Fresh produce in the summer is healthy snacking heaven, but few options bring more to the plate than watermelon.
Not only is it tasty, but it’s also packed with positive benefits, according to Melissa Keeney, RDN, clinical nutrition manager at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
Keeney offers up five health benefits of watermelon and a few creative ways to incorporate it into your diet.
1. Keeps you hydrated
“The water we get from food, particularly fruits and vegetables, contributes to our total hydration for the day,” she explains.
“At 92% water, watermelon can help keep us hydrated, especially in the warm summer months.” Staying hydrated also helps keep our skin healthy.
2. Good for your heart
Watermelon contains two key ingredients that research has connected with heart health. The antioxidant lycopene, found in red produce like tomatoes, guava and red bell peppers, reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer, Keeney continues.
Fun fact: Seedless watermelons tend to have more lycopene than those with seeds. In addition, watermelon contains the amino acid citrulline, which can improve heart health by increasing blood vessel dilation, decreasing blood pressure and improving blood flow.
“There is also evidence that citrulline may reduce muscle soreness after a workout and decrease cognitive decline,” she adds.
3. Stabilizes blood sugars.
Despite its sweetness, watermelon actually works to keep blood sugar levels under control when eaten with a protein or fat like feta cheese, Greek yogurt or almonds, Keeney says.
4. Full of Vitamin A.
Just one slice has the daily recommended amount of this vitamin, which boosts eye, heart and skin health.
5. Easy to digest.
This is helpful for people with such digestive conditions as Crohn’s disease, Keeney notes. While nutrition recommendations for such people are individualized, she says in general melons, including cantaloupe and honeydew, are more easily digested than other fruits.
How to add watermelon into your diet
Besides eating watermelon cut into chunks or by the slice, Keeney suggests trying it these ways:
- As sorbet. Make this yourself by dropping fruit with some lime juice in the blender, then freezing.
- Blended with cucumber and basil as a slushy
- Turned into gazpacho
- Whirred into a smoothie with Greek yogurt
- Dipped in melted dark chocolate
- Grilled as skewers (see recipe below)
- Cut up into a salad with berries and mint
Watermelon Feta Skewers
- 2 cups cubed watermelon
- 1 cup cubed feta
- Basil leaves or mint leaves
- Balsamic dressing of choice
- Toothpicks, bamboo skewers or similar
Skewer kabobs starting with watermelon, cheese, herb of choice, then watermelon again. Plate before dousing with your favorite balsamic dressing. Courtesy of www.watermelon.org