Bitter gourd also known as bitter melon or Momordica charantia or karela in India is known for its incomparable health benefits, but still it gets a bad rep due to its bitter taste. Packed with protein, carbohydrates, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, and several B vitamins, bitter gourd can benefit your health in many ways. What's more, this vegetable (it's actually a fruit though) is high in dietary fibre and low in calories. However, pregnant women are recommended not to consume bitter gourd. Below are some risks associated with consuming bitter gourd during your pregnancy.
A molecule vicine present in bitter gourds can cause favism, which is the destruction of red blood cells that carry oxygen to your body's tissues. This could lead to anaemia and lead to pregnancy complications. Severe anaemia during pregnancy is linked to increased risk of premature birth, having a low birth weight baby, and even infant death immediately before or after birth.
Bitter gourds also contain molecules such as quinine, momordica and glycosides that can poison the body. Ingestion of these substances can cause intestinal pain, problems with vision, vomiting, tiredness, muscle fatigue, nausea, and overproduction of saliva.
It is said that eating bitter gourd or bitter gourd seeds during pregnancy causes stomach aches, indigestion, diarrhoea, and pain in the abdomen.
Some experts say drinking bitter gourd juice during pregnancy can induce contractions and even cause bleeding, which can lead to abortion.
Love bitter gourd! Eat it in moderate amounts
It is best to avoid bitter gourd during pregnancy. However, if you still want to have it, consume it in small amounts after checking with your nutritionist or doctor. For example, you can have a cup of bitter gourd once or twice in a week.
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Avoid bitter gourd seeds completely during pregnancy, especially if you have a G6PD deficiency. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is an enzyme that protects red blood cells from substances in the blood that could harm them.
Bitter gourd seeds contain a chemical compound vicine, which could lead to favism and cause fever, nausea, anaemia, and stomach pain.
Other associated risks
Consumption of bitter gourd for up to 3 months may lead to digestive distress in some people.
Some experts advise breastfeeding mothers to avoid consumption of bitter gourd. However, there is limited reliable information regarding this theory.
If you have diabetes and are taking medications to lower your blood sugar, avoid eating bitter gourd as it might make your blood sugar drop too low.
Having bitter gourd during and after a surgery might affect your blood sugar levels. So, it is best not to eat bitter melon at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Even a healthy person should not consume more than 2 to 3 bitter gourds a day, because excessive intake can cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
Note: The debate on whether bitter gourd is safe for pregnant women or not still continues. So, if you still want to include it in your diet, take advice from your doctor.