Health Benefits of Cantaloupe

A Sweet Melon for good Circulation

I cannot tell you enough about the Health Benefits of Cantaloupe and the amazing healing powers they have. This sweet-tasting fruit has numerous substances that can not only help lower high blood pressure and keep your blood running smoothly, it can also help lower cholesterol too.

Cantaloupe is also a type of muskmelon, sweet melon. And in South Africa, it's known as spanspek. No matter what you prefer to call it, cantaloupe, muskmelon, sweet melon or spanspek, it's one of the few fruits or vegetables both rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene. Both these antioxidant compounds have been shown to protect you against cancer, heart disease and various other age-related health conditions such as cataracts.

To make things easier, let's just refer to this particular fruit like a cantaloupe. I'm sure that the rest of you will know what I'm talking about. It all comes down to the same thing. But just for the record, would you like to know how the cantaloupe melon got its South African name "spanspek"?

The spanspek, also known as a rockmelon, originally came about when a Spanish lady by the name Lady Juana Maria Smith, at the tender age of 14 married Sir Henry Smith, then a 23-year-old British army captain. Harry, as he liked to be called, served the British crown as governor of the Cape Province in South Africa between 1828 and 1852. They both made many friends with the Boers and the Xhosa people of the Cape during their time and Juana was particularly loved wherever she went. She was loathed to leave the place as she loved the country so much.

While Harry would enjoy bacon and eggs for breakfast, Juana preferred the cantaloupe. In Smith's household, these melons were soon known as the "Spanish Bacon" or "die Spaans se Spek" in Afrikaans, the Dutch language of South Africa. To this day, Juana's memory lives on in the name of this fruit. 

If you should visit South Africa where I was born, you might recognise Harry and Juana's names in the towns of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal and Harrismith in the Free State respectively. And that's how the cantaloupe or rockmelon got its name spanspek in South Africa. 


Die Spaans se Spek Melon from South Africa

Health Benefits of Cantaloupe - The Potassium Factor

Cantaloupe is a great source of potassium, a mineral that can help lower your blood pressure. One-quarter of cantaloupe contains about 400 milligrams of potassium, or 12 per cent of the Daily Value, the D.V. as we like to call it. A half would be double that. Some of you might want to eat slightly less and some a little more. This is just a guideline because there are several other potassium-rich fruits such as bananas you can add to your daily fruit intake.

However, you'll get more potassium by eating half a cantaloupe than you will with eating a whole banana. Nevertheless, by eating a variety of fruits every day, you'll not only be getting the mineral potassium but you'll also be getting plenty of vitamins such as vitamin C and E as well as the potent antioxidant beta-carotene.

Your body uses potassium to help eliminate excess sodium, which in large amounts can cause blood pressure to rise. The more potassium you consume, the more sodium you lose, the lower your blood pressure is likely to be. This is particularly true if you are sensitive to salt.

Studies have shown that people with the highest levels of potassium had the lowest blood pressure. On the other hand, people with the least potassium were more likely to have higher blood pressure. No brownie points in that one.

Now we all know that while high blood pressure is not a good thing, blood pressure that is too low is also not a good thing. If your blood pressure is more than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90, you have normal blood pressure. However, if it's a little higher than it should be, you should try to lower it by making healthier changes to your lifestyle. And to do this, eating enough fruits and vegetable every day will certainly help tremendously.

Studies have also shown that potassium may help keep your body's low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - the dangerous kind - from undergoing chemical changes that stick to artery walls. There is enough evidence out there to suggest that a high-potassium diet tends to lower the "bad" cholesterol and raise the "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL). Potassium may also help thwart hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and the formation of blood clots that can trigger a heart attack or a stroke.


Cantaloupe Melons

Health Benefits of Cantaloupe - The Dynamic Duo

I'd also like to mention that because cantaloupe is a rich source of two potent antioxidants, vitamin C and beta-carotene, these chemical compounds neutralize free radicals. Naturally occurring free radicals are cell-damaging molecules thought to cause cellular changes that can lead to heart disease, cancer and cataracts.

Like potassium, vitamin C helps keep the arteries clear and blood moving smoothly by preventing the bad cholesterol (LDL) from oxidizing and gumming up the artery walls. Your body also uses vitamin C for producing collagen, a protein that makes up skin and connective tissue. Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin C, with just one cup containing about 70 milligrams, about 115 per cent of the Daily Value.

Cantaloupe is also a good source of beta-carotene, which helps fight heart disease and cancer. Half a cantaloupe will provide you with 5 milligrams of beta-carotene which is about half the recommended daily amount.

I sure wouldn't get wrapped up too much about all the milligrams and percentages of vitamin C and beta-carotene you get from eating a cup, a quarter or a half cantaloupe simply because by consuming 2 to 3 servings of fruit and 4 to 5 servings of vegetables, you'll be getting all the antioxidants you need on a daily balance. 


Muskmelon

Health Benefits of Cantaloupe - Getting the Most

Buy them ripe

The riper the cantaloupe, the more beta-carotene it will contain. To check for ripeness in the store, put cantaloupes to the "heft-and-sniff test." Heft the fruit to make sure that it's heavy for its size. Then smell it to make sure that it exudes a sweet, musky perfume. If there's no sweet smell, put it down and try another one.

Eat it quickly

Vitamin C degrades quickly when exposed to air, so it's important to eat the fruit fairly soon after cutting. This is especially true when a cantaloupe is cut into smaller pieces, which substantially increases the amount of air to which it's exposed.


Sweet Melon

Health Benefits of Cantaloupe - In your Home

Few foods are as sweetly aromatic as a perfectly ripe cantaloupe which may explain its nickname muskmelon. On the other hand, a cantaloupe that hasn't reached its peak of freshness will leave you underwhelmed. To pick the best, here's what to do.

Trust your nose

While thumping melons is the traditional way of testing for ripeness, your sense of smell is a superior judge. A ripe cantaloupe should have a strong, sweet fragrance. If you can't smell it, pass it by.

Check the stem

There shouldn't be one. Mature cantaloupes will only have a smooth, symmetrical basin where the stem once was and the flesh the yields slightly to pressure.


Cantaloupe Fruit Salad

Health Benefits of Cantaloupe - Cantaloupe Fruit Salad

Ingredients

1 medium Cantaloupe

1 cup strawberries

I cup blueberries

1/2 pineapple

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preparation

Cut the cantaloupe in half. Scoop out and discard the seeds

Cut each half into 6 wedges

Peel and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Slice off the outer skin of the pineapple and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Cut strawberries into quarters

Place all the fruit into a large bowl

Add the lime juice

Stir to mix

Makes 6 servings

Serve as a side dish to a vegetable stir-fry

Other fruits with health benefits you may like to try

Pineapple

Cantaloupe

Banana

Love Travel Eat Right - Disclaimer

Please take note that the information on this site is designed for educational purposes and is intended solely for general readership. The contents herein are not intended to offer any personal medical advice or to diagnose any health issues you may have. This information is also by no means a substitute for medical care by a licensed healthcare provider. For that, you'd need to consult your medical doctor or a health care practitioner for any advice should you require prescription medication.  

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