I can’t imagine a summer get-together without watermelon. This juicy, sweet fruit perfectly fills in as an appetizer, dessert or side dish, so I make sure to bring it along to every outdoor event I’m invited to.
But did you know that there’s a lot more to watermelon than its status as a barbecue staple?
1. Supports Hydration
As its name suggests, watermelon is mostly water -- 92% in fact! It’s also chock-full of potassium, which is an important electrolyte. Throw in its sweetness, and you can think of watermelon as an all-natural Gatorade substitute. Watermelon is my ideal hydration solution, especially for kids that don’t always remember to drink water but do come running when I set melon out.
2. It's Ultra Low-Calorie
Because of its high water content and nutritional value, watermelon is a guilt-free snack for the calorie-conscious. It’s also completely cholesterol- and sodium-free, but is a good source of fiber. In terms of sweet treats, watermelon is very hard to beat for its overall health impact.
3. A Great Source of Lycopene
This powerful antioxidant is linked to heart health, bone health and cancer prevention. It’s a carotenoid, which means that it gives the food it occurs in a red or orange hue: in this case, lycopene is what makes watermelon pink! The majority of lycopene in the American diet comes from tomatoes, but watermelon has a higher concentration than almost any other fruit, making its contribution to our health fairly significant.
4. Its Vitamin A Level Looks Pretty Good
This often-overlooked vitamin is critical for eye and skin health, which is particularly important in the summer months when the sun can burn skin and damage vision. Keep a watermelon with your sunblock and shades for protection both inside and out!
5. Keeps you Healthy with Vitamin C
Like many fruits, watermelon is a good source of Vitamin C, which supports a strong immune system. Just because the weather is warm doesn’t mean we can let our immunological guard down. Stock up on watermelon--but do remember to do everything in moderation!--to stay healthy.
How to Pick
The health benefits of watermelon begin at the supermarket! I like to do a visual inspection of my available melons first, which ultimately reduces the number that I touch. Look for a watermelon that is symmetrical without exterior cracks or bruising. Most importantly, look for the spot on the watermelon where it rested on the ground. This will be white to yellow in color, and potentially flatter than the rest of the melon. This spot darkens as the melon ripens, so a white spot indicates an unripe watermelon, while creamy or yellow spots are ready to eat!
Once you’ve spied a good one, pick it up for further testing. A ripe watermelon should be heavy for its size and sound hollow when knocked on. You may need to test a couple and compare.
Concentrations of lycopene and Vitamin A increase as the watermelon ripens, so there’s more riding on this selection process than taste. Use these tips to stay healthy and happy this summer!