Some health benefits of bitter melon or “Karawila”.
Posted on October 6th, 2016

Dr Hector Perera         London

In places like Sri Lanka, one can get hold of plenty of fresh vegetables in local food fairs or at Pola”. They have these food fairs in nearly every town, usually once a week. Sunday food fairs are very popular and massive. Not only vegetables but dry fish as well are sold in these places. In a way this is just like a meeting place for some people. I found there is a one even in Buller’s road and sometimes they call Jatika Pola”. Now there are plenty of super markets where you find all these vegetables among other things.

Bitter melon good for type 2 diabetics

Bitter melon, or Goya, is commonly used for beneficial health reasons. Bitter melon is also referred to as bitter gourd, Karawila, or Balsam Pear. The melon has an extremely bitter taste, but it is a helpful food. Bitter melon is commonly added to stir-fry, or may be enjoyed stuffed. It may also be added to the diet as a supplement. In order to receive the full health benefits, find and cook the melon regularly.

Bitter melon is one of popular edible pod vegetable in many Asian countries. It is grown widely as a field crop as well as backyard vegetable and, in fact, is among the bitterest tasting of all culinary vegetables. In some places they cultivate different vegetables in paddy fields in some seasons. Since they produce in mass scales, they send lorry loads of these vegetables to cities such as Kandy and Colombo. The locally produced vegetables are usually sold in so called food fairs or in Pola”.

 Medicinal and health benefits

Bitter melon is very low in calories, carrying just 17 calories per 100 g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich sources of phytonutrients like dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Bitter melon notably contains phytol-nutrient, polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. In addition, it composes hypoglycaemic agent called charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis inside the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Together, these compounds may have been thought to be responsible for blood sugar levels reduction in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.

Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, carrying about 72 µg/100g (18% of RDA). Vitamin folate when taken by mothers during their early pregnancy time, would help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the new-born babies.

Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100 g of raw pod provides 84 mg or about 140% of RDI). Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural antioxidants which helps scavenge deleterious free radicals from the human body.

Further, it is an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. It also contains a good amount of vitamin-A. Together, these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.

Bitter melon stimulates easy digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel until it is excreted from the body. Thus, it helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.

In addition, it is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.

Early laboratory tests suggest that certain phyto-chemical compounds in bitter melon might be effective in the treatment of HIV infection.


Here’s some sweet information you need to know about this bitter vegetable.

Type II Diabetes

Some studies have shown that bitter melon lowers blood sugar through increased metabolism of glucose. It is mentioned to drink one cup daily but personally I do not like to drink that way. As with any changes to your diet, be sure you consult your physician. Stop use if you’re experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or fever. Monitor blood sugar regularly and adjust medications as necessary, with the assistance of your doctor.

Other medical advantages

A kidney stone is an extremely painful medical condition. Bitter melon can be helpful in ridding the body of kidney stones through naturally breaking them down. Bitter melon reduces high acid that help produce painful kidney stones. Infuse bitter melon powder with water to create a healthful tea. This tea has a nutty flavour and, surprisingly, does not require sweetening.

 Lower Cholesterol

Help lower dangerous cholesterol levels with bitter melon. Reducing cholesterol significantly reduces heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. The added benefit is that bitter melon is completely natural in working with the body to prevent these health risks. High cholesterol can only be diagnosed with a blood test.

 Pancreatic Cancer

One of the most surprising health benefits of bitter melon is its anti-cancer properties. Bitter melon has been shown to disrupt the production of glucose, potentially inhibiting the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. Try these bitter melon juice recipes for a touch of variety and to reap the full health reward of this unusual melon. It is mentioned that bitter melon may also starve other cancerous cells in the liver, colon, breast, or prostate.

Skin benefits

Foods or drink taken from this melon benefit the skin. Taken regularly, bitter melon is said to have a glowing” effect on the skin and is helpful in treating acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Experience natural and soothing relief with bitter melon. Try bitter melon soup for relief of any of these skin conditions or for more beautiful skin. An added benefit is that bitter melon is a blood-purifying agent.

Weight Loss

As is common with most plants, bitter melon is extremely low in calories and very filling. Lose, or maintain a healthy weight, with bitter melon. Prepare stuffed bitter melon to enjoy this benefit. The same properties that aid against Type II Diabetes also assist in health weight loss and maintenance. The melon is very high in nutrients, which is another reason it’s so beneficial in weight loss.

Carbohydrate Digestion

This is a very important benefit for those who have Type II Diabetes. Carbohydrates turn to sugar, and bitter melon metabolizes the sugars. Faster metabolism of carbohydrates means that less fat is stored in the body which leads to weight loss, and healthy weight maintenance. Proper carbohydrate digestion also aids in muscle growth and development. A Bitter Melon Stir-Fry is just the ticket for the many benefits of bitter melon.

Vitamin-K Source

Vitamin-K contributes to bone health, blood-clotting, and is an anti-inflammatory. Those suffering from arthritis can experience lower pain and inflammation in the joints through increasing Vitamin-K.

No-fry Karela crispies are a delicious way to add Vitamin-K to your diet. The addition of bitter melon satisfies your body’s daily nutritional need for Vitamin-K. Also, the addition of bitter melon is a great source for dietary fibre.

Increased Immunity

A healthy immune system is vital for fending off potential infections and diseases. Add this delicious and easily prepared bitter melon stir fry for this added health benefit. Stop or prevent a cold instantly in its tracks while benefiting the digestive system. Prevent or curb food allergies, and get rid of yeast infections, naturally. An added bonus of bitter melon is relief of acid reflux and indigestion. There are other benefits of bitter melon or Karawila” but the ones I mentioned are just a few benefits. Your comments are welcomed

2 Responses to “Some health benefits of bitter melon or “Karawila”.”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    Thank you Dr Hector Perera. This is a divine food.

    Human way: wrap the crap with a sweet sugar coating – because we are selling – We expect to sell more and earn more disregarding the poisons we feed to others.

    Nature’s way: wrap the best with bitter coating – Nature do not sell; It expects us to go the extra mile to get the benefit.. Example – eat my bitter gout with a bit difficulty, and be healthy.

    Human way: enjoy the life full of pleasures and crave for more and extend the Samsara. Let the suffering get pushed under the rug, come back for more and get stuck in the chicken cage of Maraya.

    Nature’s way: look at the pleasures in an open mind. Enjoy life without attaching and living at the moment without craving for another time, another round. See the hidden danger of suffering and tread in the spiritual path. Journey is bitter like Bitter melon but the end result – enlightenment is the best state one can achieve.

    What a lesson Bitter Melon can teach us!!

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    I love Karawila Stir-Fry salad with lots of par-fried onion and lemon juice.

    One of my favorite dishes; easy to make in Sri Lanka but Karawila can only be found in Asian markets in the USA!

    Thank you indeed Dr Hector Perera for this very interesting and edifying article.

    We are what we eat; so let’s us know what we should be eating!

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