A disease that affects about 25 million Americans—diabetes is clawing its way through the population very swiftly. Yes, it does shoot up your blood sugar levels to extreme heights but the effects don’t end here.
Diabetes is intrinsically associated with increasing the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and even stroke. Healthy lifestyle habits interspersed with a daily dose of adequate exercise and nutritious diet can not only protect you from developing diabetes but also controlling it if you have already been diagnosed.
Several foods have been studied for controlling the elevated levels of sugar in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. While the two types of diabetes are completely different from each other (except for the fact that both raise your blood glucose levels), they can have serious implications on the body.
Fresh produce containing foods with low glycemic index are your best friends when it comes to controlling diabetes. However, not all healthy foods work the same way for everyone. A rather novel addition to the list of diabetes friendly food is bitter melon.
Bitter Melon For Diabetes
Known by various names—bitter gourd, bitter apple, bitter cucumber, karela, or balsam pear across the world—bitter melon is a vine-grown fruit/vegetable that grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, South America, East Africa, and the Caribbean.
Botanically belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, bitter melon has long been used as an herbal remedy to treat a host of ailments, including type 2 diabetes. The fruit contains three active phytonutrients—vicine, polypeptide-P and charantin, which help improve how your body absorbs and metabolizes sugar and aids in proper blood sugar regulation. [2,3]
While the research is still in its preliminary stages, scientists believe that the possible mechanism for bitter melon’s anti-diabetic properties include increased insulin secretion, tissue glucose uptake, liver muscle glycogen synthesis, glucose oxidation, and decreased hepatic gluconeogenesis. [3,4]
How To Use It
You must consult your doctor before starting on either bitter melon juice or supplements. Experts caution that ingesting this fruit in excess can result in a significant dip in the blood sugar levels and make the individual hypoglycemic.
- The easiest way to include bitter melon to your diet is by adding it to your stir fry. While it does come with a bitter flavor, you can balance out the bitterness by adding peppers, mushrooms, onions and corn.
- You can also ingest the juice (2 oz) every morning. Try incorporating the juice in your breakfast smoothies. Work out a few combinations which may be able to mask the bitter taste.
1. Raman A, Lau C. Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L. (Cucurbitaceae). Phytomedicine. 1996 Mar;2(4):349-62. doi:10.1016/S0944-7113(96)80080-8. PubMed PMID: 23194773.
2. Yeh GY, Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ, Phillips RS. Systematic review of herbs and dietary supplements for glycemic control in diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 Apr;26(4):1277-94. Review. PubMed PMID: 12663610.
3. Tan MJ, Ye JM, Turner N, Hohnen-Behrens C, Ke CQ, Tang CP, Chen T, Weiss HC, Gesing ER, Rowland A, James DE, Ye Y. Antidiabetic activities of triterpenoids isolated from bitter melon associated with activation of the AMPK pathway. Chem Biol. 2008 Mar;15(3):263-73. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2008.01.013. Erratum in: Chem Biol. 2008 May;15(5):520. PubMed PMID: 18355726.
4. Efird JT, Choi YM, Davies SW, Mehra S, Anderson EJ, Katunga LA. Potential for improved glycemic control with dietary Momordica charantia in patients with insulin resistance and pre-diabetes. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Feb 21;11(2):2328-45. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110202328. Review. PubMed PMID: 24566057; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3945602.