Health Benefits: Bitter Gourd

Bitter gourd (also known as bitter melon) is common vegetable in tropics and subtropics, where it is cultivated abundantly and like by many people, for its special bitter taste and also for its various health benefits and medicinal properties, especially liked by diabetics for its anti-diabetic property. There are several health benefits of bitter gourd fruits as well as leaves. Different types of preparations are available, such as bitter gourd nutritional supplement capsules, juice etc.

One of the most important health benefit of bitter melon is that it is very low in calorie, have high concentration of various nutrients and high in fiber content. All these make bitter gourd full of health benefits and an ideal food for weight loss and also good food for individuals with constipation problem.

Bitter gourd has following nutritional contents (source wikipedia.org, UDA Nutrient Database) per 100 gram:

  • Energy: 19 Calorie
  • Water: 93.95 gram
  • Fiber: 2 gram
  • Sugars: 1.95 gram
  • Protein: 0.84 gram
  • Fats: minimal, in traces
  • Minerals: calcium (9 mg), potassium (319 mg), sodium (6 mg), phosphorus (36 mg), magnesium (16 mg), zinc (0.77 mg) and iron (0.38 mg).
  • Vitamins: A (6 mcg), C (33 mg), E (0.14 mg), K (4.8 mcg), B-complex (thiamine-51 mcg, ribloflavin-53 mcg, niacin-280 mcg, pyridoxine-41 mcg, folic acid-51 mcg). No vitamin B12 is present in bitter gourd.

The health benefits of bitter gourd are:

  • Bitter gourd contains ingredients which can reduce blood sugar level in diabetics it is very much liked by diabetes patients.
  • Bitter gourd has high fiber which is good for constipation. It can also stimulate digestion and helpful in dyspepsia.
  • Rich in beta carotene, which is good for eye health.
  • Very low in calorie and ideal for obese people to reduce weight.

Be cautious in bitter gourd consumption:

Bitter gourd/melon has several health benefits, but a word of caution is required, because excess consumption may have adverse health effects.

  • Eating excess bitter gourd may cause diarrhea or abdominal pain.
  • If you are a diabetic and take bitter gourd regularly (daily) and also you take oral hypoglycemic drugs or insulin, you may need to adjust the doses of your medication. Consult your doctor for dose adjustment.
  • The seeds of bitter gourd contain a chemical called “vicine” which may trigger “favism” if an individual is susceptible to it. So be cautious.
  • Pregnant women should not take bitter gourd (or its juice) in excess as it can cause stimulation of muscles of pregnant uterus and cause preterm labor (delivery before maturation of fetus/baby).
  • Some parts of bitter gourd (such as red arils of seeds) are known to be toxic to children and they should avoid it.

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