin C antioxidants and Carotene-ß, they thwart any kind of damages to the eyes caused by oxidative stress. Hence they alleviate eye related problems like cataracts, glaucoma and age related macular degeneration thereby improving vision health.
13. Anti Ageing Substance
The vitamin C content plus the blood purifying properties combined with the potent antioxidant elements that destroy free radical substances helps slow the ageing process. These features also provide protection from the harsh UV rays of the sun, protecting the skin from formation of wrinkles, fine lines, acne and other skin blemishes
Besides these amazing health benefits of bitter gourds, bitter gourd juice is also a great natural medicine to help you in various health ailments. It is often mixed with other natural fruits and vegetables to maximize the health benefits. (You can read here about the benefits of karela jamun juice).
Health Benefits of of Bitter Gourd Juice (Karela Juice)
Take a couple of bittergourds, wash, deseed and grind to a pulp in a blender. Then add water and consume the Decoction everyday first thing in the morning for a couple of months. To make it more palatable, just add some lemon squeeze as an option and consume.
Take two teadpoons each of bittergourd and onion juice along with a teaspoon of lemon juice to cure cholera, especially during the initial stages.
Combine a teaspoon of bitter gourd juice with a cup of buttermilk and consume this every morning on an empty stomach for about a month as a remedy for treating piles. [Find here some effective remedies for piles]
Combine two spoons of bittergourd juice with just a few drops of lemon juice to alleviate blood disorders.
Blend a teaspoon each of bitter gourd juice with honey slightly diluted in water and consume this regularly to overcome symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and pharyngitis. For improved results add a spoon of basil juice to the same concoction.
The juice makes an excellent remedy for for hangover caused due to excessive intake of alcohol and alleviates related liver problems. See here some more home remedies to cure hangovers fast.
A glass of this miracle drink also keeps acute condition like hepatitis and liver cirrhosis at bay.
The drink works as an amazing detox and helps cleanse the body of harsh toxins.
Consuming this drink regularly also eliminates kidney stones and correlated painful symptoms. Besides they reduce the acid content in the blood thus preventing stone formation.
Bitter gourd juice with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances help relieve painful conditions of gout, an extreme form of arthritis.
The refreshing juice is a great energiser that boosts energy and stamina.
Possible Side Effects of Bitter Gourds and Bitter Gourd Juice
Although this divine melon offers incredible benefits for health they have certain side effects too.
Owing to their hypoglycemic activity, taking bittergourd along with prescription drugs for diabetes increase the risk of sudden drop leading to dangerously low blood sugar levels. Hence it is extremely important to seek medical advice before doing so.
According to certain studies bitter melon juice can result in erratic heartbeat, a condition known as arrhythmia. This imposes risk of blood pooling on one side of the heart causing the platelets there to form clots. This aspect increases the risk of clots in the lungs, deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks and pulmonary embolism.
Lack of G6PD
Deficiency of Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) lead to a possible risk of developing symptoms of anaemia like fever, headaches, abdominal pain and coma in certain cases.
There is a possible risk of menstrual bleeding while consuming bitter gourd juice during pregnancy.
It Is imperative to stop bitter gourd juice two weeks prior to any surgery as it can interfere with blood sugar levels.
Like all natural substances bittergourds too have their limitations. One or two of them are safe to avoid undue side effects. As for the juice consuming 50 to 100 ml per day divided into two or three equal doses helps avert side effects.