We’ve all heard or read about the evils of sugar at some point, and we know that too much salt isn’t great for our health, either. But is bitter better?
There are many cultures around the world that believe in the health benefits of consuming bitter foods, and bitter gourd (or bitter melon) is front and centre in many local diets, enjoyed for both its purported health benefits as well as for its bitterness (it’s definitely an acquired taste). The Chinese, for instance, enjoy the bitter flavour that the fruit adds to their broths, stir-fries, and herbal teas. The Sri Lankans value it as an ingredient in many of their curries. In South India, its peel is often pickled with other vegetables, in combination with fragrant curry leaves, coconut, ginger and yoghurt, and served as a side dish.
While the science is inconclusive (although one recent study showed that the juice of the melon actually destroyed cancer cells!) and more research is required to determine if the bitter gourd can help in the management of various ailments such as diabetes, there is no doubt that this verdant fruit is rich in many essential vitamins and nutrients, and can be consumed as part of a diverse and healthy diet.
Bitter Gourd’s Many Nutritional Benefits
As we’ve mentioned, the bitter gourd is lauded in many cultures for its purported medicinal value (the Chinese and Indians, for instance, both believe that the bitter gourd has a cleansing and detoxifying effect on the blood). The fact is the fruit does carries many essential vitamins and minerals, and is high in antioxidants.
Rich In Vitamins A, C, and E
Vitamin A not only supports eye health, it has also been shown to have anti-acne properties. Along with vitamins C and E, this melon works to give your immune system an incredible boost and will help keep your skin looking plump and hydrated at the same time.
Contains Folates and Polypeptide-P
Polypeptide-P is a plant insulin that’s said to be able to help lower one’s sugar levels, while folates are particularly beneficial for pregnant mums, as they encourage healthy fetal growth and reduce the likelihood of birth defects.
Filled with Essential Minerals and Antioxidants
Bitter gourd contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, all minerals that are essential to the smooth functioning of the human body, whether it’s ensuring good bone density or promoting a healthy immune system. The melon also contains flavonoids, which are not only known for their cancer-fighting properties, but for their ability to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and asthma. Research also shows that flavonoids may be beneficial for brain health, particularly when it comes to memory retention. Furthermore, they contain antimicrobial as well as antihistamine properties, with the potential to serve as great remedies for those suffering from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Ways to Use Bitter Gourd in Your Life
With all these benefits, it’s not at all surprising that some consider bitter gourd a superfood. However, if you’re not a fan of things that are bitter (who can blame you?) but would really like to find a way to enjoy the melon’s wonderful health benefits, the following are some instances of how bitter gourd is purportedly used to improve your general well-being and as well as the quality of your skin. Just remember, as with anything in life, enjoy in moderation!
Bitter Gourd Juice
While there are many recipes on the web for bitter gourd juice, note that apple juice, lemon juice, honey and ginger are just some of the combinations that would make bitter gourd juice surprisingly palatable. It is recommended that bitter gourd juice be consumed in the mornings and on an empty stomach in order for you to get the most out of it. If you are on any form of medication, please do consult your doctor before going on a bitter melon juice regimen.
Soothing Homemade Facial
To achieve a glowing visage, try making a simple cucumber and bitter gourd mask at home. You will need one cucumber and one bitter gourd. Boil them in a pot of boiling water, making sure to remove their seeds beforehand. Once they have softened, blend them into a paste. Apply this hydrating mask all over your face and neck, and leave it on for approximately eight minutes. Rinse off the mask and voila! — be rewarded with soft and glowing skin.
Bitter Gourd and Chicken Stir-Fry
This delicious stir-fry is a tried-and-true, traditional Chinese way of enjoying bitter melon. Deseed and slice the bitter gourd in half, length-wise. Thinly slice each half of the melon so that they are shaped like crescents. Dice some chicken into small cubes (pre-marinade with some soy sauce). You’ll need minced garlic and ginger, fermented black bean sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil (honey is optional) for the stir-fry. You’ll be able to find many wonderful recipes on the internet, all with their own minor variations. Serve with a steaming bowl of white rice. Bon appetit!