Bitter Melon (Bitter Gourd)
The bitter gourd or bitter melon, may not be one of the most popular vegetables in the Europe and America. However, due to the know health benefits of bitter gourd, it has been one of the popular vegetables in the Indian Subcontinent. The vegetable is consumed in cooked form as well as raw. In raw form, people drink it in the form of juice. Please note that as the name suggests, bitter gourds are quite bitter in taste and may not be that palatable. However, the health benefits of bitter gourds are so many that sometimes people consume it as medicine. Please refer to the tab below on the Health Benefits to know about all the possible health benefits of bitter gourds.
The bitter melon (also known as bitter gourd) looks like a cucumber. However, you can easily see the difference due to its ugly gourd-like bumps all over it. As you can make out from the name itself, the bitter melon or bitter gourd is a melon but has a bitter taste. The bitter melon/ gourd may not be a very popular vegetable due to this very nature of having a bitter taste. However, in Asian countries, this vegetable is hugely popular due to the known health benefits of bitter gourd.
In some Asian countries, bitter gourd is highly recommended for people suffering from high blood sugar or diabetes.
There are two varieties of this vegetable. The first one grows to about 20 cm long, is oblong and pale green in color. The other is the smaller and less than 10 cm long, oval and has a darker green color. Both of them have seeds that are white when unripe red when ripe.
A study by researchers in Australia, China, and Germany found that four compounds in bitter melon that “activate an enzyme that is responsible for… transporting glucose from the blood into the cells.” The enzyme is called AMPK, the same one activated by exercise. (Source: DiabetesSeflManagement.Com)
Studies all across the world have started to show the potential health benefits of bitter gourd juice and bitter gourd tea. A number of clinical studies have been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of bitter melon in the treatment of diabetes. Source: Diabetes.co.uk
In January 2011, the results of a four-week clinical trial were published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which showed that a 2,000 mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes, although the hypoglycemic effect was less than a 1,000 mg/day dose of metformin. 
Other older studies have also suggested an association between bitter melon intake and improved glycemic control, while a report published in the March 2008 issue of Chemistry and Biology found that bitter melon increased cellular uptake of glucose and improved glucose tolerance. 
Due to this possible health benefit of bitter gourd in Diabetes and High Blood sugar, there are many ways in which this vegetable is being consumed in the Western world. One of the most common is Bitter Gourd tea.
There may be possible health benefits of bitter gourd in type 2 diabetes. However, we at Nature and Nutrition would strongly advise using the advise of your doctor before consuming such products.
Apart from helping in controlling blood sugar levels, there are many more health benefits of bitter gourd. Some of them include immune boosting, purification of blood and enhancing digestion. To know about all the health benefits of bitter gourds, please refer to our tab below on ‘Health Benefits’
Bitter melon is also known as bitter gourd. It looks like a very bumpy long cucumber and grows in hot and humid climates such as South America.
Storage: Place the bitter melons in a zip-type storage bag and place in the crisper of your refrigerator as soon as they are dry.
Cleaning & Cutting: Wash the bitter melon under cool water when you bring it home. Let drip dry until there is no more water on the skin. Slice the melons in half lengthwise on a cutting board using a very sharp knife. Dust the halves with some table salt and let the melon bleed out some of the bitter juices.
How to Buy: Buy the freshest, firmest, bright green bitter melons. Select firm, unblemished melons that are from 5 to 12 inches in length.
Special Steps: Use the raw melon within four days of purchase or mix with two cloves of garlic, one chili pepper and stir fry in peanut oil with a little soy sauce in a wok until tender. You can freeze this for a month in an airtight container.
TIP: You can deep-fry, stir-fry, saute, braise, steam, and bake bitter melon. Serve diced in curries, stir-fries or pickles, or stuffed with meat, shrimp, spices, and onions.
Bitter gourd (balsam pear/ bitter melon) is a young, tender, edible fruit pod in the Momordica genus of climbing vines. Although, its bitter taste might turn some people away from it, in-fact, it can really sweeten your health by virtue of its disease preventing and health promoting phyto chemical compounds.
Mineral Content: It contain iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
Vitamin & Compounds: Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P, folates, ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin. It is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6).
Water Content: Bitter Ground is 87.4 percent water by weight.
Carbohydrate Content: Bitter Ground provide only 17 calories per 100 g
Bitter Ground Contains Vitamin-C which is one of the powerful natural antioxidants which helps scavenge deleterious free radicals from the human body. Also, it contains hypoglycemic agent called charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis inside the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Together, these compounds have been thought to be responsible for reduction of blood sugar levels in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
Blood disorders: Bitter gourd juice is highly beneficial for treating blood disorders like blood boils and itching due to toxemia. Mix 2 ounces of fresh bitter gourd juice with some lime juice. Sip it slowly on an empty stomach daily for between four and six months and see improvement in your condition.
