Bitter melon is the immature pod vegetable, popular in many Asian countries. This widely grown as edible pod is, in fact, among the most bitter of all culinary vegetables. Bitter melon is a temperate /tropical vegetable probably originated in South-East Asia. Like other members of the Cucurbitaceae family, this plant is a fast-growing, trailing or climbing vine with thin stems and tendrils and requires trellis to support the climbing vine. The pods are characterized by smooth lengthwise ridges and uneven pebbly surface.
Depending upon the cultivar type, immature pods are light to dark green and have oblong or oval shapes with a pointed tip at the blossom end. Internally, the flesh is white with rough edged seeds, somewhat similar to ridge gourd seeds. As the fruits begin to mature, they gradually turn yellow or orange.
Health benefits of Bitter gourd * The vegetable is very low in calories, providing just 17 calories per 100g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich in phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
* Bitter melon notably contains phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P; a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. In addition, it composes hypoglycemic agent called charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Together, these compounds are thought to be responsible for reduction of blood sugar levels in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
* Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, contain about 72 µg/100g (Provides 18% of RDA). Folate helps reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the newborns when taken by mothers during early pregnancy.
* Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100 g of raw pod provides 84 mg or about 140% of RDI). Vitamin-C, one of the powerful natural antioxidants, helps the body scavenge deleterious free radicals one of the reasons for cancer development.
* It is an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin. It also contains a good amount of vitamin A. Together; these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes. * Bitter melon stimulates easy digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel until it is excreted from the body. Thus, helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems. * In addition, the vegetable is an also good source of niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium. * Early laboratory tests suggest that compounds in bitter melon might be effective for treating HIV infection.