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The Wellness Column By Anchan Vegetarian
 

The health benefits of Gac Juice

Momordica cochinchinensis is a Southeast Asian fruit found throughout the region, from Southern China to Northeastern Australia, mostly Vietnam. The fruit becomes a dark orange color upon ripening, and is typically round or oblong, maturing to a size of about 13 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter. Its exterior skin is covered in small spines while its dark red interior consists of clusters of fleshy pulp and seeds.
Gac used to be served at ceremonial services and festivities in Vietnam due to its short harvest period, peaking in December and January. Through the development of some new varieties, better understanding of the growing conditions and controlled seed harvesting, the plant has spread in recent years over the entire Southeast Asian region, as well as the Western world, as a food supplement and juice.
Traditionally, gac has been used as both food and medicine in the regions in which it grows. Other than the use of its fruit and leaves for special Vietnamese culinary dishes, gac is also used for its medicinal and nutritional properties.
Chemical analysis of the fruit suggests it has high concentrations of several important phytonutrients. The fruit contains by far the highest content of beta-carotene (vitamin A) of any known fruit or vegetable. It also contains 40 times more vitamin C than oranges. Research has confirmed that the beta-carotene in the fruit is highly bioavailable. Also known as Chinese bitter cucumber gac fruit is rich in the antioxidants beta carotene, lycopene (seventy times more than in tomatoes), and zeaxanthin. It contains the highest concentration of beta carotene of any known fruit or vegetable (ten times as much as carrots). Due to its high content of beta-carotene and lycopene, gac is often sold as a food supplement in soft capsules.
Gac fruit is traditionally cooked into glutinous rice to produce a brilliant orange rice dish. As a traditional medicine, Gac fruit has been employed to treat conditions of the eyes, burns, skin problems and wounds. The juice of the fruit is consumed as a healthy beverage that is good for the eyes, immune system, reproduction, skin, heart health, and the prostate. The zeaxanthin in Gac fruit protects the tissues of the eyes against exposure to ultraviolet rays and helps to reduce oxidation of eye tissue, thereby enhancing overall eye health. Additionally, the betacarotene in Gac fruit helps to maintain good night vision and reduces the risk of blindness.
For immune system enhancement, beta-carotene from Gac fruit converts in the body to vitamin A, and helps in the healthy development of white blood cells, including lymphocytes, enabling the body to defend itself against disease. Because of its unusually high concentration of beta-carotene, Gac fruit also is a valuable aid in preventing or treating vitamin A deficiency. In many developing countries, vitamin A deficiency is epidemic. Such deficiency can cause poor night vision, blindness, reduced ability to fight infections, higher rates of maternal mortality, poor embryonic growth, and reduced lactation. Supplementation with Gac fruit extract can alleviate chronic vitamin A deficiency, and help to reduce these health problems.
Gac fruit’s beta-carotene supports healthy reproductive function by enhancing sperm production. It also plays a key role in healthy embryonic development. The lycopene and beta-carotene in Gac fruit enhance skin health by mitigating oxidative damage in tissue. Think of oxidation as the “rusting” of our cells. These ingredients in Gac reduce that rusting process, and contribute to better-looking and healthier skin. The various antioxidants in Gac fruit enhance heart health by specifically combating atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Additionally, both lycopene and beta-carotene show protective activity against the risk of heart attack.
Additionally, lycopene, which is super-abundant in Gac fruit, helps to reduce BPH, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, a five dollar term for enlargement of the prostate. There is also good evidence that lycopene can help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
One Japanese study reported in the International Journal of Oncology suggested that Gac fruit may be a cancer-fighter. In this lab study, a water extract of the fruit inhibited the growth of certain tumor cells. This does not mean that Gac fruit is a cancer cure, but it almost surely will help to reduce the risk of some types of cancer. No doubt more science on the anti-cancer properties of Gac fruit will be conducted over time.
 


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The health benefits of Gac Juice