Also known as Momordica charantia, bitter melon, karela, kakarakaya, and hagala, bitter gourd has some strong health benefits and is commonly eaten in many parts of South East Asia. But should you include this vegetable in your pregnancy diet?
Is Bitter Gourd Safe During Pregnancy?
Eating a moderate amount of bitter gourd in pregnancy is safe. Studies show that excess consumption can lead to problems in the uterine system, which, in turn, can result in preterm labor.
Also, bitter gourd seeds contain vicine that induces favism, an anemic condition characterized by fever, headache, abdominal discomfort and coma .
Traditionally, bitter melon was also used to induce abortions, and the seeds are known to have an antispermatogenic effect, which is why you should consult your doctor before using it.
Health Benefits Of Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy
Even if you do not like bitter melon, it is time to consider including it in your diet, owing to the benefits it offers.
- Supports neurological development in the fetus: Bitter gourd contains substantial amounts of folate, which required for the spinal and neurological development of the baby. Folate minimizes the risks of neural tube defects.
- Aids in digestion: Problems with digestion are common during pregnancy due to the changes in hormone levels and an expanding uterus. Bitter gourd contains fiber, which stimulates digestion and relieves the problems of constipation, sluggish digestion, and dyspepsia.
- Prevents gestational diabetes: Bitter gourd possesses anti-diabetic properties, as the vegetable is rich in nutrients charantin and polypeptide-P that balance the blood sugar levels.
- Strengthens immune system: During pregnancy, your immune system gets weakened. Bitter gourd contains a good amount of vitamin C , which has antioxidant properties and can boost the immune system to fight illnesses .
- Packed with nutrients: Bitter gourd also contains zinc, iron, niacin, potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, manganese, and pyridoxine , all of which required for fetal development.
- Controls weight gain: The dietary fiber in bitter melon keeps you full and curbs your hunger pangs. It controls weight gain and the urge to indulge in unhealthy snacks.
Risks Of Eating Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy
- Can cause digestive problems: Over consumption can cause diarrhea, bloating, gas and abdominal cramps. Some people are also sensitive to bitter gourd seeds.
- Turns toxic sometimes: Bitter gourd contains hepatotoxins, which can cause toxicity in some people.
- Leads to miscarriage: According to the ‘Guide to Herbs and Nutritional Supplements’ by Laura Shane-McWhorter, excessive consumption of bitter melon can disturb the uterus and lead to early labor or miscarriage. Also, the bitter taste of the vegetable can create pulsations in the tummy and womb.