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NUTRITION CORNER: Ampalaya is packed with lots of vitamins and minerals

Ampalaya, or bitter melon, is the fruit of a climbing vine that has a bitter taste when cooked.  Despite its harsh bitter flavor, Filipinos are very fond of eating this vegetable because it is a rich source of  important vitamins and minerals. It is highly recommended by health authorities because of its ability to treat and prevent various diseases and promote over-all health.

Ampalaya is high in dietary fiber and very low in calories and contains twice the carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana.

According to PhilippineHerbalMedicine.org, it also contains high levels of vitamins and minerals especially important in providing various health benefits.. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, and manganese. There is also another insulin-like compound present that serves as insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.

Ampalaya has phytochemicals or plant constituents like flavonoids, alkaloids, and triterpenoids that have been used traditionally to treat a number of problems like headaches, coughs, fever, wounds, burns, intestinal worms, liver and spleen problems, diarrhea, dysentery, colitis, infection and high blood pressure.

The fruit, leaves, roots, seeds and juice of the plant have nutritional and medicinal value. The plant parts can be eaten fresh or dried and taken in powdered form. Some manufacturers encapsulate the powder and sell them in capsule form as an herbal supplement. For skin conditions, wounds, burns and headaches, the leaves are applied topically. They have disinfectant and astringent effects. The juice, taken in large amounts, is sometimes used as a purgative and abortifacient.

Bitter melon is also being examined for its promising activity against obesity, cancer. HIV and other viral diseases, bacterial diseases and its analgesic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.#