9 Surprising Benefits of Winter Melon

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Winter melon is one of the most highly prized vegetables in certain parts of the world due to its nutritional value and impressive health benefits, some of which may include its ability to reduce chronic disease, improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, protect the heart, boost vision, and increase energy levels, among others.

What is Winter Melon?

While the name “melon” might make people believe that this is a fruit, winter melon is actually a large vine vegetable, with pale white flesh and a fuzzy interior. The sole member of the Benincasa genus, winter melon goes by many different names, including ash gourd, fuzzy gourd, and tallow gourd. As an immature vegetable, there is a slight sweetness to the melon, but upon maturation, that sweetness dissipates into a more bland flavor, similar to a cucumber. Every part of the winter melon plant can be used for culinary or medicinal purposes, and it is used widely in Asia, particularly in China. These melons can grow up to 80 cm in length and can be stored for many months without going bad, similar to many other gourds. It is commonly used in soups and stews, but can also be candied or included in curries. The juice of the vegetable can also be used in a variety of healthy beverages, while the sprouts and tendrils of the vine can be eaten as greens. [1]

The nutritional value of winter melon is what makes it so important for human health, as the possible high concentration of vitamin C and vitamin B2 can have a wide variety of effects on the body. This is in addition to possible high levels of dietary fiber, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium, and other assorted vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.  Together, these nutrients can make for a very powerful dietary supplement, which might be why winter melon is so widely cultivated and respected throughout the world. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits that winter melon can provide. [2]

Diced winter melon cubes in a plate with knife

Winter melon is a mild-tasting fruit used in Asian cuisines. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Waxgourd, (chinese preserving melon), raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]96.1
Energy 13
Energy [kJ]54
Protein [g]0.4
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.2
Ash [g]0.3
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.9
Calcium, Ca [mg]19
Iron, Fe [mg]0.4
Magnesium, Mg [mg]10
Phosphorus, P [mg]19
Potassium, K [mg]6
Sodium, Na [mg]111
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.61
Copper, Cu [mg]0.02
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.06
Selenium, Se [µg]0.2
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]13
Thiamin [mg]0.04
Riboflavin [mg]0.11
Niacin [mg]0.4
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.13
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.04
Folate, total [µg]5
Folate, food [µg]5
Folate, DFE [µg]5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.02
16:0 [g]0.01
18:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.04
18:1 [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.09
18:2 [g]0.09
Tryptophan [g]0
Lysine [g]0.01
Methionine [g]0
Sources include : USDA [3]

Health Benefits of Winter Melon

Health benefits of winter melon include the following:

May Boost Vision

A significant amount of research has linked vision problems to a deficiency in riboflavin, more commonly known as vitamin B2. Winter melon also has very high levels of vitamin B2, more than 11% of your daily requirement in a single serving. By increasing the amount of vitamin B2 in your system, you can reduce your chances of eye disorders, while the antioxidants found in winter melon may help reduce oxidative stress in the retina and macular degeneration. [4]

Might Protect the Heart

With high levels of potassium and vitamin C, winter melon is perhaps a tried and true protector of cardiovascular health. Potassium can function as a vasodilator, meaning that it may help to lower blood pressure by releasing tension in the blood vessels and arteries, letting blood flow more freely. This can make it more difficult to develop atherosclerosis, which can compound heart issues and may increase your risk of coronary heart disease. Furthermore, vitamin C has been directly linked to possible reduced chances of a stroke. [5]

May Boost Immunity

With perhaps more than 19% of your daily vitamin C requirements in a single serving, winter melon can be called a powerful immune system booster. Vitamin C can stimulate the production of white blood cells, and can also act as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals and prevent the mutation of healthy cells. Winter melon also boasts a possibly decent amount of zinc, which is another critical component of immune system health. [6]

Might Stimulate Growth & Development

Most people may only think of vitamin C as an immune system booster, but in fact, vitamin C can perform a number of key functions in the body. Perhaps most importantly, it is a component in the possible production of collagen, which is one of the basic building blocks of cells, tissues, muscles, bones, and blood vessels. If you are still in the developmental stages of your life or recovering from an injury/illness, you may want high levels of vitamin C to provide raw materials for growth and repair. Winter melon can deliver that vitamin C in a major way!

Can Help in Digestion

Dietary fiber is an important part of any healthy diet, as it can optimize digestion and prevent many unfortunate gastrointestinal issues, which may include constipation, bloating, cramping, hemorrhoids, and general stomach upset. Dietary fiber can also improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut, along with reducing cholesterol levels in the cardiovascular system! [7]

May Increase Energy Levels

Taking in the right nutrients is one thing, but being able to properly use them is another. Vitamin B2 plays an important part in human metabolism, as it can ensure that the nutrients are converted into usable energy. Along with its many other possible impacts on hormonal balance and health, the high level of vitamin B2 which can be found in winter melon can keep us functioning and using nutrients efficiently! [8]

Might Improve Cognitive Function

The significant level of iron found in winter melon can perhaps make it an ideal solution for increasing circulation to the extremities of the body. Iron is a key component in the production of red blood cells, so when you have more iron, you have a better circulation of fresh, healthy, and oxygenated blood. This means that winter melon can not only protect against the symptoms of anemia but it may also ensure proper blood flow to the brain, which can increase concentration, focus, and memory. [9]

Can Detoxify the Body

In traditional medicine, winter melon is often used as a diuretic, which can help to detoxify the body. Urination eliminates excess toxins, fats, salts, and water from the body, so any vegetable that can induce that detoxification may help your liver and kidney perform at optimal levels. [10]

May Aid in Weight Loss

Winter melon is often praised as a weight-loss tool, plausibly because it is high in fiber and relatively low in calories. This popular vegetable can make you feel full, thus perhaps reducing between-meal snacking and overeating, without pushing your calorie intake for the day over certain limits. The rich blend of minerals and nutrients can also promote muscle growth and a stronger metabolism, thereby compounding the possible weight loss effects. [11]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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