Nothing says summer like watermelon. I can't think of a more juicy, crunchy and refreshingly satisfying fruit to enjoy on a hot summer day. Watermelons are available nationally and are plentiful this year.
A member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, other plants that also grow on vines on the ground. Watermelons are high in nutrients, as well. Melons are rich in potassium, a nutrient that may help control blood pressure, regulate heart beat, and possibly prevent strokes. A potassium-rich diet can help keep salt from raising blood pressure and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, and possibly age-related bone loss. Watermelons also help quench the inflammation that contributes to conditions like asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes and arthritis.
Watermelon has lycopene, which can help reduce the risk of several cancers.
Melons are also abundant in Vitamin C and beta carotene, a disease-fighting antioxidants. Researchers believe that beta-carotene and Vitamin C can prevent cancer, heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
Watermelon is also a valuable source of lycopene, a carotenoid that has been studied in humans. Research indicates that lycopene is helpful in reducing the risk of prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and colon cancers. Watermelon 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, lowering high blood pressure, it is the compound whose production is enhanced by Viagra to prevent erectile dysfunction.
Arginine has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in obese type 2 diabetic patients with insulin resistance. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Nov;291(5):E906-12. In volunteers drinking three 8-ounce glasses of watermelon juice each day for three weeks, blood levels of arginine (synthesized from citrulline provided by the watermelon) were 11% higher than in controls. Volunteers who drank six daily 8-ounce glasses of watermelon juice for 3 weeks had arginine levels 18% higher than controls. Nutrition. 2007 Mar;23(3):261-6.
Whether you choose watermelons for their health benefits or simply for their good flavor, they can be an excellent snack, summer dish, or gardening project.