The warmer it gets outside, the less we tend to crave heavier, rich foods, and our palates shift to a yearning for lighter, less salty cuisine. What better way to satisfy this seasonal desire for lighter foods than to eat healthy, whole, natural items that also keep us hydrated? Watermelon is absolutely a summer cuisine staple- with its sweet watery flavor and subtle crunchy texture, it’s the perfect snack or even ingredient within a larger culinary project. There’s no better time than summer to indulge, as it’s peak watermelon season.
As it consists of approximately 92% water, most people believe watermelon to be fairly non-nutritional in nature, simply providing natural sugar water… a common misconception, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Watermelons contain important nutrients, such as a high concentration of beta-carotene and hefty amounts of vitamin C and A. Pink watermelons contain the powerful antioxidant, lycopene, which travels through the body neutralizing free radicals.
Vitamin C and beta-carotene are extremely effective in ridding our bodies of these harmful molecules and can in turn prevent the damage they would otherwise cause. The beta-carotene in watermelon protects us again macular degeneration, and the high intake of Vitamin C has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Only one cup of watermelon provides 21% of the daily value of Vitamin C, and 17% of Vitamin A. Watermelon is also a very good source of the B Vitamins necessary for energy production. Because this fruit has a higher water content and lower calorie content than many other fruits, it delivers more nutrients per calorie!
When selecting a whole watermelon, look for one where the rind is neither overly dull, nor overly shiny. It should also be heavy for its size. Another factor to look for is the yellowish cream-colored “underbelly” of the watermelon. This is where it rested on the ground during the ripening process. If the fruit doesn’t have this marking, it may have been harvested prematurely, which will negatively affect its texture, taste and juiciness. The amounts of lycopene and beta-carotene increases if this melon is stored at room temperature, as indicated in a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.