Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd
Bitter gourd or bitter melon is one of the most hated vegetables by many people due to its bitter taste. However, this vegetable is rich in its nutritional value and has numerous health benefits you probably didn’t know. My motivation for writing this article came from the dinner I was having a couple of days ago when my friend told that he absolutely hated bitter gourd. So, I thought about putting down a few health points of this wonderful vegetable. Here are some points about the nutritional values and health benefits of bitter gourd.
When we talk about nutritional value of a specific vegetable, we generally talk about the calories, fiber, vitamins and minerals the vegetable contains. Here is a list of what nutrition a bitter gourd contains and in what amounts.
a) Carbohydrates, fats and proteins: Vegetables are generally considered low in carbohydrates and fats. A 100 gram serving of raw bitter melon contains only 3.7 g of carbohydrates, 1 g of proteins and almost zero fat. These levels are far lower than the daily recommended level for a normal adult. Hence, a bitter gourd can be easily taken with regular food.
b) Fiber: According to the nutrition data obtained from USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture), a regular cup of bitter gourd gives you approximately 2.6 g of fiber, which is about 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fiber. This means that it is a good value addition to your diet.
c) Vitamins:Vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. According to the nutrition data from the USDA, one cup of raw bitter melon provides you about 78.1 mg of Vitamin C, which is about 130% of RDA. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in your body. Bitter gourd also contains 438 IU of Vitamin A (9% of RDA), which is another powerful antioxidant. Other vitamins available in bitter melon gourd are Vitamin B9, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid (B5) and vitamin B6 in trace amounts.
d) Minerals: Though bitter gourd is not a rich source of minerals in comparison with vitamins, it still provides decent amount of potassium (275 mg or 8% of RDA). This may not look like much, but one cup of bitter melon in a day can easily help you reach your RDA. The vegetable also contains other minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper, zinc and manganese. All these minerals are necessary for the human body.
Some health benefits of bitter gourd
1) One of the health benefits of this vegetable is that it reduces blood glucose. This is due to the presence of charantin (a hypoglycemic agent), alkaloids and insulin-like peptides. It is particularly helpful for people suffering from diabetes. Unlike most medicines, the vegetable influences the glucose metabolism throughout your body.
2) When food is digested, the carbohydrates are converted to glucose. Bitter melon reduces the amount of glucose released into blood by inhibiting the enzymes that convert complex sugars into simple glucose. This is again helpful in reducing blood sugar level in people suffering from Type I and Type II diabetes.
3) Consumption of bitter gourd juice reduces hemorrhoids (or piles). Paste made from the root of bitter gourd plant too can be applied externally to piles to reduce inflammation and pain.
4) Bitter gourd is known to have blood-purifying properties. Eating bitter melon can actually help in removing fungal infections such as scabies, psoriasis or ringworm from the bloodstream. To be effective, consume bitter gourd in the morning on an empty stomach.
5) Bitter melon helps in easy digestion of food and prevents digestion related problems
6) The vegetable is known to aid in treating several respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma rhinitis and pharyngitis.