Five top reasons to get your fill of watermelon

Photo courtesy of watermelon.org

Photo courtesy of watermelon.org

Few would argue that watermelons aren’t a summertime favorite.  What could be an easier way to provide a tasty dessert for a crowd? How about  a watermelon weighing in at 268.8 pounds (121.93 kg)?  That’s the weight of the fruit that holds the title of the world’s heaviest watermelon  in the Guinness World Records,  grown back  in 2005 in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

That is indeed a whole lot of goodness.

Watermelon is not just a tasty treat, though. It’s a seasonal offering with plenty of health perks.

Here are five top reasons to get your fill of these marvellous melons.

•    Watermelon is over 90 % water
As you ponder various hydration options, consider that if you eat one cup of watermelon, you’re consuming just a little less than a cup of  a water.  You’ll also be taking in 170 milligrams of potassium, just under half of what’s in the well-known potassium king- the top banana.

While water, potassium and sodium are all considerations when you’re looking at hydration during the summer or when working out, for most people, sodium shortfalls are not usually a concern. Potassium and water, though, need more attention to meet quotas.

•    Watermelon is tops in lycopene
Lycopene, the red pigment or carotenoid, that’s given tomatoes star status in nutrition circles, is linked to a defense against heart disease and stroke along with certain cancers.  While watermelon, along with tomatoes and red grapefruit, contribute to lycopene totals, research shows that watermelon outranks other produce in terms of its lycopene content.

Lycopene not only acts as an antioxidant but also possesses anti-inflammatory compounds, both of which may offer protection against disease.

•    Watermelon  has anti-cancer action
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, causing more cancer deaths among Canadians than breast, colorectal and prostate cancers combined.  The numbers are indeed startling.

As a result, incorporating any strategies that may decrease the risks of developing lung cancer is indeed wise.

Adding watermelon to your menu may be one of these strategies according to a recent study which looked at fruit and vegetable consumption and lung cancer risk. Watermelon also contains beta carotene, another carotenoid with potential anti-cancer action.

•    Eating these melons may aid in blood pressure regulation
Watermelon’s potassium content certainly contributes to its blood pressure friendly reputation but there is a lesser known player involved: citrulline. This compound is an amino acid that has been shown to help regulate blood pressure readings and improve artery health.

Those familiar with the nutrition supplement aisle may be familiar with citrulline in a bottle but as is so often the case, you can’t beat the benefits of consuming this amino acid in a whole food such as watermelon.

•    Watermelon may relieve muscle soreness following exercise
There’s nothing more refreshing than a slice of watermelon  after a strenuous workout. But there’s much more to the melon’s post exercise perks than meets the eye.

Research on Spanish athletes published this summer compared watermelon juice, watermelon juice with added citrulline and a placebo to determine their effect on muscle soreness and heart rates following exercise. Each of the watermelon juices  offered beneficial effects on both the heart rates and muscle soreness.

One last point to consider when you buy watermelon: keep yourself free of foodborne illness by washing the melon before you cut it. All too often, because you don’t usually eat the rind (some people do pickle it!), washing the melon may not be part of your routine.

How many times, though, have you placed a watermelon in the trunk of your car or on the floor of your car so that it won’t roll around. When you really think about it, the melon could be quite dirty. Then consider that when you slice through the rind, whatever microbes may be present will then contaminate the flesh.

So give it a good scrub and keep yourself safe to reap watermelon’s many health perks.

How do you prefer to eat your watermelon: naked or as part of a savoury or sweet offering? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Five top reasons to get your fill of watermelon”

  1. August 6, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Yoiks! I don’t think I’ve ever washed a watermelon in my whole life! Thanks for that tip.

    My very favourite summer potluck dish is a watermelon-feta-black olive salad: icy cold and delicious, and the colour is fabulous on the buffet table. My recipe at http://myheartsisters.org/2009/08/04/watermelon-salad/

    • August 6, 2013 at 8:22 am #

      Carolyn, thanks for the link! Your salad does indeed look delicious. I make a watermelon feta mint one but I like your additions so I will definitely have to try it!

      As for not washing your watermelon, you’re not alone. It’s something you don’t consider but once you know about it, there’s no going back. The same goes for other fruit with rinds and peels, such as cantaloupe.

  2. Karen C.
    August 6, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    It isn’t just dirt: When I lived in Maryland about a decade ago, there was an outbreak of salmonella that was traced back to cantaloupe rinds. So it’s not just the dirty stuff from the car floor… 😉
    Because watermelon is so watery, I assumed it didn’t have a lot of nutrients–so thank you for encouraging me to eat more if it–I love it! 🙂

    • August 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback and reminder about melons. I absolutely agree with you that there is more than dirt possibly lurking on melon rinds. Besides salmonella being linked to cantaloupe rinds, there have been E. coli outbreaks as well. I’ve written about the issue in a post about food recalls.

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