Winter melon nutrition, glycemic index, calories, net carbs & more
Winter melon is a well-known vegetable/fruit consumed in Asian countries (1). It is native to Japan and is grown in hot countries (2). Also known as wax gourd, winter melon has a lot of health benefits and is used in different medical systems worldwide (2). The gourd also has pharmaceutical attributes, therapeutic and healing properties (2).
Thermal processing conducted on winter melon transforms it into flavorless water with great nutritional value (1). It has low amounts of anti-nutrients and a decent amount of nutrients, making it a wholesome food to consume (3).
Further research is needed to prove its pharmacological effects on humans.
In this article, an in-depth nutrition analysis of the winter gourd will be conducted, along with a discussion of its health benefits and risks.
Table of contents
- General Information
- Weight Loss and Diets
- Health Impact
- Health Benefits
- Mental Health and Brain Health
- Immune Health
- Sexual Health
- Analgesic and Antiedemic Effects
- Digestive Health
- Kidney Health
- Downsides and Risks
- Cooking and Use
- Storage, Keeping, and Conservation
- Production and Consumption
Wax gourd is scientifically called Benincasa hispida (1). It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same family of cucumber, melon, squash, gourd, and zucchini (4).
The cucurbit family is genetically very diverse and grows in regions prone to drought (5). Cucurbits belong to a family of plants that are known for their numerous health benefits. The gourd family is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients (6).
Winter melon has many other English names such as a white gourd, ash gourd, wax gourd, white pumpkin, tallow gourd, gourd melon, and Chinese watermelon (2). Other names include kundur fruit, chalkumra, Chinese preserving melon, and ash pumpkin (7).
The label “winter” comes from the fact that it can be stored in summer and eaten in winter.
Taste and Appearance
Wax gourd has a mild sweet taste that is almost bland. This makes it a great medium to absorb whatever flavor it is put in. It is used as a vegetable in Asian countries. However, unlike its relatives like cucumber, it cannot be eaten raw. It has to be cooked.
The immature ones have little hairs, while the mature ones lose their hairs and develop a waxy layer, hence its name wax gourd (7). The winter melon may look like a combination of cucumber, pumpkin, and zucchini. This is because it is a relative of these plants. The gourd has an oblong shape. It has a cavity in the center with a mushy substance and seeds. The flesh is white.
There are many winter melon varieties. Some of which include: honeydew melon, casaba, Santa Claus type, etc. (8).
Two cultivars of winter melon are grown in Malaysia (9).
A study identified 16 different cultivars of winter melon according to different shapes, sizes, and skin colors (10).
The serving is 1 cup made of 132 grams, which is the average serving size per person. The average serving will then contain 17.16 calories. This is a very low-calorie food.
It’s composed of 97% water. The remaining 3% is the nutrients. This food itself is richer in vitamin C than it is in any other nutrient. Similarly, it is relatively rich in fiber, sodium, calcium, and zinc.
Winter melon contains 13 calories per 100 grams. It is a low-calorie food.
The winter melon contains less than 1 gram of protein (0.4 grams per 100 gram).
However, it does contain some free amino acids.
The amino acids are mostly focused in the seeds of this plant and least in the pulp (11).
It has been shown to have a decent amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA, an important neurotransmitter indispensable for brain health (12).
Ash gourd contains just 0.1 grams of fat. It is a food that is low in fats.
One hundred grams of this food provides 3 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains 0.1 grams of net carbs. This is 541.7 times lower than net carbs in chocolate. It is, therefore, a low carbohydrate food.
Winter melons have 1.2 times more fiber than oranges. 100 grams of it covers 12% of daily fiber needs.
In a study that compared the crude fiber content of cucurbit family plants, ash gourd contained the highest amount of crude fiber (3).
The food also contains 0 grams of sugars. This means it is suitable for people with diabetes and people following a low-carb diet.
Fiber content ratio for Winter melon
Winter melon lacks the fat-soluble vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and the water-soluble vitamin; vitamin B12. It contains some vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, and folate.
It’s mostly rich in vitamin C and vitamin B2.
One hundred grams of this food covers 14% of the daily need for vitamin C. However, the amount of vitamin C it contains is 4.1 times less than lemon. Furthermore, 100 grams of winter gourd covers 8% of daily vitamin B2 needs.
Vitamin coverage chart
Among all the studied minerals, 100 grams of this food mostly covers the daily need for iron and zinc (5% and 6%, respectively).
Winter melons lack any choline.
Mineral coverage chart
Winter melon has a glycemic index almost equal to zero and is, therefore, suitable for people with diabetes and those following a diet low in carbohydrates.
The acidity based on PRAL, i.e., potential renal acid load value, is 0.3. The higher the positive value of the PRAL, the more acid the food produces in your body.
Weight Loss and Diets
Winter melon is rich in fiber, so it helps keep you full for a longer time, thus limiting your food consumption (13).
It is also very low in calories, fats, and sugars. It is an optimal addition to a weight loss diet plan.
|Keto||A 100-gram serving contains 0.1 grams of net carbs. It is very low in carbs and can be consumed on a keto diet.|
|DASH||The DASH diet is typically used in lowering blood pressure. It is full of fruits and vegetables. A study suggested that winter melon has an ACE-inhibiting effect. This means it has an effect similar to blood pressure drugs (however, it should not be used as a drug replacement).
