Bitter Melon Aids Natural Weight Loss & Fights Insulin Resistance
Losing weight is hard, just ask one of the 200 million Americans who are overweight. It's hard not only because we have to break our bad eating habits, but also because, in some cases, our physiology is actually working against us with the development of insulin resistance. A popular Asian vegetable - the bitter melon - offers an easy way to combat insulin resistance and, in turn, make losing weight a little bit easier.
An Introduction to Blood Sugar
Normally, when we eat a meal, it gets processed in our stomach and intestines into the smaller compounds which make up food: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates make up a large portion of our diet, and get further broken down into glucose - the main source of energy for our cells. Our cells require insulin in order to take up glucose circulating in the blood. In response to increasing blood glucose levels, the pancreas releases insulin, which then slowly lowers blood glucose levels as the glucose is consumed.
How the Western Diet Messes with Blood Sugar
Most natural, unprocessed foods take a fair amount of time to digest, allowing blood glucose and insulin levels to slowly rise and fall. However, the processed foods that make up the majority of the American diet are easily digested and cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly. In turn, this causes the pancreas to pump out massive amounts of insulin, often in excess. This excess insulin causes blood sugar levels to drop below normal and causes us to be hungry again, greatly interfering with weight loss.
How the Western Lifestyle Messes with Insulin
Over long periods of time, this cycle of sharply rising and falling blood insulin levels can lead to insulin desensitization in certain cells (the liver and muscle cells are most commonly affected). An excessive amount of body fat can also interfere with our cells' natural abilities to utilize insulin. As a result, blood glucose and insulin levels remain high, setting the stage for diabetes development.
Bitter Melon to the Rescue
Bitter melon looks like an exceptionally warty cucumber and is commonly used in traditional Asian cuisine. It's rich in a wide variety of nutrients including calcium, potassium, iron, fiber, beta-carotene, phosphorus, vitamin C, and vitamins B1-3. Bitter melon has been shown in a number of studies to increase glucose tolerance by preventing the absorption of sugar as well as increasing the number of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas called beta cells. Bitter melon also contains blood sugar-lowering compounds that rival those found in prescription drugs. With its insulin-like functions and sugar-blocking capabilities, bitter melon can be used to balance blood sugar levels, making it easier to lose weight. Losing weight also causes insulin-resistant cells to regain sensitivity, further promoting blood sugar balance.
Using Bitter Melon
If you prefer to use the actual bitter melon vegetable, it can be found in most Asian food markets and incorporated into salads, stir-frys, or stuffed with rice and meats and cooked. You can also find bitter melon in supplement form.
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