The Florida watermelons are popping up all over grocery stores and farmer’s markets as quickly as our late afternoon thunderstorms! We are officially in summer here in The Sunshine State! There is probably no other fruit that screams warm weather like a watermelon so I thought I would educate you a little on the amazing nutritional benefits of this summer favorite.
There is more to watermelon than its sweet taste. This member of the Cucurbitaceae family (related to cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and gourd) offers 20% of your daily intake of vitamin C and 17% vitamin A. It’s also right up there with tomatoes in its lycopene content. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that’s especially important for our cardiovascular health, and an increasing number of scientists now believe that lycopene is important for bone health as well.
But what has been the most recent interest to health scientist is its citrulline content. Citrulline is an amino acid that is commonly converted by our kidneys and other organ systems into arginine (another amino acid). Higher levels of arginine can help improve blood flow and other aspects of our cardiovascular health (lowers blood pressure). This amino acid also seems to protect against muscle soreness. A Spanish study showed that athletes who consumed a little more than 16 ounces of watermelon juice an hour before exercise had less muscle soreness and a lower heart rate within a day.
So the next time you have a grueling workout planned try The Whole Meal’s easy and delicious Watermelon Cool Down, Heal Up drink:
Makes 2 (8-10 ounce) servings
In a blender combine the following ingredients until well blended and frothy cold:
2 cups watermelon, cut into large chunks
1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stevia packet (or 1 teaspoon of loose stevia) or 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
3 fresh basil leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Optional small nub of fresh peeled ginger if you like a ginger kick and its healing benefits
Enough ice cubes to make it frothy but not too frozen (about 1-2 cups)
Pour into glasses, insert straw and let the hydrating and healing begin!
Some Other Interesting Facts About Watermelon:
It’s a fruit and a vegetable. Like most fruits, watermelon is the product of a seed-producing plant and has a sweet taste but remember it’s part of the Cucurbitaceae family (squash, pumpkin, and cucumber). The dual nature of watermelon makes it all edible, so there’s no excuse to leave any part behind.
You can eat the rind and here is a great southern recipe from the Lee brothers (cookbook authors of The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook, one of my favorites on southern cooking) for Watermelon Rind Preserves.
The seeds are also edible and they were one of my favorite things to eat when I was in Manila, Philippines recently. It is just as fun to eat roasted watermelon seeds as it is to spit them out. Part of the fun is seeing if you can remove the exterior shell with just your teeth; no hands allowed (contest anyone?). Here is a recipe to make them yourselves at home: Oven Roasted Watermelon Seeds
It’s almost all water. Watermelon is 91.5% water, according to the USDA. No wonder we are drawn to it’s juicy, refreshing flesh in the hot months. Being dehydrated is bad for your health; even mild dehydration can result in headaches, poor concentration, fatigue, and worse moods.
There is a yellow variety. It’s known as Yellow Crimson and has a sunny interior and the flesh has a sweeter, honey-like taste. The two are nearly identical on the outside, so read the signs at your grocery store or farmers’ market to tell which is which. I just saw them at my local Greenwise Publix.
Here are a few more watermelon recipes to try this summer from one of my favorite magazines, Southern Living. 23 Best Watermelon Recipes
Before you dig into these recipes check out how to choose a watermelon from The Kitchn.