The Wonders of Watermelon
When you think about summer picnics or cookouts, one food that may pop into your mind is fresh, juicy watermelon. What better way to cool off and satisfy your sweet tooth than with this healthy and delicious fruit? Not only is watermelon pleasant to the taste, it is packed with nutrients that can make your body feel fantastic! Let's take a big bite into the wonders of watermelon.
History of Watermelon
Watermelon has been enjoyed for centuries. The first watermelon was harvested around 5,000 years ago in Egypt. One taste of a fresh watermelon can enlighten the eater as to why it has stood the test of time. We are fortunate to live in a world where 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown across 96 countries. No matter where you live, watermelon is being grown close by and sold at farmers markets, grocery stores or street vendors.
One of the most impressive facts about watermelon is that they are 92% water. Water is essential for our digestion, body cell functions and body temperature regulation, as well as for delivering oxygen throughout the body and removing waste. Up to 60% of the adult body is water; therefore, it is essential to get enough water to stay hydrated.
Drinking enough water throughout the day can be challenging. Eating watermelon is a great way to help reach this goal -- and enjoy the added benefits of the fruit's vitamins, minerals antioxidants and amino acids.
Nutrition for a Healthy Body
Watermelon is considered a nutrient-dense food by the Food & Drug Administration. This means it contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and other beneficial substances that may have positive health effects. The USDA Food Composition Database indicates two cups of watermelon contain 80 calories and 25% of the daily value of vitamin C, as well as other nutrients including vitamin B6, thiamine, magnesium, potassium and lycopene. These nutrients help your body in various ways:
Lycopene is the carotenoid that gives watermelon its red color. Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to help with heart, bone and prostrate health because of its ability to decrease inflammation. Two cups of watermelon contain 12.7 mg of lycopene, which is higher than any other fruit or vegetable. To get the maximum amount of lycopene wait until the fruit is fully ripened before eating it.
Vitamin A, vitamin C and lycopene are all antioxidants. Antioxidants protect us from damage caused by free radicals such as the sun's ultraviolet rays, environmental toxins and the oxidation resulting from converting food into energy. Vitamin A (also known as beta-carotene) increases as the watermelon ripens and helps with immunity, skin and eye health, and the prevention of cancer.
Amino Acid L-Citrulline
Amino acids are the basic building block for protein, and protein is used in virtually every vital function in the body. Watermelon tops the charts again as it is one of the best dietary sources of L-citrulline. This amino acid is most highly condensed in the white part of the rind. After consuming it, our bodies convert L-citrulline into the essential amino acid arginine. L-citrulline and arginine boost the nitric oxide production in the body, which helps your arteries relax and improves blood flow. This could help to lower blood pressure and has shown to improve exercise recovery.
Watermelon is also very versatile. You can enjoy it fresh, grilled or as a sports drink. You can even eat the seeds! No matter how you enjoy it, watermelon is a gift from Mother Nature and is packed with the nutrition we need to thrive. The next time you are at a grocery store or farmers market, pick up a watermelon that is firm, free from bruises or cuts, heavy for its size and has a creamy yellow spot on its underside. You'll feel good knowing you made a healthy and delicious choice.
Written by: Steve Oram, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern