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Nothing says summertime like watermelon

By Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN
 Food City Registered Dietitian • Jun 13, 2018 at 5:15 AM

Nothing says summertime like delicious, juicy watermelon! Technically watermelon can be either a fruit or vegetable, but historically watermelon has been considered a tasty fruit, consisting of mostly naturally occurring sugar and water. Over the years, scientific researchers and medical professionals have taken interest in watermelon for its nutritional benefits and hydrating effects.

Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that supports immune health and promotes wound healing. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A, which keeps your tissues healthy and supports optimal eye health. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin B6, which again, helps your immune system by generating antibodies to fight diseases. Two cups of watermelon is a source of potassium as well, a necessary mineral for water balance.

Most notably, watermelon has earned the title of “lycopene leader” among produce. Lycopene is an antioxidant that provides the rich red coloring in watermelon and has been studied for its potential role in reducing risk of heart disease and various cancers, and protecting the skin from harmful UV rays.

One cup of watermelon contains only 40 calories, and since it is over 90 percent water, watermelon is a low-calorie snack and great thirst-quencher.

Local watermelon varieties are most abundant in their peak season from April through October. When selecting a watermelon, look for a firm, symmetrical melon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents. When you lift it up, the watermelon should be heavy for its size. When you turn it over, the underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Watermelon is also a budget-friendly fruit especially when it is in season. A single typical-sized watermelon can feed dozens of people, with an average serving cost of only 14 cents! Whole watermelons will keep for seven to 10 days at room temperature before losing flavor and texture. When sliced, watermelon is best stored in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Watermelon flesh, rind and juice are versatile and can be a great addition to a variety of meals and snacks.

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