Therefore, winter melon can be consumed while being on the DASH diet.
|Atkins||It can be consumed on an Atkin’s diet. A 100-gram serving contains only 3 grams of carbohydrates.|
|Mediterranean||The Mediterranean diet involves eating plant-based foods and a lot of fruits and vegetables. Hence, ash gourd can be consumed on this diet.|
|Paleo||The paleo diet involves eating whole foods that are not processed, including lots of fruits and vegetables. Winter melon is, therefore, paleo-friendly.|
|Vegan/ Vegetarian/ Pescetarian||Winter melon is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians. It is void of animal products.|
|Gluten-free||Winter melon is gluten-free.|
|Dukan||Winter melon cannot be consumed during the first phase of the Dukan diet (the Attack Phase).|
|Intermittent Fasting||Winter melon cannot be consumed during fasting hours. It can be consumed during eating periods.|
|Low Fat & Low Calorie||Winter melon is very low in fats and low in calories. Therefore, it can be consumed in a low-fat and low-calorie diet.|
|Low Carb||It is very low in carbohydrates (0.1 grams net carbs and 3 grams of carbohydrates).|
|Anti Inflammatory||It is full of anti-inflammatory compounds and can be consumed on an anti-inflammatory diet.|
|BRAT||Winter melon is gentle on the stomach and can be focused on in a BRAT diet.|
The fruit has some properties such as anti ulcerative, anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vasodilating, etc. This is mainly due to the bioactive compounds present in this food.
Wax gourd seeds, which are often discarded, also have various properties. This needs to be further investigated by the medical community (14).
ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) are substances that dilate blood vessels and thus lower blood pressure. These are regular blood pressure medication constituents that are prescribed by a physician. In one study, wax gourd extract was shown to have angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibiting activity (it has an ACE-inhibiting effect). Wax gourd, therefore, has cardioprotective capabilities (15).
It may be used as a cardiotonic as it has been used historically (16). However, further evidence is needed.
Moreover, winter melon contains potassium, which is known to be a vasodilator, dilating blood vessels and aiding in the lowering of blood pressure.
Extract from white pumpkin was shown to lower the blood glucose level in diabetic rats. It was also shown to decrease cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) values when compared to diabetic rats who did not receive the treatment (17).
So B. Hispida can improve lipid metabolism in diabetic rats ( further studies are needed to prove that in humans).
On top of that, ash gourd contains gallic acid, a chemical compound known to reduce the risk of diabetes type 2 (18).
Winter gourd has cytotoxic and anticancer effects. Furthermore, it exhibits a dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity (19).
Winter melon has antioxidant effects as well (20). Antioxidants are known to scavenge free radicals and protect cells from damage.
Moreover, ash gourd fruit was shown to have 5 alpha-reductase inhibiting effects (21). Five alpha-reductase inhibitors block the hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone) and are used to treat the enlarged prostate gland. The ash gourd fruit showed to stop the testosterone-induced abnormal growth of prostate cells in rats (21).
Mental Health and Brain Health
In one animal model study, the winter melon extract exhibited an anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) effect (22).
A chemical called γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) was isolated from the ash gourd. This substance has mental health benefits (12). A substance in winter melon has been used as an ayurvedic treatment for epilepsy (12).
Ash gourd juice extract was shown to have anti-depressive effects (23). Fresh ash gourd juice improved morphine withdrawal symptoms in rats (24).
What’s more, this food is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat schizophrenia (25).
Winter melon may be consumed in moderation during pregnancy. However, always consult your physician first. The fiber content in winter melon helps relieve constipation. Additionally, the zinc and vitamin C present in the food help improve the immune system. Finally, folate helps prevent congenital disabilities (neural tube defects).
Winter melon has antimicrobial effects (26). Moreover, winter melon is rich in vitamin C which is necessary for the creation of immune cells. The zinc contained in this food also strengthens the immune system.
Winter melon may be beneficial in treating sexually transmitted diseases. Seed oil is used in the treatment of syphilis, and seed ash is used to treat gonorrhea in some countries (27).
Analgesic and Antiedemic Effects
Traditionally, winter gourd has been used as an analgesic (pain-blocking) and in the management of fever. Extracts have been shown to have antinociceptive (pain-blocking) and antipyretic (fever-lowering) effects. The analgesic effects may be due to phytonutrients referred to as flavonoids (28).
Two chemicals isolated from the wax gourd called alnusenol and multiflorenol can inhibit histamine release in the smooth muscles, thus providing an analgesic effect (29).
Ash gourd also has anti-edematous properties. It reduces swelling (30).
Winter melon is 97% water and high in fiber, so it helps in the improvement of the digestive process (31).
A study showed the anti-ulcerogenic activity of Benincasa hispida extract, which further substantiates its use as treatment of ulcers in Ayurvedic medicine. The extract may be further considered as a constituent of ulcer drugs. Winter gourd heals ulcers and neutralizes stomach acids (32).
