Perhaps you have not knowingly tried the richly health-imparting edible in question, but chances are at some point you have seen at least one of the below varieties of the fruit known in English as bitter melon – whether abroad or in a variety of Asian and African market stalls/supermarkets across the country.
Pictured below, in top position is the the light green and considerably more smooth Chinese variety known as Ku Gua. Below it, is the dark green, pointy Indian variety of bitter melon known as Karela. Either variety can come in a range of sizes. Regardless of the cultivar you source these chaps pack a bitter, highly nutritious punch with broad medicinal applications. Bitter melon is a long esteemed component of both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine and is used as a vegetable throughout the cuisine of these rich traditions. Bitter melon is also one of the key ingredients of Okinawan cooking and the fruit is often cited as being an integral reason behind the Okinawans acclaimed long-lifespans (greatly exceeding the rest of Japan in general).
Here are five reasons why bitter melon, raw or cooked, should be heartily consumed forthwith:
- Bitter melon is a diabetics friend of the highest calibre. Bitter melon contains compounds that act like insulin, helping to naturally lower blood sugar levels and combat insulin resistance. For normal individuals not on the diabetic spectrum, bitter melon can be used generally to lower blood sugar levels when an excess of sugar (incl fruit) or alcohol is consumed (accidentally or otherwise). In the week I spoke to a gentlemen here in Goa who was giving his sugar-obsessed children bitter melon throughout the day to make sure their blood sugar levels, and therefore their moods, remained at a more even keel. Truly, bitter melon can have a dramatic effect upon our ability to metabolise sugar so those that suffer from hypoglycemia (chronic low blood sugar levels) should only consume the food with an appropriately balanced meal.
- Bitter melon is an effective blood cleanser with potent antiviral properties. It is also noted for its ability to bind-up with (chelate) heavy metals and take them safely out of our systems. My favourite way to reap the benefits of the fruit is in my morning juice. The whole clean fruit can be juiced. Easy peasy.
- Increased immunity and anti-cancer properties. A variety of international studies have demonstrated bitter melon’s efficacy in preventing or managing a broad variety of cancers. Researchers found that bitter melon juice launched a two-pronged attack by: inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis) along several different pathways, and by starving cancer cells of the sugar they need to survive (this latter point relating to point 1).
- Bitter melon contains anthelmintic compounds that help kill intestinal worms in the body. It even helps get rid of the toxins that these parasites leave behind as they die.
- Skin benefits. Taken regularly, bitter melon is said to have a “glowing” effect on the skin and is helpful in treating acne, psoriasis, and eczema. This capacity all ties in of course with point 2.