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The Top 10 Health Benefits of Bitter Melons (Karela, Ampalaya)

Updated on November 26, 2016
The 10 health benefits of bitter melons, also known as karela. There are other types of bitter melons than the ones pictured here, but they all share the same types of proteins.
The 10 health benefits of bitter melons, also known as karela. There are other types of bitter melons than the ones pictured here, but they all share the same types of proteins. | Source

What Are Bitter Melons?

The bitter melon is also known as karela, ampalaya, or Momordica charanti. While many people consider it an herb or a vegetable, bitter melons are technically fruits because they contain seeds (the name "melon" makes this easy to remember). Bitter melons have similar nutrients to dandelions and are beneficial for health. They are used in some continents like Asia, South America, and Africa to help control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy system. Additionally, the Chinese used this fruit as part of their daily diet to “clean” their system.

Both high and low blood sugar can lead to many issues. Diabetes is probably one of the biggest issues from high blood sugar, and the condition can lead to other issues. Diabetes can sometimes be prevented by eating right and exercising; since it is a lifelong condition, every step possible should be taken to prevent it. There are numerous ways to slowly bring your sugar level back to normal, and all it takes is some dedication.

What Makes a Bitter Melon Special?

What they look like inside: seeds and love :)
What they look like inside: seeds and love :)

Bitter melons are an excellent source of nutrients. They have:

  • Twice the calcium of spinach
  • Twice the potassium of banana
  • Twice the beta-carotene of broccoli

As well as more of the following vitamins and minerals than most vegetables or fruits:

  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Folic acid
  • Alkaloids
  • Peptides
  • Steroidal saponins
  • Fiber
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3

Think of it like this: Eating one bitter melon daily along with every meal will vastly improve your nutrition! Keep it up for about two months, and you can potentially decrease your risk of diabetes.

As you can probably guess from the name of this fruit, bitter melons are an acquired taste. Luckily, there are many recipes for cooking bitter melons and reducing their bitterness. One way to make them more palatable is to remove the seeds, cut the remaining fruit thinly, then salt it evenly. Let the salted slices sit for about 30 minutes, then squeeze out the liquid and rinse them out.

How to Reduce the Bitter Taste

What Are Benefits of Eating This Fruit?

Since there are way too many benefits of eating bitter melon, let’s take a look at the more important ones such as:

Top 10 Reasons (There Are More)

  1. Reduces the risk of diabetes—One of every 10 adults suffers from this disease, and it’s becoming a bigger problem every day. One way this fruit can help is by regulating blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is not a good sign, and most doctors will prescribe medicine to lower it. And what happens when you are all out of meds? You go and get more. This is only prolonging the problem. Controlling blood sugar level through diet is much less invasive. Also, insulin receptors can become ineffective; when they do, they are called down-regulated insulin receptors. Regular consumption of bitter melons can help reverse the insulin resistance effect. Bitter melon helps diabetics treat insulin resistance without medication. This is an important role in prevention and treatment of Type II diabetes, also known as insulin-independent diabetes. This can also prevent further diabetic complications that are caused by chronically high sugar concentrations, such as blindness, kidney diseases, strokes, heart attacks, and diabetic feet. Eating bitter melons, drinking their extract, or even taking them in pill form can reverse the effectives of diabetes.
  2. Reduces the risk of cancer—Eating or drinking the juice from the melon can lower the risk of certain types of cancer. It is also known to decrease and kill leukemic cancer cells, according to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It can stop cancer cells from spreading and increase chances of a full recovery. But the diet must be consistent for this to be in an effective way to treat this disease. Otherwise, it will not work.
  3. Reduces the risk of AIDS/HIV—This disease is becoming a widespread issue. Bitter melon glycoprotein beta-momorcharin helps inhibit synthesis of macromolecules in splenocytes, embryos, and tumor cells. This protein also retards the effects of HIV by using the protein to deactivate the ribosome function in HIV-infected cells. It stops protein synthesis in those cells and eventually kills the cells which are infected.
  4. Provides antioxidants—Antioxidants help protect us from free radical damage. Free radicals can come from common natural environmental toxins as well as pollution, smoking, and normal metabolism byproducts. They have been proven to boost the immune system.
  5. Relieves asthma—Positive results have come back from patients suffering from a chronic cough who add bitter melon to their diets. The bitter melon helps release sputum accumulated within the respiratory tract and lungs. Many who have used bitter melon extract or eaten it regularly believe that it helps relieve asthma.
  6. Soothes skin—Do you have acne or wrinkled skin? The chemical or serum in bitter melons has been known to be used for acne and wrinkles. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties can also aid in acne issues.
  7. Aids digestion—Helps with digestion of food by producing digestive enzymes.
  8. Aids in weight loss—This low-calorie and low-carbohydrate fruit will help with dieting and also strengthen your immunity.
  9. Promotes healing of injuries and wounds—It helps with controlling the blood flow to help heal wounds faster and prevent infection.
  10. Relieves constipation—It works wonders on constipation without causing diarrhea.

