nutritional benefits of a watermelon
The Wholesome Watermelon
The watermelon’s public image of a fruit that is 92% water and very little nutritional value is highly deceiving. It is the other 8% that needs to be looked at under a microscope, because it is a treasure trove of some of the most beneficial nutrients imaginable. So, other than quenching thirst and being a good diet food, let’s consider some reasons why you should seek out and make this fruit a part of your daily diet.
Lycopene is the magic ingredient that gives watermelons their pink- deep red coloring. This pigment is also found in pink grapefruit, papaya, apricots and tomatoes. It was believed that tomatoes had the highest concentration of lycopene, but watermelons of deep red variety have an even higher concentration. Lycopene neutralizes the body’s free radicals even more efficiently than beta-carotene and vitamin E (Archives of Biochemistry & Biophysics, 1989).
Free radicals are the little trouble makers that oxidize cholesterol, allowing it to cling to arteries and causing the narrowing of arteries. This in turn can lead to a heart attack or even stroke. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of lycopene lower risks of prostate and colon cancers. Finally, it lessens the gravity of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
The phyto-nutrient, citrulline found in watermelons helps to increase blood flow. According to research carried out by the director of Taxes A&M Fruit & Vegetable Improvement Center, Dr. Bhimu Patil, it was found that citrulline helps to relax blood vessels and increase the flow of blood. In other words it behaves much like the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra.
While erectile dysfunction is also dependent on psychological and physiological factors, the increased flow of blood can be beneficial in less severe cases. In a separate study Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi of The Florida State University found giving watermelon extracts to study patients reduced blood pressure, due to citrulline’s ability to increase the flow of blood. This could lead to reduction in ingestion of antihypertensive medications.
Watermelon is also a good source of electrolytes like potassium and sodium which are necessary for nerve function, but are lost through perspiration. Watermelon is a diuretic and before dialysis machines became common, kidney patients were given watermelons as part of a homeopathic treatment. The high content of water in watermelons provides fat eradicating properties by increasing the body’s metabolism.
So exactly what do you get when you eat two diced cups (280 grams) of watermelon? You get only eighty calories, none of which are from fat. You also get zero percent saturated fat, and cholesterol. You get two grams of dietary fiber, one gram of protein (from the seeds!), 25 grams of sugars, Vitamin A, & C, Calcium, iron, potassium and sodium. Not bad for something that is 92% water
Origins of Watermelon
Believed to be the descendent of a citron which first developed in Africa, watermelon is truly a fruit of the kings. Egyptians harvested watermelons nearly five thousand years ago and they held a very high stature in the Egyptian culture. It was believed that the fruit provided nourishment in the afterlife, so watermelons were placed in tombs when kings were buried. Watermelons are even represented in hieroglyphics decorating ancient Egyptian structures.
Trade spread watermelons, and the plants prospered alongside the Mediterranean Sea. By the tenth century, the watermelon plants made it to China and eventually the Moors introduced them to Europe around the thirteenth century. It is believed that watermelons come to the United States when slaves brought the seeds over on slave ships.
Cultivation of Watermelon
A distant cousin of the cantaloupe, pumpkin and squash; watermelons belong to the Cucurbitaceous family. They come in a variety of shapes like oblong, round and spherical, with most common varieties bearing yellow and red flesh. The rind is usually in a range of solid green shades with some varieties sporting spots or stripes. There are roughly 1200 varieties of the fruit. Advances in agriculture biotechnology have led to the development of watermelons without seeds and rinds that are thin
- 6 cups watermelon, approximately 1 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons lemon, fresh squeezed
- 2 tablespoons honey, optional
- Process the watermelon cubes in a food processor until liquefied. Don’t bother removing the seeds as they contain a lot of nutrients! Add the lemon juice and honey stirring to mix thoroughly. Now sieve the mixture using a fine grade sieve. Make sure to squeeze out all the juice and nutrition from the crushed seeds by pressing the fibers in the sieve with the back of a spoon. Pour the prepared mixture into molds and freeze overnight (roughly 8 hours).