In Cucurbitaceae family, bitter melon has the highest nutritive value (Miniraj et al., 1993). Bitter melon plays an important role as a source of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and other nutrients in the human diet (Ali et al, 2008). Besides, bitter melon flesh is a rich in carotene, ascorbic acid, folic acid and minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus. In 100 grams raw material, bitter melon fruit contains the amount of calcium equal to 1/5 amount spinach’s ones (99 mg), potassium equal to those of banana (358 mg). This fruit also is a good source of dietary fiber.
Moreover, the crude protein content of bitter melon fruits is higher than that of tomato and cucumber (Xiang et al., 2000). A study conducted by Chunduri (2013) on antioxidant and nutritional analysis of edible cucurbitacae vegetables in India revealed that fresh bitter melon contained 0.96 g protein per 100g which is responsible for 2% of Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Bitter melon fruit proteins like momordin, alpha- and beta-momorcharin were reported to have anticancer effects and inhibit HIV infections, MAP-30 inhibit tumor growth (Renuka, 2012).
Bitter melon is good source of vitamin C. Indeed, 100 grams bitter melon flesh contains 84 mg vitamin C which corresponds upto 140% recommended dietary allowance for human body. Vitamin C is one of the important and essential vitamins for human health. It is needed for many physiological functions in human biology. Many health benefits have been attributed to vitamin C namely antioxidant, anti-atherogenic and anti-carcinogenic activity.
Bitter melon is also rich in folic acid. Folic acid is necessary for the growth and repair of every cell in the body. Folic acid is needed for the growth and repair of hair, skin and nails. Folic acid is an essential vitamin B, therefore, everyone needs it in order to stay in good health. Studies revealed that folic acid reduces the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease and stroke, and cognitive diseases or mental conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, age-related dementia or cognitive decline and depression (Qiu et al., 2007).
Bitter melon has been used long-term in the ancient traditional medicine of India, China, Africa, and Latin America. In fact, in many regions of the world, especially in poverty countries, bitter melon fruit may be the unique choice available for diabetic treatment. Nowadays, bitter gourd products such as concentrated juice and seed extracts can be found in form of capsules and tablets. These supplements are becoming more widely used in many countries as prophylactic or therapeutic agents.
1. Miniraj, N., K.P. Prasanna and K.V. Peter, 1993. Bitter Gourd Momordica spp. In: Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Plants, Kalloo, G. and B.O. Bergh (Eds). Pergamon Press, Oxford, UK., pp: 239-246.
2. Ali, M. A., M. A. Sayeed, M. S. Reza, M.S. Yeasmin and A. M. Khan (2008). Characteristics of seed oils and nutritional compositions of seeds from different varieties of Momordica charantia Linn. cultivated in Bangladesh. Czech J Food Sci, 26(4), 275-83.
3. Xiang C.P., C.Y. Wu and L.P. Wang (2000). Analysis and utilization of nutrient composition in bitter gourd (Momordica charantia). J. Huazhong Agr. Univ. 19:388-390
4. Qiu W. Q., X. Sun, D. J. Selkoe, D. M. Mwamburi, T. Huang, R. Bhadela and I. Rosenberg (2007). Depression is associated with low plasma Aβ42 independently of cardiovascular disease in the homebound elderly. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 22(6):536-542.
5. Renuka, L. 2012. Hypogycemic herbs and their action mechanism. Chin Med. 4 (1): 11-14
6. Chunduri J. R. (2013). Antioxidant and nutritional analysis of edible cucurbitaceae vegetables of India. International Journal of Bioassays, 2(8), 1124-1129.
Hoai Tran - FST