When you have diabetes, you no doubt focus on diet and exercise. But you may also look for more ways to manage it. One that you may have heard of is bitter melon.
Bitter melon is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit. Bitter melon is commonly used for beneficial health reasons. The melon has an extremely bitter taste, but it is a helpful food.
How It Affects Diabetes
Bitter melon has several chemicals that seem to act like insulin and help to lower blood sugar levels.
Some studies suggest that they do this by causing more glucose to enter the cells, and then helping your body process it and store it in the liver, muscles, and fat. They also may prevent your body from changing the nutrients that it stores into glucose and then releasing it into the blood.
Some studies show bitter melon can lower blood sugar and A1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
How to Use Bitter Melon
You can find it at many Asian grocery stores. It might be fresh, dried, canned, or pickled. There are bitter melon seeds, flowers, leaves, and juice. You could even find bitter melon tea bags.
To prepare the fresh fruit, first remove the seeds. Then blanch or soak it in salt water before you cook it to help with the bitter taste. It’s often stuffed, stir-fried, or cooked with other vegetables. You can use the fruit, flowers, or seeds to brew tea.