Not just because we love this big and bold fruit, the health benefits of watermelon contains some amazing healing powers too. And who as a kid doesn't love gauging on the juicy reddish flesh? And when that's all done and dusted, there's always the possibility of engaging in a massive watermelon fight with the leftover rind. I remember participating in this ritual many times as a child. Even though it was a rather messy affair, it was also so much fun. Well, apart from all the exciting activities of this bootylicious fruit, let's tuck in and see where it takes us.
There's always something exciting about cutting through the thick protective green rind of ice-cold watermelon and revealing its sweet red flesh. Even before you start cutting, most melons will whet your appetite but once it releases its rich, penetrating scent, you'll be gobsmacked and won't be able to resist its succulent flavour.
All melons including watermelons contain potassium which is essential for keeping blood pressure at healthy levels. And because melons are low in calories and fat, they're the perfect food for waist-watchers and weight-watchers.
There's another good reason why the health benefits of watermelon are so damn marvellous. They contain several substances that are excellent for your health. Not only are watermelons so beneficial but cantaloupes, sweet melon, honeydews and a few other melons like those know in South as spanspek, provide folate, a B vitamin that has been shown to lower the risk of birth defects, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease as well as keep blood pressure low.
In what was perhaps the most significant discovery of the twentieth century, researchers found that if all women of childbearing age consumed at least 400 milligrams of folate a day, the incidence of brain and spinal cord birth defects (called neural tube defects) could be cut in half or more. For a long time, doctors weren't even sure what folate did. They did, however, suspect that it played a role in preventing birth defects but somehow, there just wasn't strong enough evidence to prove this theory.
Then a study of almost 4,000 expectant mothers revealed that those moms who got enough folate were 60 per cent less likely to have children with brain and spinal cord defects than moms who got only small amounts. Folate, a B vitamin, is an essential ingredient when cells are dividing rapidly.
Folate serves a kind of shuttle bus that carries fragments of proteins (amino acids). When folate levels are low, these fragments, lacking transportation, may be left behind. And as a result, the newly formed cells may have defects that can be lead to birth defects. Later in life, the same problem can lead to cellular changes which in turn, can lead to cancer.
So to all of the moms-to-be out there - before you start reaching for those pickles we know you love, at the supermarket, rather put a few melons in your trolley because they are a great source of folate.
Incidentally, it's not only moms-to-be who should be making the most out of watermelon and the rest of their cousins. The same nutrients that protect against birth defects are also good for the heart.
Your body uses folate to control levels of a chemical in the blood called homocysteine and although small amounts of homocysteine are normal, too much of it can somehow contribute to the artery-clogging process that leads to heart disease. Low levels of folate are related to too-high homocysteine levels.
Finally, folate has been shown to reduce the risk of polyps, precancerous growths in the colon that sometimes progress to full-blown cancer. If you're getting the daily recommended amount of folate in your diet you'd be less likely to develop polyps in your colon which could be up to a third more than if you not getting the proper dosage.
One thing that your digestive tract needs are a steady supply of dietary fibre. Fibre is so important in fact, that if you don't get enough, you'd have a higher risk of cancer as well as a variety of other digestive problems.
The type of fibre found in watermelons and other melons is called soluble fibre. It is tremendously important for helping to keep your colon healthy because soluble fibre absorbs water as it moves through your digestive tract, it causes your stools to get heavier and larger which is a good thing. As a result, they move more quickly through your intestine, reducing the amount of time that harmful substances in the stools are in contact with your colon wall.
Getting more fibre can help reduce the number of polyps in the gastrointestinal tract which also helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. All melons contain fibre though honeydew melons beat watermelons by as much as half. While watermelon has 0.4 grams of dietary fibre per 100 grams, honeydew has 0.8 grams of dietary fibre per 100 grams.
Other important health benefits of watermelon are that just 1 cup (46 calories) offers around 20% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C and about 17% of vitamin A. Also 1 cup of watermelon has one and a half times (6 milligrams) the amount of lycopene than a large tomato (4 milligrams). Lycopene, an antioxidant found in red fruits and vegetables may help fight heart disease and many types of cancer.
Watermelons are also an excellent source of potassium which is perhaps the most important mineral for keeping blood pressure down. The potassium in watermelons acts as a natural diuretic allowing the removal of excess fluids from your body. This is important because when fluid levels are too high, blood pressure can rise. Plus, potassium keeps the artery walls relaxed.
Because relaxed arterial walls do not contract as strongly as more rigid walls do, the blood pressure created with each heartbeat is not as great. The result means lower blood pressure. This, of course, can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and many other serious health conditions.
Those of you who have high blood pressure issues are often advised to get at least 3,500 milligrams of potassium a day. Melons make it easy, particularly honeydew melons. Half a honeydew has around 1,300 milligrams of potassium. That's over a third of the Daily Value. While watermelon also contains potassium, it's only about half as much.
Even though watermelon is a decent source of nutrients, it contains so much water that they're very diluted. Ounce for ounce, honeydews have over twice the potassium and almost three times the folate.
Because of their size, supermarkets often sell watermelons and honeydews in halves. This could be a blessing and a curse. While this may save space in your refrigerator, it may not save much in the way of nutrients. When the melons are cut and exposed to light the nutrients start to break down.
While it's a good idea to buy melons whole, if you're a single person or a small family this may not so good. The solution would be to buy them whole and once you've cut the melon, whatever you're not eating, immediately place it in the refrigerator. That way you'll prevent the nutrients from breaking down.
While folate is readily destroyed by heat it's a good idea to keep them cold. Whole or cut melons can also be stored in a cool, dark place.
They say that whoever invented the wheel was a watermelon fan. Only perhaps because of its cylindrical shape and its tendency to roll - usually off your table thus sometimes creating a melon mess. They also say that there's a problem with this shape. You can't stack them and they take a lot of room to store which can be expensive for watermelon growers. Well, you don't always want to believe what they say.
Perhaps "they" could take a lesson from Pakistan. While it may take some considerable time for the average person, watermelon growers in Pakistan know just how to stack them quickly in the shape of a pyramid ten feet tall as seen in one episode of The Amazing Race. Saving time and space.
In Japan, however, where space is a premium, growers hit on an ingenious solution. Why not square watermelons. When the melons were young and still on the vines, Japanese growers would put them in boxes. As the melons grew and filled the space, they developed flat bottoms and sides, thus making them perfect for stacking.
While square watermelons are not readily available in most other countries outside Japan, just for fun, if you have a backyard garden, you may want to try growing a few square watermelons yourself.
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.