Watermelon offers health benefits
There's nothing more refreshing than ice-cold, crunchy, thirst-quenching watermelon on a hot summer day. This all-American favorite treat packs a lot of health benefits in addition to its taste appeal according to Pam Duitsman, Ph.D., a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
"Watermelon is fat free, and is a good source of several vitamins, including vitamin C. The bright red flesh of watermelon comes from Lycopene--a carotenoid that is a powerful antioxidant with a growing list of health benefits," said Duitsman.
Well known for being abundant in tomatoes, lycopene has been studied extensively and shown to be protective against a list of cancers, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancers.
"Lycopene is linked to many other health benefits - including prevention of heart disease; prevention of inflammation and the risk of macular degeneration," said Duitsman.
On average, watermelon contains 40 percent more lycopene than an equivalent weight of tomatoes, and recent studies show lycopene from raw watermelon is well absorbed.
"Red, ripe flesh indicates the best tasting, as well as the most nutritious melon," said Duitsman.
Watermelon is related to other melons, squashes, and gourds, including cucumbers and pumpkins, and other plants that grow on vines on the ground. Watermelon can be round or oblong, striped or spotted or solid green.
A ripe watermelon will be heavy for its size. One side of a ripe melon should display an "underbelly" which will be yellowish or creamy colored. Duitsman says this indicates the melon rested on the ground during ripening. If the underbelly is green or white, it probably is not ripe.
For more information on nutrition issues, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu.