Bitter Melon for Diabetes & Other Health Benefits of Karela: Recipes and Tips

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Yet another scientific research confirms what most of us already know – that nature provides us with the best remedies for our ailments, such as this bitter melon diabetes remedy.

Bitter melon is the edible fruit of the plant Momordica Charantia. It is similar in appearance to a cucumber with a bumpy skin. The fruit is most often eaten green, or as it is beginning to turn yellow. It grows in tropical and subtropical climates, but you can usually buy it in Asian groceries. It’s a summer fruit, so it’s not always available in winter. The melon tastes very bitter – true to its name. There are many varieties that differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit. It’s also available in liquid extract and capsule forms.

Bitter melon has numerous health applications. To date, about 32 different bioactive components of bitter melon have been identified. Some are unique to bitter melon, but others that you probably recognize include lycopene, vitamins B and C, beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, and iron.

The beneficial effects of bitter melon for treating and preventing diabetes – and restoring normal blood sugar levels – is probably the most well-known benefit of bitter melon, but new uses are being discovered up all the time as we begin to grasp better the ins and outs of the interplay between its various components. Research results so far are conflicting and inconclusive.

Other conditions that can potentially benefit from its use include:

  • Psoriasis.
  • Stomach and intestinal disorders.
  • Kidney stones.
  • Liver disease.
  • Skin abscesses and wounds.
  • Immune enhancing.
  • Anti-cancer properties (due to the alpha eleostearic acid inside the seeds).
  • Other conditions.

Bitter melon is an excellent example of a natural substance that has various bioactive components that work together synergistically to produce health benefits that could not be available if the ingredients were isolated. This is why eating a diet rich in whole organic fruits and vegetables, especially if raw, is better for us than just popping up some supplements, for example.  And since supplements are not regulated, how can you be sure that the quality of what you’re taking is the best or even that there is any bitter melon in the supplement at all?

Bitter Melon Recipes

Bitter melon is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage.   The young shoots and leaves of the bitter melon may also be eaten as greens. Perhaps it’s new to you (as it is to me), but many cultures around the world have created their own variations of bitter melon recipes that may be worth trying.

Bitter melon is often used in Chinese cooking for its bitter flavor, typically in stir-fries (often with pork and douchi), soups, and also as tea. In Indonesia, bitter melon is prepared in various dishes, such as gado-gado, and also stir fried, cooked in coconut milk, or steamed.

Because many people find it pretty hard to eat because of the bitter taste, many recipes recommend parboiling it prior to adding it to the recipe. Parboiling partially cooks bitter melon as well as reducing its strong bitter taste. To parboil, place the sliced bitter melon in the boiling water for about two-three minutes and drain. Bitter melon can also be steamed.

Bitter Melon Stir Fry

•1 pound bitter melon (about 1 1/4 melons)
•1 tablespoon minced garlic
•1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
•2 tablespoons cooking oil
•2 tablespoons soy sauce
•1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
•1/2 teaspoon sugar
•a few drops sesame oil (optional)

1. Cut the ends off the bitter melon and cut in half lengthwise (do not peel).
2. Remove the seeds and white pith from the middle (you can also cook it with the seeds in)
3. Cut the melon into thin slices
4. Stir-fry the bitter melon for about 3 minutes, until it begins to soften. (if parboiled, stir fry for only 1-2 minutes)

Heat wok over or cooking pan to medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and chili mixture. Stir-fry briefly the seasonings to release the flavor (about 30 seconds).

Add the bitter melon. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then splash with the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Stir in the sugar. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the bitter melon is browning and beginning to soften. Stir in a few drops sesame oil if desired. Serve hot.

Bitter melon recipe

Bitter melon recipe: picture source

Bitter Melon Raw Gaspacho

This is a recipe for raw bitter melon. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will post my opinion as soon as I try it!

2 large tomatoes
1 red pepper: diced
1 cucumber: diced
1 Bitter Melon: cored and diced
1 scallion: diced
1 handful cilantro: diced
1 cup of water (optional)
Salt to taste (optional)
Tabasco sauce to taste (optional)

Directions: Wash and prepare all vegetables. Blend ½ the diced vegetables in a blender with tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Stir in remaining vegetables and add salt and tobasco to taste. Chill overnight. Sprinkle with extra cilantro and serve.

Bitter Melon Green Smoothie

one half a prepared bitter melon
2 cups apple juice
zest and flesh 1 lemon
one half avocado
a handful of mild greens, such as spinach leaves

To prepare bitter melon, scrape and cut it in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds and thinly slice. Apply salt and leave aside for ten to fifteen minutes. Wash with plenty of water. Drain and squeeze out excess water.

Bitter Melon Indian Variation Recipe

I love Indian spices and flavors. Here is a video showing you how to prepare stir fry with Indian spices.

More recipes:

Bitter melon recipes

Bitter melon recipes: Cut the melon diagonally into thin slices - Photo credit

Bitter Melon Produces Sweet Results For Diabetes

Here is one more reason to include bitter melon in your diet! Read this research on Bitter Melon and Diabetes.

Scientists have uncovered the therapeutic properties of bitter melon, a vegetable and traditional Chinese medicine, that make it a powerful treatment for Type 2 diabetes.

People with Type 2 diabetes have an impaired ability to convert the sugar in their blood into energy in their muscles. This is partly because they don’t produce enough insulin, and partly because their fat and muscle cells don’t use insulin effectively, a phenomenon known as ‘insulin resistance’.

Exercise activates AMPK in muscle, which in turn mediates the movement of glucose transporters to the cell surface, a very important step in the uptake of glucose from the circulation into tissues in the body. This is a major reason that exercise is recommended as part of the normal treatment program for someone with Type 2 diabetes.

The four compounds isolated in bitter melon perform a very similar action to that of exercise, in that they activate AMPK.

Garvan scientists involved in the project, Drs Jiming Ye and Nigel Turner, both stress that while there are well known diabetes drugs on the market that also activate AMPK, they can have side effects.

“The advantage of bitter melon is that there are no known side effects,” said Dr Ye. “Practitioners of Chinese medicine have used it for hundreds of years to good effect.” Via ScienceDaily

Bitter Melon For Diabetes

Bitter Melon For Diabetes (photo Flickr frontinbras)

Bitter Melon Contraindications

If taken in capsules, power or liquid form, it’s best to be monitored by a qualified healthcare practitioner. Bitter Melon may have additive effects when taken with other drugs whose action is to lower blood glucose levels. Bitter Melon should never be taken in combination with these therapies, especially in addition to insulin.

Bitter Melon has been used to promote uterine contractions so its use should be avoided during pregnancy. Nursing mothers should also avoid using Bitter Melon both as a food and as an herbal remedy.

Avoid Bitter Melon if one has a known allergy or an allergy to any member of the Curcurbitaceae plant families. (

Source WebMd

There are also those that say that bitternes is a signal from natrue to us. It is mother nature’s way to keep us away from it. It is evident that excess of most bitter things is toxic and harmful, even though they might cure some of our illnesses. So then we sometimes eat things that are bitter, like a lot of medicines. So then, they claim, bitter melon may be consumed for medicinal reasons but not because of its nutritious value. As with anything, moderation and use of common sense is advisable.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

Do you have a question or comment or would like to contribute a tip or recipe? Enter it in the comment section of this Science of Healthy Living blog. Thanks!

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