Scientific Name: Momordica charantia
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a climbing vine that grows in the tropics and subtropics within the squash family. Bitter melon is widely used in Vietnam and other Asian countries as a medicinal food. Bitter melon is also known as balsam pear, bitter apple, bitter gourd, and bitter squash. Uncooked bitter melon has high amounts of vitamin C, while cooked bitter melon has more lutein and zeaxanthin.
Bitter melon cooked contains vitamin C (37% daily value [DV]), a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge harmful free radicals that may cause chronic diseases. Vitamin C is also necessary for the immune system to properly function. It well-known that vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy; thus, this nutrient is necessary for collagen production.
An amount of 100 g of bitter melon cooked contains 1323 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds play an important role in the maintenance and protection of the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin have antioxidant effects and protect the photoreceptors present in the retina from potential free radical damage. Though cooked bitter melon has an acquired taste, it is often used in Asian cuisines to support one's health and well-being.