Watermelon is a perfect cool and refreshing sweet treat that also packs in loads of nutrition. Learn all of the health benefits this fruit has to offer, plus how to select, store and enjoy this nutrient-rich fruit.
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. That may play a role in healthy 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.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Watermelon
Did you ever notice that the word “water” appears in watermelon? That’s because the fruit 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
This super fruit contains a few other compounds worth mentioning, too. First of all, it’s 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.) It is studied for its potential benefits in helping to prevent skin damage – the very thing that leads to premature aging. Because fat helps to increase the absorption of lycopene, when eating watermelon, pair it with a source of healthy fat.
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 possibly even immune function. While studies show that watermelon consumption increases plasma arginine concentration in adults, it’s not clear how much you’d have to consume to gain those beenfits. Not to worry, though. There are plenty of reasons to eat more of this melon!
Health benefits aside, the best reason to this juicy fruit is the taste. Here’s what you need to know to select, carve and eat the best melon.
Selecting and Preparing a Watermelon
When selecting a melon, look for one that is firm, symmetrical and free from bruises, dents or openings. It should feel heavy for its size. The underside should have a yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
Before carving, make sure to wash your melon with cool running water and scrub with a clean produce brush. You can pat it dry with a clean towel or paper towel to eliminate bacteria. Then, cut off the ends with a sharp knife. Stand the melon on one end and slice down through the center, then cut each half into sections. If you want to carve something creative into your melon, make sure to choose your design before you cut it in half. Check out these creative ideas from the watermelon promotion board.
Ways to Enjoy Watermelon
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.
- Eat it Fresh! There’s no need to add anything to it, becasue it tastes great just as it is. Dice it, or slice it to make watermelon fries, dippers or other fun shapes – even balls. You can serve those with yogurt.
- Create a Watermelon Parfait. Layer the watermelon with other fruits and yogurt.
- Serve it as a watermelon cake. I don’t mean cake literally; I mean fresh slices served as a cake. Slice it into large chunks and transfer the entire 1/2 melon onto a decorative cake dish as an after dinner sweet treat.
- Add it to salads or make a salsa. Watermelon works in both savory and spicy dishes. Toss diced melon into salads or toss it in a salsa for a great flavor. Bonus – the fat in the salad dressing or avocado with help absorb the lycopene.
- Make A Frozen Treat. Puree the flesh of the melon and pour it into popsicle molds for a healthy, refreshing frozen treat. You can also mix Greek yogurt into the mix to make creamy, protein packed watermelon yogurt pops.
- Grill it. Rub it with lime, honey, chili sauce and cilantro, then put it on the grill for a sweet, savory side dish.
- Make a Beverage or Cocktail. Enjoy a refreshing melon flavored beverage, like a watermelon cherry mojito or a refreshing watermelon pomegranate green tea.
Do you have a favorite way to enjoy watermelon? Share it in the comments below.