Potential Side Effects

Bitter melons have many benefits, but they also come with a few side effects. For example:

  • When pregnant, it is important not to eat bitter melon nor its supplements. They can cause an unwanted abortion. The chances are low, but why risk something that can be avoided.
  • If you are hypoglycemic, do not use bitter melon supplements. Eating the fruit is fine in reasonable portions.
  • Too much bitter melon or bitter melon supplement can cause stomach pain and diarrhea.

It's always important to know the potential side effects of any part of your diet. The main risk is with supplements because they are so concentrated, and it is possible to take a much larger dosage than when eating the fruit itself. Bitter melons are widely consumed fruit in some countries, especially in Asia, and do not carry much risk.

Thanks for checking this out—please comment.

© 2012 Dave Rogers

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    • profile image

      kwasi P 10 months ago

      A friend showed the benefits of karela to me, I didn,t waste time and bought some of the fruits, cuts them and blend it, Iam really enjoying the benefits of juicing it.I, ll recommed to anybody who ll like to try it.

    • profile image

      gevie 15 months ago

      I had bronchitis a few weeks back, still feel bad after i finished 2 weeks of antibiotics and cough syrup and antihistamine. SO i decided to put half ampalaya and one apple in my smoothie maker and drink it one in the morning and another after dinner. The first drink made my back ache was gone instantly after drinking. Now i am taking it daily because it gives me a lot of energy. :)

    • profile image

      Jannath 22 months ago

      Thanks to this excellent article.I very well know about this melon and it's amazing benefits. I decided to use this fruit in moderate quantity.

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @Vicky It can, from my experience through friends who had type 2 diabetes, but everyone is different. You might want to check with doctors before doing so, just to be on the safe side.

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      shaik shanawaZ 2 years ago

      Thats really great supplyment guys cheers melon have funn take care all Of U..

    • profile image

      Vicky 2 years ago

      Can the bitter melons be consumed along with the diabetes type 2 treatment.

    • snoblet profile image
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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @lfy Bitter melon is sold usually in any asian markets from what I have seen. I haven't seen them in pathmark or anything similar to that. Otherwise there are always supplements for them as well.

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      Ify 2 years ago

      So amazing,how do I get bitter melon?

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      T.IRERI-KENYA 2 years ago

      wonderful.our creator the almighty God gave man what he really needed for his health.long live karela plant.

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      08087603573 habeeb 2 years ago

      u can get it frm my shop in lagos at cheap price

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @ Amber Harding It's like people say, anything that is healthy is usually awful in taste lol, very true though

    • Amber Harding profile image

      Amber Harding 2 years ago from London

      I know from my father - any fruit that has a bitter taste is healthy. That means it has a higher vitamin concentration.

    • snoblet profile image
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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @ zynish Hey, thanks for checking it out and I am glad you found it useful.

    • snoblet profile image
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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @ juderes I actually use to like it more as a i d than I do now, but I still try to eat it often. Sometimes I make soup with it other times I use it as a salad. So many recipes to choose from too.

