The health benefits of winter melon remain virtually unknown among many of us, as the fruit itself is not very popular. But, hey, here’s a riddle:
What is oblong, looks similar to watermelon & tastes very much like cucumber? No, it’s not a ‘meloncucum.’ It’s a winter melon. And it’s very rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants & vitamin C. The plant is low in calories & has hydrating properties — making it just perfect for recipes.
Winter melon is a very old ingredient in traditional Chinese & Ayurvedic medicines.
More About Winter Melon
Winter melon is also known as ash gourd & scientifically as Benincasa hispida. It belongs to the gourd family, the Cucurbitaceae, same as melons, cucumbers & zucchini. The fruit also goes by white gourd, wax gourd & winter gourd.
And no, this fruit doesn’t grow best in winter. There’s, in fact, no specific reason why it’s called winter melon. However, it may be because it can be kept in store for a very long time, so it can be stored for very long after its harvest in the Autumn months, such that it is eaten in winter.
Winter melon tastes best when eaten with sweeter fruits, such as watermelon, and in veggie dishes featuring squash & other fruits in the gourd family.
Nutritional Profile of Winter Melon
Most of the winter melon is made up of water, just like watermelon (its cousin). Like I already said, winter melon does not contain a lot of calories. Instead, it is packed with fiber & essential nutrients like riboflavin & vitamin C. Winter melon also offers health-boosting antioxidants, such as carotenoids & flavonoids.
A 100-gram winter gourd offers approximately the following nutrients:
- 13 calories
- 3 grams of carbs
- 0.4 grams of protein
- 0.2 grams of fat
- 3 grams of fiber
- 13 milligrams of vitamin C (14% DV)
- 0.6 milligrams of zinc (6% DV)
- 0.4 milligrams of iron (5% DV)
- 0.04 milligrams of thiamin (3% DV)
- 0.4 milligrams of niacin (2% DV)
- 0.13 milligrams of pantothenic acid (2% DV)
- 10 milligrams of magnesium (2% DV)
- 0.05 milligrams of manganese (2% DV)
- 9 milligrams of phosphorus (2% DV)
- 19 milligrams of calcium (2% DV)
- 5 micrograms of folate (1% DV)
Highlighting the Health Benefits of Winter Melon
Winter melon is rich in very good antioxidants, some of which are anthocyanin, flavonoids & polyphenols. As such, it is considered a functional food with the power to tackle inflammation & prevent damage to the cells caused by free radicals. These nutrients are also available in fruits like plums & blueberries and veggies like carrots & cabbage.
The ability of antioxidants to protect our bodies from free radical damage makes it a highly valued food. Eating other foods rich in these compounds will effectively tackle cellular damage. According to the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, winter melon extract has impressive anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory & antioxidants effects.
Except if you’re eating to gain energy for a very strenuous task, foods low in calories are always preferable health-wise. The fruit is rich in fiber instead of calories, and it also boasts a couple of micronutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin C & zinc, at the same time improving satiety.
Studies suggest that fiber-packed fruits will reduce your body weight after regular consumption since they don’t offer many calories to the body. The addition of such foods to our diet is a great way to keep your body weight in check and optimize general health.
There’s a high possibility that you don’t rag a sufficient amount of dietary fiber & whole fruits — like most other Americans. This would explain why implications concerning the digestive tract are common illnesses, but fortunately, this doesn’t have to continue this way — thanks to the availability of winter melon.
Constipation has nothing on you, thanks to the amount of soluble fiber provided by winter melon. Studies have shown the positive effects of eating fruit-derived dietary fiber on gastrointestinal conditions, like IBS, constipation & diverticulitis.
It should be noted that the presence of fiber in winter melon satiates the stomach easily & keeps you full for longer than usual. You don’t have to worry about thirst, too, since it’s a reservoir of water. There is also excellent support for digestion, and regularity is fostered too — not to mention that it’s a natural diuretic & laxative.
Enough Nutrients to be Tagged “Yin”
In traditional Chinese medicine, winter melon is a yin food, like most greens. It is tagged so due to its refreshing abilities. The fruit is also alkaline, which means it has cooling & neutralizing effects on the body. Winter melon helps to refresh the body & it can also ease digestive complaints & stomach aches.
How to Eat Winter Melon
Winter melon has a seed that cannot be eaten. You would easily know that once you see this watermelon impersonator. This skin has to be removed first, the same as the seed when you’re eating. You may then slice the flesh & even cook it — but that’s if you want.
Winter melon can be prepared in a number of ways, including simmering, grilling, steaming, parboiling, or roasting for 5 minutes max if you don’t want a mushy cushion.
You can add cooked winter melon to soups, stews, stir-fries, pies, cakes, casseroles, curries, juice & smoothies, and candles.
By the way, there isn’t a lot of difference between winter melon seeds & pumpkin seeds. Both can be roasted & enjoyed.
Concluding the Health Benefits of Winter Melon
The health benefits of winter melon should be optimized. The fruit is quite large & mildly sweet. You should have no complaints eating it. If you’d rather other ways, you can always add it to a number of recipes. It fills the stomach easily & for longer and will keep you hydrated too. The Chinese believe it to refresh the body. Not to mention that it wears a pair of sunshades on the digestive system to keep it cool.