On a hot summer day, a slice of cold watermelon can be wonderful. But watermelon is more than just a cool, refreshing treat. Watermelon contains high levels of nutrients that make it a valuable addition to any diet.
NUTRITION DATA, PER CUP
Fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 2 milligrams
Sugar: 12 grams
Dietary fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 1 gram
KEEPING IT SAFE
Watermelon eaters can be at high risk for food-borne illnesses, said dietitian Brian Jones, because proper precautions are often not taken when cutting the melon. To prevent dirt from coming in contact with the fruit, thoroughly wash the outside of the rind before cutting the melon. Always use a clean knife and cutting board.
Fire and Ice Watermelon Salad
6 cups watermelon, rind removed, cut into large chunks
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup torn mint leaves
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2/3 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
In a large bowl, combine watermelon, onions, mint and red pepper flakes.
In a small bowl, mix vinegar, oil and chili powder.
Drizzle vinegar mixture over watermelon mixture and serve.
Yields four servings
Watermelon Coconut Cake With Raspberry Filling
1 piece watermelon
3 cups fresh raspberries
2 cups shredded coconut
Cut the center 8- to 10-inch slice from a watermelon. Lay it down on a flat work surface and cut around the rind, and slide the rind off leaving a cylinder of watermelon. Slice into three slices as you would a cake.
Place one slice of the melon cylinder on top of a serving platter. Surround it with a ring of coconut.
Place 1/3 of the remaining coconut and raspberries over the slice and repeat to form a 3 layer watermelon "cake" with the raspberries on top arranged attractively on the coconut.
To serve, slice into wedges and present them upright.
Chilled Watermelon Soup
6 pounds yellow or red seedless watermelon, diced (9 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup lightly sweet white wine (such as Riesling) or 3/4 cup water mixed with 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
8 teaspoons crumbled feta
1/4 cup sparkling wine (or sparkling water)
Combine 1 cup of the watermelon with mint and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
Blend remaining 8 cups watermelon, lemon juice, wine and ginger in a blender until smooth. Let sit 1/2 hour. Strain soup; divide among 8 bowls.
Top each with 1/8 cup reserved watermelon and 1 teaspoon feta.
Source: Self magazine, via epicurious.com
The average watermelon is 91 percent water. Water helps flush toxins from the body and carry nutrients to cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. A lack of water can lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, low urine output, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
This is an antioxidant compound that "has been associated with reduced cancer risk, [especially] lung, cervix, bladder, prostate and skin," said Brian K. Jones, registered dietitian at Memorial Hospital. According to cancer.org, the website for the American Cancer Society, lycopene also has been associated with lowering risk of heart disease and macular degeneration, and with reducing low-density lipid (so-called "bad" cholesterol).
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, potassium aids in the proper functioning of heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves and digestive system. "Potassium is one of our main electrolytes, so it helps with fluid balance issues within our body," Jones said. "Without potassium, you can't regulate hydration."
Vitamin A is an essential part of a healthy immune system and might, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, help lymphocytes fight infections more effectively. According to the institute: "Vitamin A promotes healthy surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, as well as the skin."
Vitamin B6 is necessary to create hemoglobin, which helps to oxygenate the blood. It also helps to maintain blood glucose, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at NIH. It helps to break down proteins and regulate normal nerve function. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin B6 plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis, including that of serotonin.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, helping to fight cancer-causing free radicals. It also helps to produce collagen, which is essential for healthy skin and bone development, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin C may help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Fiber is a valuable part of any weight-loss diet. Foods high in fiber provide a feeling of fullness, allowing a longer period of satiation. It also helps regulate bowel activity. According to an article from the Harvard University School of Public Health, fiber has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, diverticulitis and diabetes.