Week 26: Watermelon
As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, and cucumber. There are between 600–1,200 different varieties of watermelon that exist worldwide. While we often associate a deep red/pink color with watermelons, there are many varieties that feature orange, yellow, or white flesh. These varieties are typically lower in the carotenoid lycopene (see below for health benefits) than red/pink varieties.
Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92%, giving its flesh a juicy texture while still also subtly crunchy.
Nutrient Profile: Watermelon is an unusual fruit source of the carotenoid lycopene and a rich source of phenolic antioxidants. It contains large amounts of the amino acid citrulline. Watermelon is a very good source of vitamin C. It is also a good source of pantothenic acid, copper, biotin, potassium, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant support- Lycopene (a carotenoid phytonutrient) is an inhibitor of many inflammatory processes and is a well-known antioxidant with the ability to neutralize free radical molecules. In order to receive the most lycopene benefits from watermelon, be sure that the melon is optimally ripe (red in color). Watermelon also contains significant amounts of beta-carotene (pre form of vitamin A).
Potential cardiovascular benefits- One of the more unusual aspects of watermelon is its rich supply of the amino acid, citrulline. Citrulline is commonly converted by our kidneys and other organ systems into arginine (another amino acid) which is further converted to a very small molecule of gas called nitric oxide (NO). NO is a smooth muscle relaxant in our blood vessels and thus leads to lowering of blood pressure. However, the amount of watermelon that would need to be ingested is inordinately high for a lowering of blood pressure to occur. At present, however, the best we can conclude about watermelon and its unusual citrulline content is that it's likely to provide us with some cardiovascular benefits.
Selection and Storage: When purchasing a whole watermelon, choose one that is heavy in weight which indicates that it is fully ripened. With uncut, whole watermelon, avoid contact with high ethylene-producing foods like bananas, passion fruit, apples, peaches, pears, and papaya. Watermelons are ethylene sensitive fruits that may become overly ripe quickly under these circumstances. Once cut, watermelons should be refrigerated in order to best preserve their freshness, taste, and juiciness.
Store your cut watermelon in a sealed, hard plastic or glass container with a lid. While many people are accustomed to eating the juicy flesh of the watermelon, both the seeds and the rind are also edible and nutrient-rich. If you choose to eat the rind, purchase certified organic watermelon in order to prevent exposure of unwanted pesticide residues.
Recipe Suggestion: This is by far the easiest and unbelieveably tasty recipe from the Forest Feast- Watermelon bites.