October 4, 2020

9 bitter gourd benefits

The New Year is all about trying out new nutritious foods, even those that haven’t quite become mainstream as of yet. Bitter gourd is an example of a food that’s packed with health benefits that very few of us know much about at all.

If you think bitter gourd sounds more like something out of a Harry Potter book, it’s really not as alarming as it seems. Bitter gourd is actually a type of melon fruit, grown mainly in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It has a sharp flavour and a slightly funky appearance – it’s long and thin, with green, bumpy skin.

Bitter gourd is long and thin with green bumpy skin

The juice or extract of bitter gourd is particularly beneficial to a person’s health. It might not have the most pleasant taste, but bitter gourd juice contains a whole host of important nutrients, ranging from iron and magnesium to potassium and vitamin C. As an excellent source of dietary fibre, bitter gourd juice also contains twice the calcium of spinach, the beta-carotene of broccoli, and the potassium of a banana.

If you’re at all curious to learn about the health benefits of bitter gourd, we’re going to cover them all. Bitter gourd also has a few side effects to look out for, so stay tuned for those, too.

Health benefits of bitter gourd

1. Aids natural weight loss

Bitter gourd aids in natural weight loss

Bitter gourd contains ingredients that lower and maintain blood sugar levels in your body, and prevent your body from absorbing extra sugar. On top of this, experts say that bitter gourd is partly responsible for an increase in the number of beta cells in your pancreas. 

These cells are involved in secreting insulin, which is essential for maintaining blood sugar levels. You need balanced blood sugar and no extra insulin for healthy weight loss, which bitter gourd can help you to achieve.

One 100 gram serving of bitter gourd contains only 17 calories, and it’s also full of fibre, helping to slow down the digestion process, keeping you fuller for longer, and preventing hunger pangs from hitting.

2. Prevents diabetes

Bitter gourd has substances that helps reduce blood sugar levels

The blood sugar balancing properties of bitter gourd also make it effective in preventing the onset of diabetes. One study found that bitter gourd pulp extract significantly lowered blood sugar levels in rats with diabetes and improved insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant rats.

Bitter gourd can not only prevent diabetes but treat the illness effectively. The fruit contains an insulin-like compound known as Polypeptide-p, or p-insulin, which has been shown to control diabetes naturally. These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels.

3. Lowers cholesterol

High cholesterol is caused by a build-up of deposits in the arteries and can limit blood flow, increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. While high cholesterol should always be treated by professional medical care, if you’re just looking to maintain healthy cholesterol, bitter gourd is a good food to add to your diet.

A number of animal studies have found that bitter melon may decrease cholesterol levels to support overall heart health. More specifically, experts think that bitter gourd can lower levels of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, which can cause heart problems, especially in later life.

4. Good for skin and hair

Bitter gourd removes toxins from your body resulting to good skin and hair

It’s the vitamin and mineral content found in bitter gourd that makes it such a beneficial fruit for skin and hair health. Notably, bitter gourd is packed full of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, which prevent skin ageing and diminish wrinkles. Vitamin C is particularly effective in neutralising the free radicals that cause oxidative stress to skin and result in ageing of the face and hands.

Bitter gourd is also a good cleansing food for removing unwanted toxins from your body. As these toxins are removed, you can literally detox your skin, as many toxins actually leave your body through your skin. You’ll be able to benefit from cleaner, pimple-free skin with a natural “I just did a detox” kind of glow.

5. Promotes digestion

As a high fibre food, bitter gourd is a simple snack for improving your digestion. Drinking bitter gourd extract on a daily basis can help move foods more quickly through your digestive system, retaining water and preventing constipation and other digestive issues.

Bitter gourd is used as a natural laxative in herbal medicine, and despite its sharp taste, it’s also known for its soothing effect on the stomach. Taking bitter gourd is thought to prevent stomach ulcers and other similar damage caused by too much acid production.

9 health benefits and side effects of bitter gourd

6. Boosts immunity

Bitter gourd is an extremely rich source of vitamin C, which helps boost immunity and prevent you from getting sick. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights against free radicals in the body, which studies have shown could help prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease, and promote healthy ageing.

It’s thought that drinking one dose of bitter gourd extract is enough to ward off all number of illnesses and help you to maintain good health long into the future.

7. Speeds up wound healing

daily intake of bitter gourd can help speed up wound healing

You don’t just benefit from bitter gourd internally – it’s also an effective antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent for healing wounds. Experts say that getting your daily intake of bitter gourd will help speed up wound healing, reducing inflammation and preventing infection at the site of an injury.

Bitter gourd is used in herbal medicine for preventing bacterial growth thanks to its high natural sugar content. Some studies have already looked into the beneficial effects of applying a bitter gourd cream to skin wounds, and it seems likely that the fruit will be used as a natural topical medication in the future.

