Exotic Fruit Market grows Gac Fruit in
Gac fruit (Momordica cochinchinensis), a
strange and beautiful red fruit originating from Vietnam, where it is harvested
in December and January. The fruit is cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and
China, often as an ornamental plant due to its magnificent color.
Also known as Chinese bitter cucumber, cundeamor and bhat karela, 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). Beta carotene
is a reddish antioxidant that shows up in a host of fruits and vegetables, from
apricots to pumpkins. It converts to vitamin A in the body, and has a variety
of protective properties.
Gac fruit is traditionally cooked into glutinous rice to produce a brilliant
orange rice dish known as xoi gac. The fruit and various preparations made from
it are served as special dishes at New Year celebrations, and at weddings. 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, immunity, reproduction, skin, heart
health, and the prostate. Today Gac fruit extracts are making their way into
supplement products in the US and abroad.
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 beta-carotene 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, which are important “foot soldiers” in the immune
system, enabling the body to defend itself against disease.
Gac fruit’s beta-carotene supports healthy reproductive function by enhancing
sperm production. Converted into vitamin A, this important nutrient 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
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.
Gac fruit grows on vines. As Gac fruit matures, it goes from a bright neon
green to a lush, deep red. The fruit appears spikey and dangerous, and indeed
the outer layer of the fruit (the pericarp) is toxic. But this is not the part
that is eaten. Only the squiggley insides of Gac fruit (called the arils),
which look strangely like red intestines, are consumed.
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.
Because of its unusually high concentration of beta-carotene, Gac fruit is a
valuable aid in preventing or treating vitamin A deficiency. One study of
children conducted in Vietnam measured blood plasma levels of vitamin A before
and after the consumption of a Gac fruit extract. The study showed that vitamin
A levels increased with supplementation. 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.