On any hot summer day, there’s no food that comes to mind more quickly than a fresh, juicy slice of watermelon. Originating in Africa, watermelon was popular for its thirst-quenching properties in Mediterranean areas where water was in short supply. But this sweet treat is nothing to feel guilty about—it is fat free, low calorie, has numerous health benefits.
Watermelon’s nutritional value is outstanding. One cup has a mere 48 calories and 11 carbohydrates, and packs nearly 25% of your daily value of vitamin C. The fruit also boast high amounts of vitamin A and B6. Vitamin C bolster’s the immune system’s defenses against infections and viruses, while vitamin A aids in eye health and vitamin B6 maintains normal nerve function. Because watermelon has a higher water content and fewer calories than many other fruits, it delivers more nutrients per calorie.
Watermelon is packed with a carotenoid called lycopene, which has many antioxidant and cancer-preventing benefits. Lycopene has been extensively studied, and proven to be protective against prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancers. Lycopene’s ability to protect the body’s cells from oxygen damage has also been shown to prevent heart disease. While lycopene’s red pigment is abundant in tomatoes, guava, grapefruit, studies have shown that watermelon is a better source of the antioxidant, containing about 40 percent more lycopene than a raw tomato.
Scientists think the health benefits of watermelon are just beginning to be uncovered. “We think there are a lot of potential uses for watermelon that are just beginning to be explored,” says plant physiologist Penelope Perkins-Veazie. “It can be a so-called functional food—one that can help prevent certain diseases.” So, keep on eating this healthy, delicious fruit that is not only perfect for summer time, but also a wonderful treat year round.
Greek – Style Watermelon Salad
Greek Watermelon & Feta Recipe