What’s So Great About Watermelon

What’s So Great About Watermelon

Yes we can all agree that watermelon is the super fun to eat fruit star of the summer. It’s like Easter Creme eggs – nobody eats it the other three seasons of the year and then we can’t get enough of it… at the cottage, on the beach, at a picnic or on the deck. It’s messy and sweet and if it dribbles just jump in the pool! But until now, it hasn’t exactly made anyone’s top ten list of nutrition powerhouse fruits. We’ve mostly thought of it as flavoured water and if anything, it might have some pull in dieting circles as being a low cal food. Turns out watermelon needs a new agent because it deserves much better press.

We were right about one thing: watermelon is mostly water, about 92% to be exact. And like most fruits, it’s a good source of vitamin C. But let me ask you this; if you offered your kids a heaping plate of spinach or a generous hunk of watermelon, which would they choose? If you said the greens, bravo to you! Your parenting techniques should be studied for the greater good of science and all mankind. But if you said the watermelon then here’s the good and surprising news. Watermelon is loaded with fibre, vitamin A and potassium (like spinach and swiss chard) which aids muscle development and electrolyte balance, perfect for growing wee ones and hot summer days. And for the rest of us with the issues of aging on our minds watermelon cools inflammation in the body and inflammation contributes to everything from cancer to heart disease.

Next up in watermelon’s bid for total fruit bowl domination? Taking down the mighty tomato. If you follow nutrition news you know the tomato’s fairly recent claim to fame is its high lycopene content. Lycopene is the powerful antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red hue and according to the USDA, “Lycopene scavenges reactive oxygen species, which are aggressive chemicals always ready to react with cell components, causing oxidative damage and loss of proper cell function”. It literally runs around the body consuming damaged cells and preventing disease. While scientist always knew that watermelon, with its similar red colouring, contained lycopene it was thought that in watermelon the lycopene was not bioavailable: basically that our bodies couldn’t absorb or make use of its benefits. But recent research has proven otherwise, finding that “watermelon has as much or more lycopene as raw tomatoes”. Up to 40% more. And although we’ve learned that the lycopene is tomatoes is more absorbable when they’ve been cooked, these researchers found that lycopene in watermelon matched up in terms of bioavailability even when tested against tomato juice that had been heat-processed.

The news is so good that many researchers are now referring to watermelon as a functional food. According to Florida State University Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi “by functional foods we mean those foods scientifically shown to have health-promoting or disease-preventing properties, above and beyond the other intrinsically healthy nutrients they also supply.” His research has shown that “watermelon is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which is closely related to L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure”. In layman’s terms, it may help to prevent hypertension, one of the precursors to heart disease and the number one cause of death in North America.

Finally, in a report in the Journal Science Daily researchers from Texas A&M University found that “watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido. I’m sorry, it does what to the what now??

That’s right. According to Dr. Bhimu Patel, L-citrulline does more that protect against heart disease. It “relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it.” While Patel is quick to recognize that there are other factors besides blood flow that contribute to problems….”down there”, watermelon could prove to be a side-effect free way to do your thang. Fade out to the dulcet tones of Barry White.

FUN WATERMELON FACTOIDS

Did you know that in Japan you can buy square watermelons? They’re simply grown inside glass boxes so that they take on that shape. Why, you ask? Easier to stack and store. Oh Japan, you are adorable.

Lycopene content drops as soon as you cut into a watermelon so store uncut on the counter and refrigerate any leftovers.

Lycopene is even better absorbed by the body when accompanied by a little good fat. Hence the ever popular watermelon and feta salad. Toss chunks of each with a drizzle of olive oil and S & P.

And the most refreshing summer drink going? Watermelon Agua Fresca: blend 3 cups of chopped watermelon with the juice of 2 limes, a handful of ice cubes and a little water to thin it out. Serve with fresh mint

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