Bite Into a Healthy Slice of Watermelon

CHOC Clinical Nutrition and Lactation ServicesBy Leah Blalock MS, RD, CSP, CDE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Nothing says summer like a thick slice of watermelon, complete with juice running down your arms and dripping off your elbows. Not only is it fun to eat, it’s packed with health benefits.

Watermelon is a vine-like flowering plant thought to originate in Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. Today, Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are the United States largest watermelon producers. According to Guinness World Records, the heaviest watermelon was grown in Arkansas in 2005, and weighed 268.8 pounds.

This sweet refreshing fruit, made up of mostly water, is packed with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. Lycopene has been linked with heart health, bone health, and prostate cancer prevention. To maximize your lycopene intake, let your watermelon fully ripen. The redder your watermelon gets, the higher concentration of lycopene.

Another phytonutrient found in watermelon is the amino acid citrulline, which converts to the amino acid arginine. These amino acids improve blood flow, leading to cardiovascular health and improved circulation.  Cucurbitacin E is another unique anti-inflammatory phytonutrient found in this popular summer fruit.

Waist line watchers also benefit from watermelon. It is considered a good source of fluid and fiber which slow digestion and promote satiety.

There are many great ways your family can enjoy watermelon.

  • Try combining diced watermelon with fresh mint, feta cheese and fresh arugula for a savory salad.
  • Make a summery gazpacho by pureeing watermelon with fresh tomatoes and cucumber.
  • Watermelon popsicles are also a refreshing treat –puree watermelon until it’s smooth. Pour the puree into frozen popsicle molds and freeze until firm.
  • Or, try this yummy recipe:

Watermelon Salsa Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest (from about 1 lime)

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)

1 tablespoon sugar

Freshly ground pepper

3 cups seeded and finely chopped watermelon

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 mango, peeled and diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 small red onion, finely chopped

8 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Tortilla or pita chips, for serving

Directions

Stir together the lime zest, lime juice, sugar and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Add the watermelon, cucumber, mango, jalapeño, onion and basil and toss gently. Chill the salsa until ready to serve. Add the garlic salt just before serving. Serve with chips.

Source: Food Network Magazine

Learn more about clinical nutrition and lactation services at CHOC.

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