Kristi Wempen, RDN
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Watermelon is a staple at many summertime picnics and gatherings around the country. While most people agree watermelon tastes good, a majority are unaware of the many health benefits this wonderful fruit contains.
Watermelon — the disease fighter
Did you know watermelon has more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable? Lycopene is an antioxidant linked to decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders.
Watermelon is nutritious
Watermelon is the perfect sweet treat that is nutritious and tasty. One cup of watermelon contains the following:
- 46 calories
- 12 grams of carbohydrates
- 865 international units (IU) of vitamin A — (equates to .26 milligrams)
- 12 milligrams of vitamin C
- 170 milligrams of potassium
- 0.1 milligrams of vitamin B6
- Zero fat, cholesterol or sodium
Vitamin A is important for skin and eye health. Vitamin B6 helps your body break down the protein you eat, and is also important for the immune system and nerve function. Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system and aids in the absorption of iron. Potassium is helpful in lowering blood pressure and is important for nerve function as well.
As its name states, 92 percent of watermelon consists of water. No wonder it’s the most common melon eaten in America and is perfect for staying refreshed and hydrated on a hot summer day.
Many ways to eat watermelon
In addition to eating watermelon as is, you can also try:
- Lightly grilling (around two minutes on each side)
- Throwing in a blender for a refreshing beverage or smoothie
- Adding to a salad or stir-fry
- Pickling the rind
Searching for the perfect watermelon
When choosing a watermelon, look for one that is firm, symmetrical and heavy for its size. There should be a yellow spot on the underside as the result of sitting on the ground and ripening in the sun. If the spot is very pale or white, it may have been picked too soon and will not be ripe.
Here’s a refreshing recipe for watermelon-cranberry agua fresca to help you enjoy the health benefits of watermelon today.Kristi Wempen is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.