A few years ago, a prominent health practitioner advised me to eat Bitter Melon 3 times a week. “Studies are demonstrating that it has powerful blood sugar control and anti-tumor properties”, she said, “it is used in Asian medicine to treat diabetes.”
And so began “The Hunt for Bitter Melon“, worthy of a chapter in an adventure novel.
When I finally found some in a large, sprawling, “every gadget, house-ware, street food, produce item and food-like thing ever made in China” store… they were of course not organic. But the benefit so superseded the ingestion of the pesticides, I bought 4 of the ridged, bumpy cucumber-like things.
In the Middle East we cook a type of gourd that is slightly bitter, and I remembered that my super-chef Mom cooked it with plenty of garlic, cilantro and lemon juice to mask the bitterness.
Sp there I was sitting in front of a bowl of steaming bitter melon, with all eyes at the table upon me. My family awaited my first bite with almost cruel anticipation.
Gwwaakkk! It took a lot of will power not to make a face like one you’d see at a Kabuki theater performance.
It really wasn’t awful in any way except the way it exemplified the epitome of bitterness.
The garlic and lemon did help, it was just the initial shock that threw me. After that I knew what to expect and it wasn’t so bad.
You know how sometimes the name of a food is slightly misleading? Well there is nothing misleading in the name of Bitter Melons… understated and simplistic perhaps… but not misleading.
However, based on scientific studies, we may want to consider sauntering to the local Asian market more than once in a while to find this promising food.
For anyone who is dealing with diabetes, or cancer it’s highly recommended to include in your diet.
I know you’re wondering if I’m loopy since I just took a page to tell you it’s not exactly a slice of apple pie, but what medicine is? You’re now prepared for the fun challenge of cooking the melon in creative ways!
To prepare bitter melon, slice the fruit open and remove seeds and pith. Do not peel. Beginners to bitter melon may parboil the fruit to lessen bitterness, although aficionados say this changes the texture too much.
Typically bitter melon is stuffed, pickled, or curried and served with meat or in soup.
Here are some suggestions:
- Chop it into Pasta Sauce with lots of garlic and oregano
- Dice it and cook with other vegetables, like sweet potatoes and peas
- Cook it with onions and pineapple chunks, season with cinnamon
- Add it to a Curry dish
- Put some in a Stir Fry with lots of ginger, season with Coconut Aminos
- Cut in half, hollow out seeds and stuff with heavily spiced ground grass-fed beef, onions and tomatoes
And finally… the evidence
Bitter melon is a fruit that grows in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Traditionally it has been used to treat diabetes. This is what spiked the interest of Dr. Rajesh Agarwal, a lead researcher in the Colorado study. He thought bitter melon might treat pancreatic cancer, since Type II diabetes often precedes the disease.
Researchers examined the effect of bitter melon on 4 different lines of pancreatic cancer cells and in mice. Mice were injected with pancreatic tumor cells and were randomly divided into one of two groups. One group received water (control), and the second was given bitter melon juice for six weeks. At the end of the study, the tumors that developed on the mice were dissected, weighed, and analyzed.
The results showed that bitter melon juice inhibited cancer cell proliferation and induced apoptosis (cell death). Tumor growth was inhibited by 60% in the treatment group with no signs of toxicity.
~ Be Well.