Do you wish to quench thirst while boosting your body with antioxidant lycopene and vitamin-A? Watermelon has everything you need to beat the scorching summer heat. Crunchy, delicious and juicy, they indeed are the great source of much-needed electrolytes and water to lessen summer temperatures.
Botanically, the fruit belongs to the family of Cucurbitaceae, in the genus: Citrullus, and is related to the other same family members such as cantaloupe, squash, and pumpkin that run as vines on the soil. It is widely grown in many tropical countries where it is one of the major commercial fruit crops.
Botanical name: Citrullus lanatus.
|Watermelon fruit, cut sections (Citrullus lunatus).|
Watermelon was originated from southern African countries, and from where it spread to rest of the tropical and subtropical regions. After a couple of weeks of seedling, the plant bears many yellow flowers that may require honeybees for pollination.
Externally, the fruit features smooth, deep green to yellow, thick exterior rind with light-green or gray colored vertical stripes adorning its surface. Internally, the flesh is juicy and comes in different colors like pink, red, or yellow depending upon the cultivar type. Near its core, numerous small black seeds embed in the middle-third portion of the flesh.
Watermelon has a neutral flavor, and its taste somewhat described as plain-sweet water (light sugar syrup). Its flesh is soft yet crunchy unlike soft, creamy texture of muskmelons.
Varieties of watermelon fruits are being cultivated the world over, featuring variation in their size, shape, and flesh color (red, orange, and yellow). In Japan, the black-skinned Toma watermelons (densuke watermelon) are famous for their sweeter-than-usual taste in comparison to normal melons, and therefore, fetch higher prices.
Rich in electrolytes and water content, melons are natureâ€™s gift to beat tropical summer thirst.
Watermelons are very low in calories (just 30 calories per 100 g) and carry negligible amounts of fats. Nonetheless, they plentiful in numerous health promoting phytonutrients and antioxidants essential for optimum health.
Watermelon nutrition profile contains vitamin-A and lycopene, which are powerful natural antioxidants. 100 g fresh fruit provides 569 IU or 19% of daily-required levels of vitamin-A. It is one of the essential vitamins needed for healthy vision and immunity. Vitamin-A is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A is known to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
It is rich in antioxidant flavonoids like β-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants have been found to offer protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Phytochemicals present in watermelons like lycopene and carotenoids have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen-free radicals.
Watermelon is an excellent source of carotenoid pigment, lycopene and indeed, superior to raw red tomato. 100 g of fresh melon provides 4532 Âµg lycopene, whereas this value only 2573 Âµg for tomatoes. Studies suggest that lycopene offers protection to the skin against harmful UV rays.
Watermelon fruit is a good source of potassium; Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. It, thus, offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases.
Furthermore, it contains a good amount of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin-C, and manganese. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Total measured antioxidant strength (ORAC value) of watermelon is 142 Âµmol TE/100 g.
Although watermelons can be grown in all the seasons under tropical environments, they are at their best during summer months. In the markets, try to buy organically grown melons since they are richer in taste and nutrients.
Oftentimes, it is hard to judge ripeness and taste without checking a wedge section of the melon. Look for one that is heavy for its size, featuring rind that is relatively smooth, neither overly shiny nor overly dull, without any cuts or bruises on its surface that might have occurred during transportation.
Once at home, place the fruit in cool, well-ventilated place. The cut sections, however, should be kept in the refrigerator.
Wash the whole melon in cold running water; one can also otherwise wash it with wet cloth to remove any surface dirt and insecticide/fungicide residues.
|Watermelon cubes.||Yellow-watermelon sections along with regular variety! Courtesy: Francisco.|
Depending upon the size that you desire, watermelon can be sliced, cubed, or scooped into balls.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh watermelon should be eaten as it is, without any additions/seasonings to experience its delicious, natural, sweet taste.
Cubes or sections of the melon are a great addition to fruit salad. Top its wedges with cold chocolate cream and relish!
Jam, sorbet, fruit cocktail and juice are some nutritious and delicious recipes you can make with melons.
The seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack in some Asian countries.
Its rind is used and eaten as a vegetable in some South American countries.
Allergy to watermelon is rare, and everyone can safely enjoy it. Its seeds generally discarded but cause no toxicity if ingested accidentally. (Disclaimer).
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Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.