What Is a Cantaloupe?
It's a juicy, orange summer fruit that's related to the watermelon and honeydew melon. It also belongs to the same plant family as cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, and gourds.
The semisweet cantaloupes most familiar to people in the U.S. are a type of muskmelon called Cucumis melo reticulatus. Reticulatus means "net-like" in Latin and refers to the cantaloupe's rough, webbed outer skin.
Cantaloupe vs. honeydew
Most fruits contain mostly water. But cantaloupe and honeydew are among the juiciest fruits, with water of about 90 percent.
You can easily tell the two fruits apart. Cantaloupes are round and less sweet with a softer flesh than honeydew. Their rind color can range from light green to tan. Honeydews, on the other hand, have a light green rind and flesh and more of a round to slightly oval shape than cantaloupe.
There are also a couple of key nutritional differences between the two melons. Cantaloupe has twice as much vitamin C as honeydew, with about 100% of your daily value (compared with 51% in honeydew) in a 1-cup serving.
Compared with honeydew melons, cantaloupes pack a lot more beta-carotene, an antioxidant whose pigment gives fruits an orange or yellow color. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, which supports immunity, skin, bone, and eye health.
Cantaloupe vs. muskmelon
Muskmelons are any variety of melons with netted rinds that belong to the gourd family, including cantaloupes. All cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Cantaloupes are the most popular type of muskmelon. Honeydews are also muskmelons, along with casaba melons and Persian melon.
Cantaloupes can be a great addition to your diet. One cup of fresh cubes of cantaloupe counts as one serving. It has 53 calories, 6% of your daily serving of fiber, about 1 gram of protein, and zero fat and cholesterol.
Cantaloupes are also low in carbohydrates, with 13 grams per 1-cup serving. When you eat fruits that are low in carbohydrates, you can eat larger amounts and better manage your blood glucose levels.
100% of the daily value of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage
All your daily needs for vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes, skin, bones, and immune system healthy
About 12% of your recommended daily potassium, important for your heart, muscles, and blood pressure
Cantaloupes are also full of other vitamins and minerals, including:
Cantaloupe Health Benefits
Cantaloupes contain compounds called phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. Long-term inflammation can damage your cells and lead to diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.
Cantaloupes also may:
- Hydrate you. Cantaloupes are almost as juicy as watermelons. They're also filled with electrolytes, which are minerals that balance our body fluids and help us stay hydrated.
- Protect against damage from age-related macular degeneration. Cantaloupes have lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that give fruits and vegetables their yellow and red colors. Combined with vitamin A, these antioxidants play an important role in protecting your vision and eye health. They may also help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
- Help prevent asthma. Beta-carotene, found in cantaloupes as vitamin A, may help prevent asthma later in life. Choline, an antioxidant found in cantaloupes, may also help reduce inflammation in people with asthma.
- Lower blood pressure. The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C present in cantaloupes are important nutrients for your heart health. Potassium can help lower high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Fiber helps lower the levels of "bad cholesterol" in your body. It can also keep your blood pressure in check.
- Reduce your risk of cancer. The fiber in the fruit can help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. The antioxidants in cantaloupes that fight inflammation and reduce oxidative stress can also help reduce your risk of cancer.
- Aid digestion. The high amount of liquid content and low carbohydrate count give cantaloupes a low glycemic load score of 4. That means your body digests it slowly, and it won't make your blood sugar spike. So it's a great pick for people with diabetes.
- Nourish skin and promote hair growth. A cup of cantaloupe has more than 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A. It also has nearly 100% of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. Both of these nutrients also play a major role in maintaining skin health. Vitamin C helps support your natural collagen production, the primary structural protein in hair, cartilage, and skin.
Cantaloupe Health Risks
Cantaloupes are one of the most common fruits and vegetables involved in foodborne illnesses. Their textured, net-like rind can trap bacteria that cause illness.
It's best to wash the outside of a new cantaloupe right before you cut it open. Wash it under running water with a vegetable brush and rinse your knife after each cut to avoid contamination.
Too much of the vitamins and minerals in cantaloupes can sometimes cause problems:
Potassium. Too much potassium may cause issues if you have kidney disease. That's because your organs may not be able to get rid of all the extra potassium. This can lead to a serious condition called hyperkalemia.
