What is Bitter Melon?
Bitter melon is a tropical vine known for its edible fruit. This unusual plant is also known as bitter gourd. It grows in many parts of Asia, where it’s been used thousands of years for many purposes from weight loss to abdominal pain. Published literature suggests its traditional use in eczema, gout, jaundice, kidney stones, psoriasis, and arthritis*. Bitter melon fruit is also popular in culinary dishes in Bangladesh and India.
By far the most researched health benefit of bitter melon is its positive effect on blood sugar.*
There are more than 140 different studies in both animals and humans that investigate bitter melon’s effect on blood sugar control and its potential therapeutic use in type 2 diabetes.
Bitter melon has some other cool benefits as a consequence of blood sugar regulation. That's why today bitter melon is becoming popular in the keto community. There are studies that suggest that it can help in blood sugar spikes prevention, which keeps the body in ketosis and gives stable energy source throughout the day.*
Asian culture seems to have intuitively understood the benefits of bitter melon. Modern research has uncovered many health-promoting compounds in bitter melon, including a rich array of anti-inflammatory and insulin-stabilizing compounds.*
3 Main Benefits of Bitter Melon
While the majority of research on the bitter melon to date has been done in animal studies, there’s some compelling evidence that this plant may be an amazing ally for metabolic processes, especially if you suffer from obesity or diabetes.*
#1: Blood Sugar Regulation
Keeping stable blood sugar levels is one of the basic principles of maintaining a healthy body. High blood sugar often occurs after eating a diet high in refined carbs. It contributes to weight gain, type II diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Chronic high blood sugar also damages blood vessels — they aren’t meant to carry large quantities of sugar for a prolonged amount of time. The result of this damage is decreased blood flow to vital organs, and increased risk of heart attacks and other forms of heart disease.
Bitter melon lowers blood sugar levels and improves overall blood sugar control*
It’s rich in polypeptide-p, a protein that mimics insulin (the hormone that removes sugar from blood cells and keeps your blood sugar stable)*. Polypeptide-p reduces blood sugar levels in both human and animal studies.
Bitter melon also contains vicine and charantin, two more compounds that regulate blood sugar. Charantin may even have a stronger positive effect on blood sugar than the anti-diabetic medication Tolbutamide.
#2: Immune Enhancement
Bitter melon also strengthens the immune system, thanks to a variety of compounds with antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and antimutagenic properties.*
Our immune systems contain a class of cells called natural killer cells that attack foreign viruses before they can invade our bodies. Bitter melon activates these natural killer cells, stimulating the immune system and protecting us from viruses. Researchers have even studied bitter melon extract as an anti-HIV drug, with promising preliminary results.*
#3: Type 2 Diabetes Management
When we are eating food that contains carbs, a class of pancreatic cells called beta cells starts to produce and secrete insulin, which then manages our blood sugar. When these beta cells stop working for some reason, our body starts struggling to manage blood sugar and insulin response becomes desensitized. Beta cells failure leads to type II diabetes.*
Multiple animal studies have found that bitter melon helps pancreatic beta cells secrete insulin* (1) (2) (3). Bitter melon also has a protective effect on beta cells. In a study on diabetic mice, a bitter melon supplement restored pancreatic activity and brought beta cells back online, encouraging them to release insulin.*
In humans with diabetes, bitter melon lowers both fasting and post-meal blood glucose. It also improves metabolic syndrome, which often leads to obesity and diabetes. Bitter melon shows promise for treating type II diabetes, although it could use more clinical trials.*
How to Supplement Bitter Melon
You can get a bitter melon supplement in capsules, as an extract, or as bitter melon juice.
IEG Store's: Bitter Melon extract dosage is 1-2 teaspoons per day. It is a natural product, obtained with minimal processing techniques in order to preserve fresh-like quality.
How to Cook Bitter Melon
If you prefer whole foods, you can also cook and eat fresh bitter melon. You can usually find it at a local Asian or Indian grocery store, next to the other gourds and melons.
When looking for bitter melon, be sure to choose one that’s slightly orange or yellow in color. Green means it’s not ripe yet. Also, try to grab one that’s small to medium in size. The bigger the melon, the more bitter it will be. You don’t need to peel the skin, as the whole plant is edible. Just chop and cook.
Bitter melon is a popular part of Indian, African, Caribbean, and Asian cuisine
It’s great in a stir-fry or soup. Add bitter melon to a protein-rich stir fry with lots of healthy fats to get some extra vitamins and balance out a keto meal. It’s high in vitamin C and other antioxidants that fight free radicals.
Simply cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and then either chop it into small rounds or into short, thin strips.
Is Bitter Melon Keto?
Bitter melon is very low in carbs. Two spoons of Bitter Melon have 0.2 grams of carbohydrates, with 0.1 grams of dietary fiber — that’s a net 0.1 grams of carbs.
Bitter melon may even help you get deeper into ketosis. In rodents, eating bitter melon increased fat oxidation (fat burning), to the point where the rodents lost weight (1) (2).*
Bitter Melon Side Effects
There are certain situations where you may want to avoid bitter melon.
- If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Traditional Asian cultures used bitter melon to induce abortions. Pregnant women are better off avoiding bitter melon.
- If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor. Because bitter melon can lower blood glucose levels so well, it might stack with anti-diabetes drugs like metformin and lower your blood sugar levels too much. If you’re on diabetes medication, talk to your doctor before trying bitter melon.
- If you have a rare glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD). Bitter melon seeds contain a compound called vicine. People with G6PD deficiency may get anemia, headaches, fever, and stomach pain from eating vicine in bitter melon.
- If you’re scheduled for surgery. Due to the blood glucose lowering effect of bitter melon, if you are planning on having surgery or recovering from surgery it’s best to avoid any herbs that may alter your metabolism. Stop using bitter melon at least 2 weeks before any surgical procedure.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this text is to stimulate critical health thinking. Medical information does not amount to advice and if advice is needed an appropriate professional help should be asked. No warranties or representations are given in respect of the medical information, and the website operator should not be held liable if a user suffers any injury or loss after relying upon the medical information.