Nothing says summer like a slice of juicy watermelon. This sweet fruit is a favorite summertime treat, but is there any nutritional value to its watery flesh? Absolutely—more than you might think, in fact! Just check out these health benefits of watermelon.
Photo By Christian Jung/Fotolia
Health Benefits of Watermelon
If you’ve read about the health benefits of tomatoes, you’re probably already familiar with lycopene, an antioxidant particularly beneficial for your heart health and even helpful in preventing certain types of cancer. Of all the red and pink-tinged fruits, watermelon has one of the highest concentrations of lycopene. Better yet, its lycopene content remains somewhat stable over time. Research has shown that cut watermelon retains its lycopene content for up to seven days after being cut and refrigerated before showing signs of deterioration.
Watermelon also contains high levels of vitamin C (good for your immune system, heart and eyes), beta-carotene (a powerful antioxidant that can help fight cancer and protect cells) and potassium (helps regulate muscle and nerve function and can lower blood pressure).
Among its other benefits, lycopene has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to block production of pro-inflammatory molecules. Watermelon also contains a phytonutrient called cucurbitacin E, which also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Watermelon is also a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid that the body can convert into the amino acid arginine, which can help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, overall boost cardiovascular health, and even help form molecules know to affect the deposition of fat in the body.
Low in Calories
Because of its high water content—watermelon is up to 92 percent water—this summer fruit makes a refreshing, low-calorie snack. One cup of watermelon contains just 45 calories. Other healthy snack attributes: it’s high in fiber, low in fat and is an alkaline food.
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How to Choose a Watermelon
A fully ripe watermelon contains far more nutrients than an under-ripe watermelon, so if you’re growing your own, be sure to allow the melon to fully ripen before harvesting. If you’re buying watermelon from the store or farmers market, look for a melon that feels heavy for its size, with a smooth, dull rind that has a yellow “ground spot” (the area where the watermelon was resting on the ground as it grew; under-ripe melons will have a white or green spot). If you’re buying pre-cut watermelon, look for flesh with a darker red color that has no white streaks.
Watermelon is a treat in itself. Often, a slice is all you need to enjoy! But if you’re looking for something more elaborate, try these watermelon recipes.
• Parsley-Infused Watermelon Popsicles
• Watermelon Barbecue Marinade
• Melon-Citrus Cooler
• Minted Melon Salad
• Watermelon and Tomato Salad
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.