Lifestyle and other factors have led to surging numbers of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes.
In the United States alone, around 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes in 2015. A very small percentage of them were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (1).
Diabetes is a health condition in which your body has elevated blood sugar levels. This can happen due to two things:
- In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin.
- In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond well to insulin.
Common factors that contribute to Type 2 diabetes include unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, genes, belonging to certain ethnic background and age.
When diagnosed with it, your whole life changes. There are several lifestyle changes that you may have to make to reduce your risk of diabetes-related complications like heart disease, blurred vision, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Depending on whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you may either require oral medication, insulin shots or both.
With the right diet and enough exercise, diabetes can be prevented as well as controlled. When it comes to diet, one common ingredient that has always been in the news is bitter gourd.
Bitter Gourd and Diabetes
Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon or bitter squash, has an antidiabetic property.
It contains three active compounds – polypeptide-p, vicine and charatin – that make it effective for managing blood sugar levels. These active compounds help the cells take up sugar molecules, increase insulin secretion, stimulate the liver and muscle glycogen synthesis, and reduce glucose absorption in the body.
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, bitter melon had a modest hypoglycemic effect and significantly reduced fructosamine levels among patients with Type 2 diabetes who received 2,000 mg per day. However, the effect was less than the decline seen in those taking 1,000 mg per day of metformin (2).
A 2015 study published in the Egyptian Pharmaceutical Journal reports that bitter melon can be used as an effective oral adjunct hypoglycemic, with no reportable clinical side effects (3).
Again, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine shows the significance of hypoglycemic effects of bitter gourd and Knol khol juices among Type 2 diabetic patients (4).
Despite knowing that bitter gourd is beneficial for diabetes, many people find its bitter taste unpalatable. But you can still reap its benefits by mixing it with other ingredients.
You can try some bitter gourd juice recipes, where the taste of bitter gourd can be made more tolerable with the flavors of other diabetic-friendly vegetables and fruits.
For instance, we will be using cucumbers, green apples, lemon juice and turmeric powder in our juice recipes.
Cucumbers have a glycemic index rating of 0, which means diabetic people can eat them freely without worrying about their blood sugar. This water-rich vegetable has a special hormone that the pancreas utilizes to produce insulin, which in turn helps the cells convert carbohydrates into energy.
A 2016 study published in BioImpacts concluded that cucumber has protective effects against diabetes complications and can be considered a safe and suitable candidate for decreasing the oxidative stress and carbonyl stress that is typically observed in diabetes mellitus (5).
Green apples are crunchy and juicy, and a healthy fruit that diabetic people can eat (6).
Apples are high in soluble fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants that benefit the body in many ways. Also, they contain pectin that helps detoxify the body and remove harmful waste.
Another ingredient we used is lemon juice, which is good for diabetic people due to the vitamin C and soluble fiber in it.
A 2014 study published in Advances in Nutrition reports the positive effect of citrus flavonoids, naringin and naringenin on metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes insulin-resistant diabetes (7).
Turmeric powder is also beneficial, due to its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin.
Here are two different bitter gourd juice recipes for people who have diabetes.
Note: You may pass the juice through a sieve or strainer if you cannot process high-fiber foods. Also, check your blood sugar level before and after drinking the juice to make sure it suits your body.
1. DIY Bitter Gourd and Cucumber Juice
This simple and easy-to-make juice is slightly sweet and bitter in taste.
Things you’ll need:
- 2 large bitter gourds
- 1 medium cucumber
- ½ of a lemon
- 1 green apple
- ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
1. Wash the bitter gourds and peel off the skin.
2. Slit the bitter gourds vertically, and remove the rind and seeds using a spoon or knife. Roughly chop the bitter gourds into smaller pieces.
3. Soak the bitter gourd pieces in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Optionally, you can add ½ teaspoon of salt to the water.
4. Peel a cucumber and cut it into pieces.
5. Cut the green apple into small pieces.
6. Put the bitter gourd, green apple and cucumber in a juicer to extract the juice.
7. Add the juice of ½ of a lemon.
Your diabetic-friendly bitter gourd and cucumber juice is ready. Drink it once daily on an empty stomach to help control your blood sugar level.
2. DIY Bitter Gourd and Turmeric Juice
This is another simple and quick way to make bitter gourd juice. This juice has a strong bitter taste, but at the same time you cannot ignore the flavor of turmeric in it.
Things you’ll need:
- 2 bitter gourds
- ½ of a lemon
- ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder
- A pinch of Himalayan salt
- ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
1. Wash and peel the bitter gourds, then deseed and chop them into smaller pieces.
2. Add ½ teaspoon of salt in a bowl of water and soak the chopped bitter gourd in it for 10 minutes.
3. Toss the bitter gourd in a juicer and extract the juice.
4. Add the lemon juice, turmeric powder and a pinch of Himalayan salt to the juice.
Drink this juice once daily on an empty stomach to keep your blood sugar level under control.
- You can keep the skin bitter gourd skin if it does not bother you, but make you rinse it thoroughly to remove all pesticide residue.
- Eat more whole grains as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid drinks that are rich in sugar, such as sodas, fruit punch, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweet tea.
- Do not eat candy, pancakes, French fries, white bread, whole milk, bacon, cakes, pastries and pretzels. Also, avoid white rice, regular pasta, sugary breakfast cereal, and instant oatmeal.
- Limit your consumption of red meat and processed meat.
- Control your weight. Being overweight increases the risk of having diabetes and makes it more difficult to manage.
- Do not sit on the couch. Instead, start exercising. Even a simple brisk walk 30 minutes a day lessens the chance of developing diabetes and helps better manage the disease.
- Quit smoking, as it increases your chances of getting diabetes.
- If you drink, do it in moderation.
- Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/.
- Hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon compared with metformin in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21211558. Published March 24, 2011.
- Preliminary clinical trials of karela, Momordica charantia, on non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients. Egyptian Pharmaceutical Journal. http://www.epj.eg.net/article.asp?issn=1687-4315;year=2015;volume=14;issue=1;spage=69;epage=74;aulast=Salam.
- Immediate effect of bitter gourd, ash gourd, Knol-khol juices on blood sugar levels of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A pilot study. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2225411017300147. Published February 15, 2017.
- Protective mechanisms of Cucumis sativus in diabetes-related modelsof oxidative stress and carbonyl stress. BioImpacts. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4916550. Published 2016.
- A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health. Advances in Nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183591. Published September 2011.
- Effect of Citrus Flavonoids, Naringin and Naringenin, on Metabolic Syndrome and Their Mechanisms of Action | Advances in Nutrition | Oxford Academic. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/5/4/404/4568623. Published July 07, 2014.