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Tasty Tuesday by Anna Grindeland, RD, CD: Whole summer—watermelon

Anna Grindeland, RD, CD

This iconic summer fruit is not commonly thought of as an extremely nutrition-filled food, but it is one of our healthy whole summer foods. We all know the juicy sweetness of a freshly sliced watermelon—but did you know you can also cook watermelon? Pickle it? Grill it?

Here's a new look at the sweet summer staple:

Nutrition

Yes, watermelon is mostly water (about 92%), but that doesn't mean we should ignore the other 8%...

Watermelon is a great source of Vitamin A, a vitamin many of us do not get enough of. Found mostly in yellow and orange winter vegetables, this vitamin helps maintain the integrity of your retina (your eyes), build immunity, and maintain healthy skin, nails, teeth, and skin.

Lycopene, a phytochemical known as an antioxidant, is abundant in watermelon. Many ketchup brands advertise being high in lycopene, but watermelon outdoes the healthy fruit/vegetables in this healthy food component—by a longshot!

Not to mention, Potassium! YOU (yes, you!) probably do not consume enough potassium. The average adult needs upwards of 4,700mg per day to maintain healthy hydration, fluid status, and metabolic processes. Potassium is an electrolyte, meaning it plays a vital role in the electrical activity of your heart. It also helps keep you hydrated in the hot summer months.

"What about all that sugar?"

Watermelon is a fruit, so by nature it is composed of the fruit sugar called "fructose." This is different than white table sugar, or processed sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. Compared to a WHMC café cookie, 1 cup of watermelon has less than 1/3 of the sugar, and you would have to eat over 6 cups of watermelon to eat the same amount of calories in one medium cookie.

"I have diabetes. Can I still eat watermelon?"

Yes. One cup of fresh watermelon = 1 carb choice (19grams net carbs). Fruit is a healthy, low calorie addition to any meal and gives you important nutrients that support good heart health, which is important for people with diabetes.

10 healthy ways to enjoy watermelon this summer:

  1. Cut it up and serve!
  2. Take raw slices to the grill—eating watermelon warm changes the taste profile. Pairs well with a soft cheese, like brie.
  3. Save the rind—the rind of the watermelon has just as much nutrition as the pink juicy fruit. This recipe can show you how to make it an ingredient in your next stir fry.
  4. Drink it. Watermelon juice carries all the nutrition that the melon has, and speaking of antioxidants-- Try this recipe for Green tea punch.  
  5. Salad topping—Tasty Tuesday has offered fruit as a salad topping before, and watermelon is not different. Try adding it to your next Greek salad in place of tomatoes: Top romaine lettuce with small watermelon cubes, Kalamata olives, diced red onion, sliced cucumbers, and a balsamic dressing.
  6. "I can pickle that" –pickled watermelon rind, for those that crave a sour taste.

Have a tasty Tuesday!

Title image: http://aspenspecialtyfoods.com/watermelon-calories

Nutrition label: The Watermelon Board http://www.watermelon.org/Nutrition

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.