Latin Name: Momordica charantia
Other names: ampalay, balsam pear, bitter gourd, cerasee, goya, momordica fruit
What is a Bitter Melon?
Looking a bit like a zucchini with a bumpy surface, bitter melon is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, which is grown widely for its edible fruit, among the most bitter of all fruits. Bitter melon is crunchy and watery, similar to a cucumber. It is hollow inside, with a thin layer of flesh surrounding the central seed.
Bitter melon is used frequently in Chinese cooking, usually in stir-fries, soups, and sometimes as tea. A serving style from other cuisine traditions is to stuff it with meat . Bitter melon is also popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, Trinidad, and Japan. Bitter melon is credited for the famously long life expectancies of the Okinawan people.
What are the health benefits of Bitter Melon?
Bitter melon has long been used in various Asian traditional medicine systems; as with most bitter-tasting foods, bitter melon stimulates digestion, treats indigestion, improves immune function, and relieves constipation. Bitter melon’s cleansing and mildly laxative properties flush the system of toxins and promote natural weight loss.
The melon contains vitamins A, B1, B3, and C as well as several phytonutrients, including antioxidants like lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. It is a good source of dietary fiber, plus it has two times the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and double the potassium of bananas. A number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of high-potassium foods in lowering blood pressure.
Studies have shown it to be very promising in the treatment of diabetes, through its content of lectin that has insulin-like activity. It is thought that bitter melon might improve immune cell function in people with cancer, but this needs to be verified with more research.
More information about the healing powers of bitter melon can be found in the Herb section, under Momordica Fruit.
Are there any precautions for taking Bitter Melon?
The red arils of the seeds are reported to be toxic to children, and the fruit is not recommended during pregnancy.
Where can I find Bitter Melon?
Bitter melon can be found in Asian grocery stores and some outdoor markets.
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