With temperatures souring, I can’t think of a better time to write about my favorite fruit.
Watermelon is not only nutritious and delicious; it also contains compounds to protect skin from the sun and is a rich source of an amino acid that works to improve blood flow and possibly help reduce blood pressure. Watermelon is fun too; it makes a perfect carrying vessel for fruit salad and can be carved into a cool creature for your next party.
Did you ever notice that the word “water” appears in watermelon? Watermelon is made up of 92% water, making it a good source of fluid. In addition to its hydrating abilities and sweet taste, it is low in calories and is a great source of vitamin A and C. Two cups of diced watermelon provides:80 calories 1 gram fiber 30% DRI for Vitamin A 25% DRI for Vitamin C 4% DRI for Iron 2% DRI for calcium
It contains a few other compounds worth mentioning too. First of all, watermelon is a leader in lycopene, a carotenoid of great interest to scientists because of its antioxidant capacity and potential health benefits. Lycopene is the pigment that gives watermelon its red color (tomatoes and pink grapefruit too) and may help prevent skin damage which leads to premature aging. When possible, pair watermelon with a source of healthy fat; a bit of fat allows lycopene to be better absorbed.
Another compound found in watermelon is citrulline, an amino acid that is metabolized to arginine. Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide and plays an important role in cardiovascular and immune functions. While studies show that watermelon consumption increases plasma arginine concentration in adults, it’s not clear how much watermelon one would have to consume. But not to worry; L-citrulline is also produced naturally by the body.
Health benefits aside, the best reason to eat watermelon is because of how good it tastes. Here’s what you need to know to select, carve and eat the best melon.
Selecting and Preparing a Watermelon
When selecting a watermelon, look for a firm, symmetrical melon that is free from bruises, dents or openings. The watermelon should feel heavy for its size. The underside of the watermelon should have a yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
It’s important to wash your melon prior to carving. Run the watermelon under cool tap water and scrub with a clean produce brush. Dry with a clean towel or paper towel to eliminate bacteria. Use a sharp knife to cut off the ends of the watermelon. Stand the melon on one end and slice down through the center. Cut each half into sections. If you want to make a creative creation with your watermelon, determine your design before you cut the melon in half. Check out these creative ideas from the watermelon promotion board.
Remember food synergy! Pairing watermelon with a healthy fat means greater absorption of the phytonutrient it’s famous for. Here are some specific ways to enjoy your melon.
1.) Just as it is! Dice it and eat a cup or two of watermelon or cut it into fun shapes such as watermelon dippers or watermelon balls. Great served with yogurt.
2.) Create a fun dessert by layering watermelon with yogurt and other fresh fruits.
3.) Incorporate watermelon into savory or spice dishes. Toss diced melon into salads or toss it in a salsa for a great flavor.
4.) Make watermelon popsicles or frozen watermelon/yogurt smoothie pops
5.) Rub it with lime, honey, chili sauce and cilantro, then grill it.