Winter melon has an antidiarrheal effect, as demonstrated by a research paper (33).
It acts as a vermifuge too. A vermifuge is an antiparasitic substance that expels parasites out of the body (34).
Benincasa hispida had renoprotective effects (kidney-protecting effects) in rats with induced kidney failure (35).
In addition, it has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine to treat kidney infections (36).
It has been used in Ayurveda in the treatment of urinary calculi (kidney stones) as well (16).
A study revealed that Benincasa hispida has anti-aging effects on the skin and that a cream made from B. hispida extract can actually slow down the aging appearance of the skin (37).
Downsides and Risks
A study showed that the consumption of 70% extract of winter melon, up to 1000 mg/kg of body weight, is non-toxic and safe in rats. However, further studies are needed to confirm this in humans (38).
Pregnant and lactating women should consult their physicians first before consuming the food.
Cooking and Use
Winter gourd is a versatile ingredient. It can be eaten in many ways: baked, sauteed, candied, jammed, boiled, parboiled, steamed, grilled, and fried. It can be put to great use in soups, smoothies, jams, teas, stews, etc. It can also be eaten raw as salads. The ash gourd is used in India to make candies called petha (31).
The seeds can be consumed too, similar to how sunflower seeds are consumed.
Winter Melon Tea
Winter melon tea is a great soothing tea. It is free of sugar (you can add your preferred sweetener).
Simmer the pulp in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Then, sift the tea, and don’t forget to squeeze the remaining tea from the spongy melon chunks.
Winter Melon Juice
Preparing winter melon juice involves peeling the fruit and removing the seeds. This is followed by cutting the pulp into chunks and juicing it using a juicer.
Storage, Keeping, and Conservation
Given that the white pumpkin is in normal shape and is not scarred, it can be stored for a long period of time (up to a year). This is due to a waxy protective layer that is present around this fruit (12).
Winter gourd has been used in many medicinal systems, including the Ayurvedic System, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Unani Medicine (3).
Wax gourd has been grown all over Asia (39). The ash gourd may have been domesticated in these two regions: Southern China and Southeastern Nepal (10).
Production and Consumption
The ash gourd is grown on a vine. It is relatively easier to grow compared to other plants in the cucurbit family and is to be grown in dry areas (40). Excessive humidity will negatively affect the growth of this plant.
You can find winter melons in India for the price of 0.5$/kg (41).
- Honeydew and Other Winter Melons in the Garden
- Effect of Benincasa hispida fruits on prostatic in Nandecha Nahata
- International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Phytopharmacological Research
- Effect of methanolic extract of Benincasa hispida induced bronchospasm
Important nutritional characteristics for Winter melon
Mineral chart - relative view
Vitamin chart - relative view
Protein quality breakdown
Fat type information
All nutrients for Winter melon per 100g
|Nutrient||DV%||In TOP % of foods||Value||Comparison|
|Net carbs||N/A||74%||0.1g||541.7 times less than Chocolate|
|Protein||1%||91%||0.4g||7.1 times less than Broccoli|
|Fats||0%||88%||0.2g||166.6 times less than Cheese|
|Carbs||1%||66%||3g||9.4 times less than Rice|
|Calories||1%||98%||13kcal||3.6 times less than Orange|
|Fiber||12%||27%||2.9g||1.2 times more than Orange|
|Calcium||2%||55%||19mg||6.6 times less than Milk|
|Iron||5%||80%||0.4mg||6.5 times less than Beef|
|Magnesium||2%||84%||10mg||14 times less than Almond|
|Phosphorus||3%||89%||19mg||9.6 times less than Chicken meat|
|Potassium||0%||97%||6mg||24.5 times less than Cucumber|
|Sodium||5%||47%||111mg||4.4 times less than White Bread|
|Zinc||6%||64%||0.61mg||10.3 times less than Beef|
|Copper||3%||91%||0.02mg||6.2 times less than Shiitake|
|Vitamin C||14%||22%||13mg||4.1 times less than Lemon|
|Vitamin B1||3%||78%||0.04mg||6.7 times less than Pea|
|Vitamin B2||8%||66%||0.11mg||1.2 times less than Avocado|
|Vitamin B3||3%||81%||0.4mg||23.9 times less than Turkey meat|
|Vitamin B5||3%||86%||0.13mg||8.5 times less than Sunflower seed|
|Vitamin B6||3%||85%||0.04mg||3.4 times less than Oat|
|Folate||1%||79%||5µg||12.2 times less than Brussels sprout|
|Tryptophan||0%||98%||0mg||152.5 times less than Chicken meat|
|Lysine||0%||98%||0.01mg||50.2 times less than Tofu|
|Methionine||0%||98%||0mg||32 times less than Quinoa|
|Saturated Fat||0%||92%||0.02g||368.4 times less than Beef|
|Monounsaturated Fat||N/A||86%||0.04g||264.8 times less than Avocado|
|Polyunsaturated fat||N/A||86%||0.09g||542.2 times less than Walnut|
Check out similar food or compare with current
NUTRITION FACTS LABEL
Serving Size ______________
Winter melon nutrition infographic
The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article and glycemic index text the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.