Cholera: In early stages of cholera, take two teaspoonfuls juice of bitter gourd leaves, mix with two teaspoonfuls white onion juice and one teaspoonful lime juice.
Diabetic Health: Bitter melon contains a hypoglycemic compound (a plant insulin) that is highly beneficial in lowering sugar levels in blood and urine.
Energy: Regular consumption of bitter gourd juice has been proven to improve energy and stamina level.
Eye problems: The high beta-carotene and other properties in bitter gourd makes it one of the finest vegetable-fruit that help alleviate eye problems and improving eyesight.
Gout: Bitter gourd juice is liver cleansing. It helps clean up a toxic blood, improves blood circulation and relieves gout pain.
Hangover: Bitter melon juice may be beneficial in the treatment of a hangover for its alcohol intoxication properties. It also help cleanse and repair and nourish liver problems due to alcohol consumption.
Immune booster: This bitter juice can also help to build your immune system and increase your body’s resistance against infection.
Piles: Mix three teaspoonfuls of juice from bitter melon leaves with a glassful of buttermilk. Take this every morning on empty stomach for about a month and see an improvement to your condition.
Psoriasis: Regular consumption of this bitter juice has also been known to improve psoriasis condition and other fungal infections like ring-worm and athletes feet.
Toxemia: Bitter gourd contains beneficial properties that cleanses the blood from toxins. Sip two teaspoonfuls of the juice daily to help cleanse the liver. Also helpful in ridding jaundice for the same reasons.
Respiratory disorders: Fresh pods are an excellent remedy for curing respiratory problems like asthma, cold, cough, etc.
Liver tonic: Drink one glass of Bitter Melon juice daily to heal liver problems. Keep consuming this continuously for a week to see results.
Acne: Consuming Bitter Melon can help to get rid of acne, blemishes and deep skin infections. Bitter melon is useful in treating blood disorders like blood boils, scabies, itching, psoriasis, ring-worm and other fungal diseases. The free radicals in it are also useful for anti ageing.
Constipation: Bitter melon helps in easy digestion as it contains fibre properties. The food is digested and waste is thrown out of the body which helps in curing indigestion and constipation problems.
Kidney and bladder: Bitter melon helps to maintain healthy liver and bladder. It is also useful in curing kidney stones.
Heart disease: Bitter melon is very good for the heart in many ways. They help to reduce the bad cholesterol levels which clog the arterial walls and thereby reduce the chances of heart attacks. Also it is known to lower blood sugar levels that help in maintaining good heart health.
Cancer: Bitter Melon can prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
Weight loss: Bitter Melon contains antioxidants, which help to flush out your system. This improves your metabolism and digestive systems thus helping you lose weight quickly.
Prevents Skin Problems: Regular consumption of bitter gourd helps in keeping your skin glowing and free from blemishes. It also helps prevent acne thanks to its blood purifying properties.
Asthma: Asthma patients can highly benefit by having karela juice. It helps cure chronic cough and breathing problems by removing the sputum that accumulates within the lungs and the respiratory tract.
Digestion: Karela juice enhances digestion. It increases the production of enzymes that aid the digestion process.
HIV/AIDS: Regular consumption of karela juice is best for triggering the condition of an HIV patient. Studies conducted on natural antidotes of HIV/AIDS establish the goodness of bitter guard in preventing further damaging of the skin cells.
Can Stimulate Miscarriage: Bitter gourds, if taken in excessive quantities can turn out to be a nightmare for pregnant women. Bitter gourds are notorious for causing emmenagogue (increase of menstrual flow) and abortifacient effects.
Drug Interactions: It is actually shocking to know vegetables like bitter gourd which are known for their healing properties, might even come in the way of drugs. But this is the fact. Combining bitter gourds with standard drugs can reduce blood sugar levels steeply. This might possibly lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels. Hence diabetic patients who are under medication should consult their doctors before consuming bitter gourds.
Hypoglycaemic Coma: Hypoglycaemic coma is a condition of coma which is caused due to excessive doses of injected insulin. This might lead to severe decrease in blood sugar levels. There are case reports which suggest the onset of hypoglycaemic coma and the start of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) with the intake of bitter gourds.
Might Affect The Liver: Intake of bitter gourds for extended periods of time to control diabetes might actually induce liver inflammation.
One of the major reasons why bitter gourd is not popular as a vegetable, is the bitter taste of the vegetable itself. However, there are many recipes in the Indian subcontinent where the bitterness of the gourd can be removed and you can enjoy a delicious meal. Here are some of them:
1) Bitter Gourd and Capsicum: A delicious combination of bitter gourd and capsicum, can be eaten with bread or rice.
2) Masala Bharwa Karela (Bitter Gourd Filled with Spices): This is a great snack with the bitterness of the bitter gourd almost gone.
3) Crispy Baked Bitter Gourd (Karela)
You can find many more such recipes at HealthMeUp.Com