watermelon

If you grew up enjoying watermelon as a tasty summer treat, you might also have grown up with the notion that it’s just flavored water—harmless, but not particularly healthy. Well, think again! This summer staple is also a nutritional powerhouse. The health benefits of watermelon might surprise you.

Watermelon has been found to be one of the most nutrient dense foods commonly eaten by Americans (meaning it has the most nutrition per calorie). Watermelon is mostly water, so it’s also very low in calories, but it’s very high in vitamin C, beta carotene, lycopene and vitamin A—all major antioxidants that have been shown in clinical studies to help fight cancer.

Maybe slightly more surprising is that the health benefits of watermelon also include high levels of B vitamins, particularly B1 and B6, which help keep electrolytes in balance and help cells convert food to energy respectively. Watermelons also contain lots of potassium and magnesium, both essential for body functions. Between the B vitamins and the essential minerals, watermelon is a great way to keep yourself well hydrated in the summer.

Finding organic watermelons can be a challenge (and they can be very expensive when you do find them), but luckily, watermelons have consistently been part of the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15″ list of the 15 least-contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables.

Interestingly, a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that watermelon stored at room temperature provided significantly more nutrition than watermelon stored in the refrigerator.  In fact, they had  more nutritional value when stored at room temperature than even freshly picked. Plus, the fruit lasted longer—up to 21 days—when kept at around 55 degrees as opposed to the standard 40 degrees of a fridge.

Watermelon pairs well with sweet or savory dishes. Serve in a fruit salad or even as part of a juice or cocktail. Or mix with sweet Thai basil and feta for a sweet/savory salad.  

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