Fiber. It's best to limit fiber in your diet if you have cancer or inflammatory disease or have had bowel surgery. Large amounts of fiber from the fruit can be hard on your intestines if you have diarrhea, cramping, or trouble digesting food.
One of the most popular ways to eat a cantaloupe is raw, either on its own or mixed with other fruits as part of a fruit salad. Other easy ways to enjoy a cantaloupe include:
Add it to a salad. Add pieces of a cantaloupe to any salad for a sweet touch. In fruit salads, it mixes well with berries, mangoes, and avocados.
Have it for breakfast. Create a breakfast parfait with layers of Greek yogurt, granola, and the fruit. Or use a cantaloupe half as the bowl itself and fill it with yogurt and toppings.
Chill it for soup. Puree the fruit until smooth. Wisk in citrus juices (orange, lime, lemon) and a bit of honey, cinnamon, and salt.
Eat the seeds. Like pumpkin seeds, you can roast cantaloupe seeds for a delicious treat and enjoy them in recipes year round.
Roast the cleaned seeds in the oven. Eat them plain for a healthy snack, add them to granola, or sprinkle them on top of soups or salads.
Other ways to enjoy it include:
- Making juice and mixing it with sparkling water
- Blending with other fruits to make a smoothie
- Pureeing the fruit, adding lime juice, and freezing in molds to make popsicles
- Skewering with grapes and cheese to make kebabs
- Grilling them
How to Choose a Cantaloupe
You can buy whole cantaloupes at most grocery stores. Melons are often picked before they're fully ripe so they stay fresh longer.
If a cantaloupe feels heavier than you expect and has a deep, dull sound when you tap on it, it's most likely ready to eat.
You should also check the color of the rind. Ripe cantaloupes are cream- or yellow-colored with no signs of green or gray.
The type of cantaloupe you get in the store may depend on where you live. Some of the more popular varieties include:
- Ambrosia. Pale orange flesh, with a slightly floral flavor
- Hales Best. Super sweet with a thicker rind and smaller seed area
- Mission. Deep orange flesh and powdery mildew-resistant rind
- Rocky Sweet. Green flesh with a netted rind, a honeydew and cantaloupe combination
- Athena Hybrid. Solid, more fragrant flesh
Storage and Food Safety
As cantaloupes are grown on the ground, their skin may be contaminated by bacteria. There is a link between illness caused by Salmonella and eating a cut cantaloupe, as the bacteria from the rind can transfer to the fruit when it's cut. It's important to safely prepare and store cantaloupes.
Storing. When you pick up a cantaloupe from the grocery store and bring it home, you can place it on the counter for up to 1 or 2 days, as unripened fruits can be left at room temperature. This may even help keep the flavor of the cantaloupe.
Wash the melon when you're ready to cut it, as moisture on the skin can lead to mold growth. Wash your hands before and after cutting a cantaloupe and use a clean knife and cutting area.
Keep cut melons in the fridge. They can stay for up to 4 days, depending on the original ripeness.
Be careful where you place cantaloupes. As a part of their ripening process, they give off a gas called ethylene. Storing cantaloupes away from certain fruits and vegetables that are sensitive to this gas, including kiwi, cucumbers, avocado, and broccoli, is important because it can cause this produce to spoil faster.
Freezing. It's best to freeze cantaloupes that are ripe. Cut them into balls, cubes, or slices. After freezing them, use them while they're still chilled.
Cantaloupes are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. Adding these fruits, including the seeds, to your diet can help keep your blood pressure in check and keep your bowel movements regular. One to 2 cups daily can give you many of these health benefits.
Which is healthier: watermelon or cantaloupe?
Both pack a hydration punch, but cantaloupe beats watermelon when it comes to vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber content.
How much cantaloupe is healthy?
The FDA recommends healthy adults eat 1.5-2 cups of fruit a day. One cup of diced or balled cantaloupe is a good amount to get the nutritional benefits.
Is cantaloupe good for constipation?
Eating cantaloupe isn't likely to make you poop right away. But including cantaloupe in your diet will increase your water and fiber intake, which is good for regular bowel movements.