What Is Ash Gourd? All You Need to Know
Ash gourd, also known as Benincasa hispida, winter melon, wax gourd, white pumpkin, and Chinese watermelon, is a fruit native to parts of Southern Asia.
It grows on a vine and matures into a round or oblong melon that’s approximately the same size and color as a watermelon. Once ripe, the fruit’s fuzzy exterior morphs into a powdery ash-colored coating that gives this fruit its name.
Ash gourd’s mild taste is reminiscent of cucumber, and the fruit’s flesh is a particularly popular addition to Chinese and Indian dishes.
The fruit is touted to offer various health benefits and has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. However, only a few of its purported benefits are currently backed by science.
This article reviews the latest research on ash gourd, including its nutrient content and potential health benefits.
Rich in certain nutrients and beneficial plant compounds
Ash gourd comprises 96% water and is very low in calories, fat, protein, and carbs. Yet, it remains rich in fiber and provides small amounts of various nutrients.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of raw ash gourd offers:
- Calories: 13
- Protein: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Riboflavin: 8% DV
- Zinc: 6% DV
Ash gourd also contains smaller amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, as well as various other B vitamins. Still, these amounts typically don’t exceed 3% of the nutrients’ DVs.
In addition to vitamin C, ash gourd is a good source of flavonoids and carotenes, two antioxidants believed to help protect your body against cell damage and certain conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Currently, ash gourd’s antioxidant content is thought to be the main reason behind most of its purported benefits.
Ash gourd is low in calories, fat, carbs, and protein. Yet, it’s rich in fiber and antioxidants that are believed to promote your health and help protect your body from disease.
May improve digestion
Ash gourd’s low calorie, high fiber, and high water contents may help improve your digestion and promote a healthy body weight.
For instance, research suggests that low calorie, water-dense foods like ash gourd may help people lose weight.
Moreover, ash gourd is a good source of soluble fiber. This type of fiber forms a gel-like substance in your gut, which slows your digestion and helps promote feelings of fullness.
Ash gourd is also particularly low in carbs, which makes it suitable for people following low carb diets.
Ash gourd’s low calorie, low carb, high water, and high fiber contents provide a nutrient combination that may promote digestive health and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Other potential benefits
Ash gourd has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat various ailments for centuries.
This fruit is often praised for its laxative, diuretic, and aphrodisiac properties. It’s also believed to provide health benefits ranging from increased energy levels and a sharper mind to smoother digestion and a lower risk of disease.
However, not all of its purported benefits are currently supported by science. The ones with most scientific backing include:
- May prevent ulcers. Animal research indicates that ash gourd extracts may help prevent the appearance of stomach ulcers in rats.
- May reduce inflammation. Test-tube and animal studies note that ash gourd extracts may reduce inflammation, which is believed to be the root cause of many chronic diseases.
- May offer some protection against type 2 diabetes. Research in mice suggests that ash gourd may help reduce blood sugar, triglyceride, and insulin levels. However, human studies report conflicting results.
- May have antimicrobial effects. Some studies indicate that ash gourd extracts may protect against certain bacteria and fungi. Yet, other studies find no protective effects.
Although promising, it’s important to note that all of these studies have used concentrated extracts from the fruit’s flesh, skin, or vine rather than the fruit itself.
Moreover, many of these studies are small or dated, and the vast majority haven’t researched these benefits in humans. Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.
Extracts made from ash gourd’s flesh, skin, and vine have been linked to an array of potential health benefits. Still, more studies in humans are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Ways to eat ash gourd
Ash gourd is a popular part of Asian cuisine.
The fruit is most often cubed, boiled, and eaten on its own or added to soups and stews. It can also be baked, fried, candied, or simply peeled and added to salads, or eaten raw similarly to how you’d eat a sliced cucumber.
Ash gourd can likewise be used to make candy, jam, ketchup, cakes, ice cream, or a sweet Indian delicacy known as petha. It’s also a popular addition to juices and smoothies.
You can find ash gourd in most Asian supermarkets or international farmers markets. Make sure to pick a gourd that feels heavy for its size and is free of bruises or outside indentations.
Ash gourd is best stored in a cool, dry place. The white powder on the gourd’s surface becomes sticky when wet and should be rinsed off before slicing the gourd open.
Ash gourd is a versatile addition to soups, stews, and salads. It can also be baked, fried, candied, or used to make ketchup, jam, juices, smoothies, and desserts.
The bottom line
Ash gourd is a low-calorie fruit that’s rich in water, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients. It is commonly used in traditional medicine to prevent or treat various ailments and makes for a versatile addition to many dishes.
Ash gourd is also believed to promote digestion, reduce inflammation, and protect against infection, ulcers, and type 2 diabetes. However, none of these benefits are currently backed by strong science.
That said, there’s no harm in giving this exotic fruit a try, even if it’s simply to add variety to your diet or give your dishes an interesting twist.
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