    • juderes profile image

      judalyn eres 2 years ago from cebu city, philippines

      When I was a child I hate eating this ampalaya. But now that I am getting older, I eat ginisang ampalaya with eggs. with garlic. I also like the kinilaw na ampalaya. No cooking. Just slice bitter mellon and mix with vinegar, tomatoes and onions, it's an appetizer

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      zynish 2 years ago

      I drink the bitter melon juice daily for acne and seriously it really works Alhumdulilah im amazed... because i used alot of medicenes etc etc but no result now im so happy . Thanks for the very useful information :)

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @ choosetolive Thank you very much

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      Ravi and Swastha 2 years ago from London, Canada

      Very nicely said. Good information. Thanks for sharing. Voted up & useful information.

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @ devisree Thank you for reading and sharing. I am glad you found it useful :)

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      devisree 2 years ago from India

      Very useful Hub.Thank you for sharing the benefits of Karela.Voted up and shared.

    • profile image

      Divya Binu 2 years ago

      My father love this bitter guard.I also like but not to drink juice ,the bitterness is just too much to handle for me. So I usually fry it .

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @tin First off congrats on your father lowering his sugar level to normal, cacao or dark chocolate is very helpful, but I never try the two together. They both have a ton of antioxidants as well, but I am glad it helps. :)

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      tin 2 years ago

      my dad has diabetes II for almost a decade. he tried drinking ampalaya to lower his sugar level but not enough to bring it to normal level. recently we added hot unsweetened cacao to his diet together with ampalaya extract. in a month his sugar level is now on normal range.

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @Thelma Alberts I am glad you enjoyed the article, I can deal with bitterness to a certain degree, bitter melon juice is just too much.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

      I miss eating this bitter melon and I want it really better. I love drinking bitter melon tea, too. Thanks for sharing this very informative and useful hub. Happy Easter!

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @Mikulo It's fine to add to it, it doesn't change the properties of the melon juice. I never attempted to juice it and drink it, the bitterness is just too much to handle for me.

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @khanzidane@ymail.com Being pregnant, regardless of the timeframe, you should avoid bitter melon as it can become harmful. It's always better to me safe, because it is unpredictable in what it can do. The fruit is known to slow down HIV, kill cancer cells, lower blood sugar, and other diseases, the chemical properties of bitter melon is not advised to be taken during pregnancy. Think of it as a stray bullet, its unpredictable, but as said earlier, just to be safe, avoid it during pregnancy.

    • profile image

      khanzidane@ymail.com 2 years ago

      I'm 7 month pregnant, by eating bitter melon daily is there any harm. My sugar level is 218. Pls advice....

    • profile image

      Mikulo 2 years ago

      It is okay yo put honey to sweeten the juice? I just did! I comsumed a glass of mixed bitter melon juice covering my nose. I hope this may work...

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I like bitter melon. I do exactly what you put here to remove the bitterness and once I have squeezed it dry, I put sweet vinegar and it serves as pickles for me.

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @Amber I am glad to hear of your aunt doing better, bitter melon in my opinion is an aquired taste. I love the taste of bitter melon, but getting pass the bitterness for most people is a problem, but I am happy to hear of your news. :)

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      Amber 2 years ago

      My aunt has been taking ampalaya pills and she is now off her insulin and metformin. I just bought some in a tea form from the Filipino store and have been drinking it daily. I don't have diabetes but drinking it as a preventive measure. I add lemon and honey because it is really bitter.

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @hadiza atabo Thank you for the comment, as to where to buy the seed, I'm not sure if Nigeria sells the seed otherwise the only option might to order it online. Unless neighboring countries sell then it might be imported but that's not likely otherwise it would've been done. But check online it's your best bet.

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      hadiza atabo 2 years ago

      Thanks for your enlightment.pls where can I get the seed?because I have never seen plant here in Nigeria.

