I have fond memories of eating sweet, juicy watermelon on a hot summer day at my grandparents’ farm in northeast Iowa. As a kid (and even still as an adult), I found such pleasure competing with my cousins to see who could spit the seeds the farthest. Little did I know that my favorite summertime treat packs a powerful nutrition punch.
Watermelon, a red fruit that is related to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, contains beneficial antioxidants such as lycopene, which has been shown to strongly protect against some cancers (prostate and colorectal). In fact, one cup of watermelon contains close the same amount of lycopene as two tomatoes. In addition to lycopene, watermelon is also high in Vitamin C and beta carotene (Vitamin A). If you want to be daring and eat the rind, you will benefit from the citrulline in it, which assists in improving blood circulation flow through the arteries (1). Other nutritional benefits include, it is free of fat, saturated fat and sodium and low in calories. Two cups of diced watermelon is only 80 calories. Talk about a guilt-free snack!
The United States is not the only country to grow watermelons. In fact, you can find watermelon grown commercially in ninety-six countries. China, Turkey, Iran and the United States are the top producers of this tasty fruit. The National Agricultural Statistics Service cites Texas, California, Georgia and Florida as the top growers of watermelon in the U.S. Tired of the same old kind of watermelon? No need to worry, there are 1,200 different varieties of watermelon, 200-300 of which are grown in the United States. Check out your favorite grocer to see if they have one of these unique varieties—Little Baby Flower, Yellow Doll, Golden Midget or Extazy.
July is National Watermelon Month. You can incorporate watermelon into your summertime menus in a variety of ways.
- Add it to salads
- Create a watermelon salsa
- Make a watermelon chutney
- Puree it for popsicles
- Make a watermelon gazpacho
- Slice it into triangles
Any way you slice or dice it, watermelon is still a tasty summertime treat, but even better, it packs a nutrient-packed punch.
1. Grotto, David, RD, LDN. 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Bantam Books, New York. 2007.