Nutrition

Choose Watermelon for Great Taste and Nutrition

Last updated: Jul 01, 2015

Watermelon is a favorite summertime fruit found at
just about every barbecue and picnic.

Typically enjoyed fresh in cubes or slices, watermelon rind can be pickled, stewed, or stir-fried and eaten as a vegetable. On average, each person in the United States eats 15 pounds of watermelon per year.1

There are over 300 varieties of watermelon, and today the majority of watermelons grown for commercial use are seedless. Yellow or orange varieties are typically sweeter than traditional red watermelons.2

Watermelon is an appropriate name because 92% of the fruit is water. One cup of watermelon contains about 45 calories, no fat, and only 2mg of sodium. While it’s lower in fiber than many other vegetables with only 1 gm fiber per cup, watermelon is a good source of several important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals:3

Vitamin A: essential for healthy eyes and vision, and boosts the immune system.3

Vitamin C: essential for wound healing and a strong immune system; helps protect the body from free radicals that play a role in aging, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.4

Lycopene:  an antioxidant that gives watermelon its red color, and plays an important role in preventing heart disease and some types of cancer. Men with a higher intake of lycopene from food sources have lower risk of prostate cancer.5

Citrulline:  a non-essential amino acid that is found naturally in watermelon rind and is important for cardiovascular health.3

Three steps to choosing a perfectly ripe watermelon2

  1. Look for a firm watermelon that doesn’t have cuts, bruises, or dents.
  2. A ripe watermelon feels heavy for its size.
  3. The bottom of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground while ripening.

8 fresh ways to enjoy watermelon

We’ve all eaten slices of watermelon, spitting out the seeds while juice dribbles down our chin. Try these 8 delicious and healthy ideas to include watermelon in your daily food choices:

  1. The lycopene in watermelon is better absorbed when the meal includes fat. Use a healthy type of fat such as olive oil on a salad made with watermelon, mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach.
  2. Make a ruby-red slushy by blending watermelon, strawberries, lime juice and crushed ice.
  3. Add watermelon cubes to salsa along with chopped tomato, mango, onion and garlic.
  4. Use a melon baller to scoop small balls of watermelon and cantaloupe, then freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. When frozen, use in place of ice cubes in sparkling water for a naturally refreshing summer beverage without added sugar.
  5. Top pancakes or waffles with diced watermelon.
  6. Make a cold summertime soup by pureeing watermelon with lime juice and a dash of sugar. Garnish with mint leaves and fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries.
  7. Wash the watermelon rind under cold running water and peel the green skin away from the white rind. Then slice the rind into thin strips and use in tossed salads.
  8. Use watermelon rind in your favorite pickle recipe for a tart, homemade snack or garnish for grilled chicken or pork.

References:

  1. Watermelon. The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=31 Accessed June 18, 2015.
  2. Health 101. http://www.watermelon.org/Nutrition/Health-101  Accessed June 18, 2015
  3. Watermelon nutrition facts. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2072/2   Accessed June 27, 2015.
  4. Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.  Reviewed June 13, 2013.  Accessed June 28, 2015.
  5. Prostate Cancer, Nutrition and Dietary Supplements. Questions and Answers about Lycopene. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/prostate-supplements-pdq/#link/_3 updated June 22, 2015. Accessed June 29, 2015.

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