Chinese bitter melon, known as bitter gourd, bitter squash or balsam pear in English has the scientific name mormordica charantia. It is the fruit of a tropical and subtropical vine that is widely grown in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. As the name suggests, the melon is bitter to taste, although the shape and bitterness differ among its varieties.
The Chinese bitter melon is consumed and cooked in its green form or premature yellowing stage. The leaves and shoots of the plant are also eaten. The Chinese use it in stir-fries, soups, and herbal teas. Although the bitter fruit might make you cringe, the melon is capable of boosting your health.
It aids in digestion. It helps in diabetes management because of its blood-sugar-lowering effects. The melon contains phytochemicals, polypeptide-P and charantin, which help in the transportation of sugars into cells. This tends to lower the amount of sugar in the blood.
Naturally low in fats and carbohydrates, the Chinese bitter melon is low on calories too. It is high in fibre, rich in anti-oxidants, high in vitamins A, B (folate) and C.
The vegetable has anti-carcinogenic effects. It has important phytochemicals, which in turn prevent cancerous cells from spreading or stop cancer cells from generating. It is also believed that the Chinese bitter melon assists in reducing the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Additionally, the melon has various other health benefits such as treatment of high cholesterol, psoriasis, cold and constipation.
The Chinese bitter melon is a store house of nutrients which is highly beneficial to health. Prepare delicious stir-fries, add it to soups or sauté with your favourite vegetables. Blanching it first and cooking it with various spices can remove or reduce the potent bitter flavour.
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