Few summer treats are as delightful or as healthy as watermelon. One of the most refreshing snacks available for a hot day, this fruit has long been popular for its sweet flavor and juicy flesh.
Part of the plant family Cucurbitaceae, watermelon is highly cultivated. There are currently more than 1,000 varieties available. Historians disagree as to the origin of the fruit, although many point to various regions in Africa. Experts agree that humans have enjoyed the fruit for thousands of years, as seeds have been found at a Libyan settlement built 5,000 years ago.
Today, well over half of watermelons are grown in China. Other regions that produce impressive yields tend to have long growing seasons and warm climates. Regardless of these conditions, the fruit is enjoyed as a snack or in several meals all around the world.
Watermelon is rich in a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. For example, it contains the compound lycopene, which is important for heart health and may protect the skin from UV damage.
Other benefits attributed to eating watermelons include:
Improved Exercise Outcomes
Watermelon is an excellent source of an amino acid known as citrulline. Studies suggest that this amino acid may assist with muscle protein synthesis while also improving muscle mass and otherwise boosting exercise performance. These benefits are most notable in older adults who supplement with citrulline.
Better Immune Function
The citrulline found in watermelon is linked to immune health. Citrulline deficiency may impact immune response in those with inflammatory conditions such as sepsis.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Research suggests that supplementation involving watermelon extract may reduce ankle blood pressure. Ankle blood pressure can serve as a predictor of cardiovascular mortality.
Reduced Risk of Macular Degeneration
The vitamins A and C found in watermelon may help to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Watermelon is rich in vitamin C, which plays an integral role in forming collagen and helping the body absorb iron. It also has a high water content even compared to other fruits. This makes it a uniquely hydrating food.
Watermelon is also a wonderful source of:
Nutrients per Serving
One-cup of raw watermelon contains:
Things to Watch Out For
Although watermelon has many important vitamins, it is also high in sugar. This can make it a problematic choice for those with diabetes or anybody else trying to control blood sugar levels. Additionally, the high lycopene content in watermelon may be troublesome when drinking alcohol. Consumed together, they can cause liver inflammation.
How to Prepare Watermelon
Watermelon can be found in most grocery stores, health food stores, co-ops, and farmer’s markets. Many pick-your-own fruit farms provide the opportunity to select and harvest watermelons.
Some people prefer to grow watermelon in their own gardens. The fruit grows best in warm or hot climates. Success in growing watermelons is also more likely if the plants receive plenty of space and water.
When purchasing watermelon at the store, select one that feels heavy for its size. Look for a creamy yellow splotch, formed wherever the watermelon previously rested on the ground.
Many people use a knocking technique to determine watermelon ripeness. Under this method, the fruit should produce a hollow noise instead of a dull thud.
While watermelon is best enjoyed when sliced fresh and eaten on the spot, you can also add it to a variety of recipes. Feel free to give these ideas a try:
- Create a watermelon puree and add to molds to be frozen to form a healthy alternative to popsicles
- Add frozen watermelon to a smoothie with banana, yogurt, milk, and any other fruits you desire
- Include watermelon on sandwiches with mozzarella cheese or even bacon.
- Add watermelon to a fresh fruit salad with pineapple, blueberries, and cherries
- Create a memorable Mediterranean salad with watermelon, cucumbers, Feta cheese, and red onion
- Pair watermelon with prosciutto for a delicious snack
- Use watermelon as a base for gazpacho