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8. Anti-cancer properties

We already know that bitter gourd boosts the immune system, and it’s even been found to reduce the risk of cancer. Bitter gourd has been shown to disrupt the production of glucose, potentially inhibiting the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in particular. Some studies suggest that bitter melon may also be effective in killing other cancerous cells in the liver, colon, breast, or prostate.

The effects of bitter melon are yet to be studied in cancer patients. Small clinical trials have shown promise that bitter gourd extracts can lower blood glucose levels, but larger and better-designed clinical trials are needed to give us a better idea of these benefits.

9. Helps manage arthritis pain

Vitamin K and anti inflammatory properties of bitter gourd can reduce arthritis pain

Thanks to its vitamin k content and anti-inflammatory properties, bitter gourd can help people suffering from arthritis to experience reduced pain and inflammation in their joints. It’s thought that vitamin K destroys inflammatory cells that contribute to rheumatoid arthritis, helping to prevent the disease from worsening and manage the frequency of flare-ups.

One three-month study of 75 patients with osteoarthritis found that those who were given a daily dose of bitter gourd had significant improvements in their osteoarthritis pain, inflammation, and mobility. As an added bonus, they also had improved blood sugar and lowered BMI levels, according to the data.

Side effects of bitter gourd

When you’re taking bitter gourd, the appropriate dose for you may depend on several factors, like your age and health condition. There’s no set dose for bitter gourd, although if you’re taking a pharmaceutical supplement, you’ll be given a recommended dose based on the product you’ve bought.

Headache and fever is a common side effect of bitter gourd

Like all natural remedies, bitter gourd comes with its fair share of side effects. You won’t experience any of these from sticking to regular consumption of the fruit, but if you take too much at once, be aware of the risks associated with doing so.

Bitter gourd is usually safe for most people when eaten daily on a short-term basis of three months or less. It might cause an upset stomach in some people. If you want to apply bitter gourd topically, be aware that there’s not enough information about the safety of applying the fruit directly to the skin.

The most common side effects of bitter gourd are:

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea (if you take several times more bitter melon juice than the recommended amounts)     
  • Headache, fever, and coma (with excessive ingestion of the seeds)     
  • Worsening low blood sugar, known as hypoglycaemia     

Bitter gourd can also interact mildly with a number of medications, including bumetanide, chlorothiazide, and metolazone. You should speak to your doctor or read up on your medication to be certain whether it might interact with bitter gourd.

It is best to avoid bitter gourd when you are pregnant

If you’re pregnant, you’re best avoiding bitter gourd altogether. There’s not enough research to say for certain, but it’s thought that bitter melon may be unsafe to ingest during pregnancy. 

Certain chemicals in bitter melon might cause menstrual bleeding, and studies show bitter gourd has even led to abortion in animals. There’s also very little known information on the safety of breastfeeding when consuming bitter gourd in your diet.

Finally, bitter gourd may interfere with blood sugar control during or after surgery, so if you’re scheduled for an operation, avoid the fruit altogether at least two weeks beforehand.

In all cases, if you’re ever unsure whether bitter gourd is safe for you, based on a certain medication you take or a condition you’re treating, speaking to your doctor is your best bet. You’ll be able to get peace of mind from a doctor’s assurance that you’re fine to consume bitter gourd while knowing that your doctor would inform you if you were better off steering clear of the fruit.

bitter gourd may interfere with blood sugar control during or after surgery


There are plenty of reasons to start adding bitter gourd extract to your diet, whether you’re suffering from a specific condition mentioned in this video, or you just want to improve your health the natural way.

Bitter gourd is fairly cheap and accessible, depending on where in the world you live. It’s available at Asian markets all season long. But if you choose to grow it at home, you will want to harvest it at the end of summer or early in the autumn, when temperatures and humidity are higher. You can buy bitter gourd juice online if you can’t find it locally.

Add honey to reduce the bitterness of bitter gourd juice

If you’ve never tried bitter gourd, you’ll need to know that it’s an acquired taste. Many people aren’t a fan of the fruit’s tangy flavour, although it’s a bit of a staple ingredient in some Chinese soup dishes. That said, if you find the taste isn’t for you, there are ways to enjoy bitter gourd without having to force it down like a shot of alcohol.

One simple tip to reduce the bitterness of bitter gourd juice is to add a dash of honey or sweetener or pair it with sweet fruits like apple or berries. You might want to try adding lemon juice to lessen the harsh taste or a sprinkle of black pepper or ginger. If you really don’t enjoy the flavour, you can find bitter gourd supplements that might go down a little easier.

About the author

Rachel Perono

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