Watermelon is a traditional fourth of July treat. No other fruit reminds us of summer like the thirst quenching watermelon. Watermelons serve as a comfort food for many people, reminding them of relaxing memories of youth. For that reason, just the aroma of fresh watermelon is enough ease anxiety for most people. Then factor in the watermelon’s high content of Vitamin B6, and now you have a great weapon against anxiety. This vitamin influences brain chemicals responsible for calming moods. Although watermelons can be found in the markets throughout the year, the summer time is the season when watermelons are the sweetest and of the best quality.
Watermelons are related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin and other plants that grow on vines on the ground. While we often associate a deep red-pink color with watermelons, in fact there are varieties that feature orange, yellow, or white flesh. While most watermelons have seeds that are black, brown, white, green or yellow, a few varieties are actually seedless. Watermelon is not a commonly allergenic food, is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines and is also not included in the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” as one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.
Watermelon is great on a hot summer day, but this thirst quenching fruit may also help reduce the inflammation that contributes to conditions like asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and arthritis.
Watermelons are like natural multivitamins.Watermelons are loaded with antioxidants. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, particularly through its concentration of beta-carotene. Consuming watermelons is good for your eyes and prevents macular degeneration. Pink watermelon is also a great source of the potent antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is well known for being abundant in tomatoes and well absorbed from cooked tomato products containing a little fat such as olive oil. Lycopene is also present in high amounts in watermelon and mangoes. Watermelons contain a higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Fresh watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than fresh tomatoes – a 2-cup serving of watermelon contains and average of 18.16 mg and one medium-sized tomato contains 4 mg. Lycopene has been extensively studied for its antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties. In contrast to many other food phytonutrients, whose effects have only been studied in animals, lycopene has been repeatedly studied in humans and found to be protective against a growing list of cancers. These cancers now include prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancers. The antioxidant function of lycopene and its ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen damage has been linked in human research to prevention of heart disease. Protection of DNA (our genetic material) inside of white blood cells has also been shown to be an antioxidant role of lycopene.
Watermelons are also rich in the B vitamins necessary for energy production. Watermelons are a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin B1, magnesium and potassium. It is rich in electrolytes sodium and potassium that we lose through our perspiration and when we consume alcohol. Thus, watermelon juice has been used as an aid for hangovers. They also have a higher water content and lower calorie content than many other fruits (a whole cup of watermelon contains only 48 calories), so it delivers more nutrients per calorie than most fruits.
Move over Viagra! Make room for Watermelons!
The Chinese have been using watermelons medicinally for millenniums, but it took a Japanese scientist named Mitsunori Wada to figure out why. In 1930 he isolated citrulline, an antioxidizing amino acid found in watermelons that appears to boost blood circulation, detox the liver, ease muscle fatigue and do a host of other things that someone with a hangover might appreciate. This fruit is exceptionally high in citrulline, an amino acid our bodies use to make another amino acid, arginine, which is used in the urea cycle to remove ammonia from the body, and by the cells lining our blood vessels to make nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide not only relaxes blood vessels and lowers high blood pressure, it is the compound whose production is enhanced by Viagra to prevent erectile dysfunction. In the arteries, the innermost layer of cells releases nitric oxide to signal smooth muscle cells to dilate (increase the diameter of) the arteries. This allows blood to flow more freely, particularly during exercise. Viagra inhibits an enzyme in the genitals and increases nitric oxide, resulting in smooth muscle relaxation. This in turn allows more blood to enter the penis and enable an erection. The efficacy of simply taking amino acids by mouth, which theoretically could prompt the body to produce nitric acid has yet to be established scientifically. However, it seems perfectly logical that watermelons may be a natural substitute for Viagra and other synthetic drugs which have not been proven to be safe in the long run. Arginine has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in obese type 2 diabetic patients with insulin resistance.
Watermelons are also a natural, tasty and inexpensive way to relieve your heartburn symptoms. While many people are just accustomed to eating the juicy flesh of the watermelon, both the seeds and the rind are also edible. If you choose to eat the rind, we would highly suggest purchasing organic watermelon.
How to spot a ripe watermelon:
The best way to choose a flavorful watermelon is to look at the color and quality of the flesh, which should be a deep color and absent from white streaks. If it features seeds, they should be deep in color.
Oftentimes, however, we do not have this liberty when purchasing watermelon since it is more common to buy a whole, uncut fruit. When choosing a whole watermelon, look for one that is heavy for its size with a rind that is relatively smooth and that is neither overly shiny nor overly dull. In addition, one side of the melon should have an area that is distinct in color from the rest of the rind, displaying a yellowish or creamy tone. This is the underbelly, the place that was resting on the ground during ripening, and if the fruit does not have this marking, it may have been harvested prematurely, which will negatively affect its taste, texture, juiciness and health benefits. Checking for ripeness before you buy a watermelon is important. The melon does not continue to ripen once it has been cut from the vine.
How to properly store watermelons:
To store an uncut watermelon, keep it at room temperature, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. It should stay fresh for up to a week if the room is warm, over 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s kept in a room that stays around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, an uncut watermelon should stay fresh for up to 10 to fourteen days.
To store cut watermelon so it stays its freshest, securely cover the cut end in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Or, cut the watermelon flesh from the rind and place it in an airtight container. Either way, the watermelon should last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that minimal processing of fruit-cutting, packaging and chilling-does not significantly affect its nutritional content even after 6, and up to 9 days.
Leftover watermelon can be frozen so you can use it for a recipe later like in Watermelon Slush or Watermelon Muffins. Simply dice it up and spread it out in one layer on a cookie sheet or two. Place the watermelon in the freezer for several hours until it freezes. Then, remove it from the sheet and place the watermelon in zippered freezer bags. It should stay fresh for up to 2 weeks in the freezer.
The Flex4Fitness Summer Solution to Prevent Dehydration and Energy Loss:
With July 4th quickly approaching and the summer weather kicking in, eating watermelon or drinking its juice is a safe alternative to taking energy drinks. It contains high water quantity and it can hydrates us whereas other drinks with caffeine can dehydrate us. Nothing can be more satisfactory on a hot, humid day than a juicy watermelon!
Serves 2 people but you can easily adjust this recipe to make as little or as much as you’d like.
- 4 cups cubed watermelon
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons of raw honey if you need to add sweetness. (OPTIONAL)
1. Put the cubed watermelon and lemon juice (and raw honey) in a blender and puree until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.
2. Fill glasses with ice and add the watermelonaid. Stir gently before serving.