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Watermelon: A Healthy Summer Treat

Summer is here! And so is the delectable, nutrient-rich watermelon!

When I start to feel the heat of summer, my mind becomes flooded with awesome childhood memories of past summers… capturing fireflies in jars (but releasing them soon after!), climbing trees, swimming in the creek, playing in the sprinkler, staying up later than normal and picnics! And what was ALWAYS included in a good summer picnic? WATERMELON!

I don’t know about you, but before I started researching the nutrient values of fruits and vegetables, I thought watermelon was no more than a fruit full of water… Boy was I wrong!

Did you know watermelons provide quite a bit of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support? Although tomatoes are generally associated with being high in the phytonutrient lycopene, watermelon has moved up to the top of the list of fruits highly concentrated with this anti-inflammatory nutrient. Lycopene is especially important for cardiovascular health as well as bone health.

Watermelon also includes significant amounts of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is essential for normal growth and development, immune system function and vision. It also has antioxidant properties that can help neutralize free radicals which may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

We also can’t ignore the amount of vitamin C found in watermelon! The benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and even skin wrinkling (can I just rub watermelon all over my face and neck???).

Watermelon gets its reddish-pink shades primarily form lycopene – which increases with the ripening of the melon. Beta carotene in watermelons also increases with ripening…

So how do we know when a melon is ripe? A fully ripened watermelon will feel heavy for its size because as a melon ripens, the water content increases. A fully ripened watermelon will be over 90% water weight. You will also want to examine the rind. It should be relatively smooth and dulled on top. The ground spot (the part that rests on the ground) will be a creamy yellow color.

How to eat them… well… cut and eat it… and have fun spitting out the seeds! If you get bored with just plain watermelon you can make a fruit salad with other delicious fruits. You can also enjoy it as a summer salad by mixing it with a sliced red onion and some salt & pepper.. maybe a little feta cheese, too? You can even make a chilled summer soup by pureeing it with cantaloupe and kiwi. Serve with a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt.

However you choose to prepare it, just eat it! You can’t beat the nutritional value you get from a very low caloric treat!

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