When the weather outside rises upwards of 90°F and humidity levels soar above 70%, it becomes crucial to remain hydrated. According to general guidelines, men and women should drink ~13 cups and ~9 cups, respectively, of water a day. This number should increase when you exercise, sweat a lot, or if you are overweight/obese. So make sure to always have water handy or…
Take advantage of seasonal foods that have high water content, such as watermelon. As the name implies, watermelon is almost entirely water – 92% (or higher) with 6% sugar and traces of protein. In season from July to September, watermelon is part of the Cucurbitaceae family, and is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and gourd. Despite there being 1,200 known varieties, only about 50 are grown in the US. To find out more about your locally grown varieties, which are naturally low in pesticides and more wallet-friendly, check out What is Fresh.
Delicious and Nutritious!
One cup of cubed red watermelon contains 25% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 10% vitamin A (from carotenoids), 175 mg of potassium and one gram of fiber – all for only about 45 calories! Watermelon also contains magnesium, vitamin Bs (B1-thiamine and B6-pyridoxine) and has high content of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in the reddish pigment.
The Benefits of Watermelon
- It’s a great low-calorie snack.
- It’s a heart-healthy food according to the American Heart Association because of high potassium, magnesium and vitamin C content.
- It decreases cancer risk due to lycopene content – specifically prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and colorectal cancers.
- It supports healthy eyesight and prevents glaucoma.
- It aids in the maintenance of electrolyte and cellular function.
- It increases levels of arginine, an amino acid researchers believe improves blood flow and consequently high blood pressure. Preliminary evidence also shows that it may aid in preventing excess accumulation of fat in fat cells.
Selecting a Watermelon
- Color: Deep red/pink is better. Recent studies confirmed that fully ripe watermelon has a much higher nutritional content, and is flush with lycopene, beta-carotene and phenolic compounds. If purchasing pre-cut watermelon, look for flesh that is a deep color with as few white streaks as possible. Today, 85% of all watermelons grown in the US are seedless. However, if you select a watermelon with seeds make sure it is deep in color or white. The underside should be creamy yellow, indicating ripeness. Note: seedless watermelons are not the result of genetic engineering but of hybridization.
- Weight in Water: A fully ripe watermelon will feel heavy for its size because water content increases as it ripens. Heavier is better!
How to Store and Prepare
Whole watermelon is best stored below 70°F as room temperature has been shown to increase levels of lycopene and beta-carotene. Once cut, cover and refrigerate. Eat within a few days up to a week. Note: always wash the watermelon before cutting to eliminate any bacteria that may be on the surface, that way the knife won’t contaminate the inner flesh.
Ideas on How to Cook and Serve
Watermelon has a thirst quenching texture but is also delicately crunchy, which makes it unique.
- Cut up into triangles or “melon balls” for an easy snack.
- Make a fruit salad and add yogurt and/or granola.
- Grill watermelon as a side dish or dessert.
- Make ice pops or ice-cubes. Blend watermelon (no added water necessary) with fresh mint, crushed ginger, and black pepper. Freeze and enjoy!
- Try one of many fresh summer salads including a watermelon and jicama salad or a watermelon and tomato salad (pictured above). Recipe: Mix 2 cups of watermelon (cubed) with 1 red tomato (½ inch pieces) and chopped fresh basil. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and sprinkle crumbled feta or queso fresco. So easy, and so tasty!
Did you know about watermelon’s amazing properties?
Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD
Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride and sulfate. Institute of Medicine.
Watermelon, Summer’s Antioxidant Splash. Environmental Nutrition. August 2010.
Find Out Why Watermelon is a Nutritional Powerhouse. Natural News.
Edited by Tamara Cabrero
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr