Think of bitter melon (also known as "goya") as a distant cousin of your cantaloupe or honeydew. In fact, technically it belongs to the pumpkin family and doesn't look like a melon at all: "It looks like a wart pickle," says Buettner.
Aesthetics aside, bitter melon has some pretty impressive nutritional benefits. "Packed with phytonutrients and vitamins, it's a good source of vitamins C, A, and E. It's also high in B vitamins, including folic acid and B2. It also contains potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. If that's not enough" It is high in antioxidants, "writes registered nutritionist Mascha Davis, RD, MPH, of the benefits of bitter melon.
In particular, Buettner notes that the melon can be beneficial in diabetes and prediabetes: "It contains three compounds that help lower blood sugar," he explains. These compounds (called chantarine, polypeptide-p, and vicin in case you're curious) have been shown to act similarly to insulin when absorbed into the body. Of course, much more research is needed before we can consider bitter melon as a helpful treatment for the chronic condition, but the benefits of blood sugar (and Buettner's anthropological evidence of longevity) shouldn't be ignored.