may be the best picnic dessert nature ever created with its
sweet juice cleverly bound inside that spongy red (sometimes
yellow) matrix, and fully protected by psychedelic green rind.
about a party orb.
like the thespian whose good looks overshadow brilliant acting
skills, the watermelonís sweet, colorful qualities long have
undercut its attributes as a wholly nutritious fruit whose
tasty powers hydrate as well as heal.
matter how you slice it, this green cannonball of nutrition is
attracting scientific attention as an elixir that reduces
muscle pain after workouts and a whole lot more. Studies also
have shown beneficial effects on arterial plaque in
cardiovascular disease, prostate and other cancers, erectile
dysfunction, menopause, acid reflux and potentially Alzheimerís
disease, among others.
study, for example, found that "watermelon extract
supplementation reduces blood pressure and arterial
stiffness," in older adults in cold weather, so it
"can prevent the progression of hypertension and the
hypertensive response to cold exposure," said the author
Arturo Figueroa-Galvez, associate professor at Florida State
Universityís department of nutrition, food and exercise
of his studies found that the supplement also reduced ankle
blood pressure in obese adults with hypertension. Studies by
others found that watermelon compounds reduced inflammation in
prostate, gastrointestinal and other cancers, while a study
published recently showed that lycopene, which provides the
red pigmentation in watermelon and tomatoes, potentially
reduced the inflammatory cascade of Alzheimerís disease.
yet another study found lycopene reduced reflux disease in
animals, in part, by inhibiting acid pathways in the stomach.
is a pretty well-documented source of vitamin C, vitamin A and
potassium," said Penelope Perkins-Veazie, a professor of
horticulture in the Plants for Human Health Institute at North
Carolina State University. She said sheís been studying
watermelon nutrients for 15 years.
noteworthy are watermelonís two "secondary
metabolites," citrulline and lycopene, which have been
the focus of recent research. Citrulline, a nonessential amino
acid, is abundant in watermelon, yellow watermelons having
four times that of red watermelon.
turns out, citrulline is involved in producing nitric oxide, a
potent molecule that relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood
pressure, "with benefits to the brain, heart and in a
cycle of amino acids necessary to properly flush the
kidneys," said Perkinís Veazie, who has a Ph.D. in
is actually more abundant and more easily available in
watermelon than tomatoes, where itís bound up in cellular
walls, even if tomatoes draw more research attention due to
their importance in the American diet. Perkins-Veazie said
lycopene shows clear benefits in reducing plaque buildup in
arteries and preventing prostate cancer.
watermelon is a fruit in the same cucurbit family as pumpkins,
squash and cucumbers, which often are mistaken as vegetables.
longstanding bias against watermelon stems from its 21 grams
of carbohydrates, mostly sugars, in every two-cup serving,
with only a single gram of fiber. "People are concerned
about the sugar, but compared to processed products it tastes
sweet but isnít loaded with sugar," Perkins-Veazie
said. "Itís counterintuitive, but there is an enzyme
present to regulate the glucose."
the sugars (equally divided among sucrose, glucose and
fructose), two cups of watermelon have only 80 calories with
no fat, sodium or cholesterol. "Using the same watermelon
extract used in my previous human studies, watermelon
supplementation did not increase body weight and improved
blood lipids in rats," Dr. Figueroa-Galvez said.
originated in southern Africa and became natureís canteen.
Rather than transport water long distances, travelers took
watermelons, which are 92 percent water and donít begin
rotting for three weeks.
key season is July 1 through Labor Day, with a tag team of
suppliers from Florida in April, followed by Texas and
Georgia, before California supplies the nation with
watermelons through October. During winter months, Mexico and
Guatemala are the source.
Barlow, spokeswoman for the National Watermelon Promotion
Board, said the fruit offers consumers health, value and
versatility all year-round, all parts being edible, including
the rind and seeds.
really focusing on health," she said. "All
pre-packaged foods have a smattering of health claims so our
health message has to be the strongest one."
are 1,200 varieties of watermelon grown in 96 countries, she
said, noting that square ones are being grown in square
containers in Japan so they fit into smaller refrigerators.
There are even a few orange watermelons.
seeds in a watermelon are heavier than the flesh, she said,
and act like marbles, damaging the flesh and causing them to
rot more quickly. That helps explain why in the market today,
she said, "Itís a landslide majority of seedless