Did you know that one in 10 Americans has diabetes, and about 102 million also have high cholesterol? While these problems continue to grow within our population, there are so many ways we can work to combat them in our own bodies — and eating the right foods is a great way to start.
Ayurveda, or the traditional Indian science of health which yoga comes from, has many solutions that can help live a healthier life. One that combats both cholesterol and controls blood sugar levels is Ayurvedic bitter melon, also called bitter gourd, a tropical vine similar to squash, zucchini, pumpkin, and cucumber. It’s bright green with tiny bumps and has a slightly bitter taste — hence the name! In Asian cooking, it’s considered a staple ingredient and is loaded with health-boosting nutrients.
Research has shown that extracts of bitter melon could help combat blood sugar issues. Indigenous populations have historically used bitter melon to treat diabetes and blood sugar conditions, and in recent years, modern science has backed this up. One study observing 24 adults with diabetes found that taking 2,000 mg of a bitter melon supplement each day helped decrease blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c over a three-month period, while also increasing insulin secretion — a hormone needed for blood sugar control.
Another study looking at 40 people with diabetes also found that taking 2,000 mg of bitter melon extract per day for a period of four weeks led to a reduction in blood sugar levels as well as decreased levels of fructosamine — another marker of blood-sugar control.
Bitter melon could also improve heart health by controlling cholesterol. Heart disease can be caused by high cholesterol, a condition which occurs when fatty plaques build up in the arteries, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Research has shown that bitter melon could help reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood.
One study done on rats who were fed a high-cholesterol diet, found that taking bitter melon extract led to significant decreases in levels of total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides. Another study found that giving rats bitter melon extract significantly reduced cholesterol levels when compared with a placebo.
But that’s not all. According to some research, bitter melon could also help you lose weight, and more specifically, belly fat. One study found that taking 4.8 grams of bitter melon extract each day led to significant decreases in belly fat. Participants in the study lost an average of 0.5 inches from their waist circumference after the seven-week trial. Another animal study found that taking bitter melon extract led to a decrease in body weight compared to a placebo.
So if you’re looking to lose a few inches around the waist, or gain control of your blood sugar or cholesterol, it might be worth it to give bitter melon a try. As always, check with your doctor before starting with any new supplement. For a bitter melon supplement we love, try this one from Himalaya ($12.95, Amazon).
Here’s to a healthier, disease-free you!