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      Er. Amit Kumar Jain 2 years ago

      Dekho bhaiyo or bhino, svi ki apni- apni body pr depend karta h,

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      Anta 2 years ago

      Thank you very much for sharing this about awesome and amazing benefits of bitter melon it is very helpful. Lol

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      Dave Rogers 2 years ago from New York

      @David87 The bitter melon seed that you can use are those straight out of the melon themselves. The condition is a warm climate area, and water it as you would with plants. To my knowledge, growing bitter melon is not difficult as my neighbors grow it in New York environment and it's pretty harsh here. I hope that helps.

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      david87 2 years ago

      Great. Have just started. It's extremely bitter but I will make sure it also work on me like others. Thanks here is medicine for my diabetic mom. No more medication. Back to my village and plant it. Where can I get seedlings n what are conditions . some help please and safe my mummy life and cousin. Please.

    • profile image

      Jerry Inong 3 years ago

      Bitter Melon KimChee!Hot n Sour,Oh So ONO!

    • profile image

      Ian Haynes 3 years ago

      At age 69, I have been eating karela literally all my life, but periodically. In addition to eating karela, I also boil the leaves/ vine with some garlic and drink a schnapp glass daily. I have known it as a blood purifier. Apart from adding salt and sugar to the fruit before cooking, I squeeze it and drink the juice. That is pure karela syrup.

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      Hemochandra 3 years ago

      Thanx a lot for ur instruction....

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      Arun Mantri 3 years ago

      Bitter Melon is really effective in releiving constipation problem . Taking a half bitter quard cut juice in water keeps one away from from high BP/ Sugar . One will find always altert and fresh entire day. I request all to keep this wonderful fruit as a part of daily diet .

    • snoblet profile image
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      Dave Rogers 3 years ago from New York

      Eating it with something always help make it go down easier. Especially since the bitterness will vary depending on its age. But I'm glad you like it when eaten with fruits which is also good.

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      yinka 3 years ago

      I just started eating bitter melon or karela but can only eat it with sweet grapes or any other sweet fruit and love it. Otherwise I can't eat it!

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      Barbara 52 3 years ago

      I hate the taste so I buy pills. Going to find out if it helps with diabetes.

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      bijender 3 years ago

      it is really good for health

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      abdullah 3 years ago

      am an organic farmer ,in JHB want to grow bitter lemon please help

    • profile image

      tess 3 years ago

      I drink ampalaya juice i have no diabetis does something wrong with my blood sugar

    • profile image

      Shahid Saleem 3 years ago

      Folkes try to stay on natural foods and avoid fast food as much as possible.

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      Dave Rogers 3 years ago from New York

      @anjana Bitter doesn't necessarily mean anything but in most cases its poison, but as to it affecting the ear I have never heard of that any my hearing is pretty good.

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      anjana 3 years ago

      Bitter is also dangerous to ear, is it true?

    • profile image

      sonu 3 years ago

      i love bitter melon ummhh like its

      taste..

    • profile image

      Sahib Singh 3 years ago

      sehat de lai sab ton vadiya karaela the lasan ad

      rak the tulsi

    • profile image

      Nabin 3 years ago

      NABIN......

      I LV EATING BITTER MELON .... BT I DNT KNW ITS BENFTS THOUGH I LV BITTER FRUITS OR VEGTBL..... MANY MNY THNKS FOR UR GRT SUGGSTN.....

    • profile image

      saasski 4 years ago

      why you choose to study amplaya when we all know that its bitter and not much like with all people????

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      ana vella 4 years ago

      since i was young i knew this good benefits of karela in my mother she always add this to our meal..and its true very healthy..

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      zach 4 years ago

      mommy zach eat when daddy gets vol 12

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      Dave Rogers 5 years ago from New York

      @carter06 yep, the melon is pretty useful as long as you can get pass the taste than its fine. I been eating since young because the mom loves to make bitter melon all the time.

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      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Wow I never knew about this melon and it's amazing benefits...me thinks I will have to get some...thanks for sharing this...up & awesome...cheers