Watermelon is a fruit that packs more than we may think, more in the way of nutritional value that is. Summer may be officially coming to an end soon, but there's still plenty of this popular Summer fruit available.
Many of us (this included me once upon a time), think that watermelon is high in calories, contains only sugar and water but, this sweet red fruit does pack more than we think! Before we discuss the full value of watermelon, let's look at just how much sugar and water it does contains. One cup of diced watermelon is about 90% water, and 50 calories (doesn't sound too bad to me).
Approximately 44 of these calories do come from sugar, but let me say that this is a natural, healthy fruit sugar. If we remember our "Sugar, Not an Enemy" tip, we will remember that sugar is a vital nutrient for fueling our energy, and it is the sole source of fuel for our brain.
Along with water and sugar, watermelon also contains vitamin C, has just a trace of fat without cholesterol. Not a bad deal I think, but the best news is about its color.
Watermelon contains the phytochemical lycopene, one of our colorful disease preventing cartenoids! Watermelon is red, because it contains nature's chemicals in the form of red pigments just like the tomato. This time if we remember our "Tomato, a Superstar" tip, the tomato was the leading source of lycopene when cooked (so much for the raw diet all the time?).
Lycopene appears to be released from the plant cell wall and used by our body (defined as bioavailable) when sources such as the tomato are cooked. Unfortunately, we don't always eat tomato sauce, or heat processed tomato juice, do we? Now, we have evidence from a study although many of us are still unaware of it, that shows raw watermelon unlike the raw tomato, contains a source of bioavailable lycopene!
Here is just a small quote from the Press Release from the USDA research agency titled "Watermelon Shows its Lycopene Stripes" which appeared in the June 2002 Agricultural Research Magazine. "Watermelon is fat free and is a source of vitamins A, B6, C, and thiamin. Studies have shown that a cup and a half of watermelon contains about 9 to 13 milligrams of lycopene. On average, watermelon has about 40 percent more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Red, ripe flesh is the best indicator of the sweetest and most nutritious watermelon, though it's hard to choose the ripest melon when it's uncut".
Do we need a quick refresher on the disease fighting merits of lycopene? Well, studies indicate that lycopene protects against cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer most notably prostate with some studies showing protective properties against breast, endometrium and lung cancers as well.
So, Watermelon definitely packs more than sugar and water. It packs a lot of Lycopene even when it's raw! Want to up your intake of lycopene and not eating spaghetti and meatballs tonight with tomato sauce? Try a cup of fresh sweet red watermelon! Here's to our Health!
June www.junefit.com (c) junefit 2005