The juicy, red-fleshed fruit is treated at summer outings like nature’s popsicle, passed out in wedged cuts to screaming kids as a cold sweet treat on a hot day. Sadly, watermelon’s nutritional value is often perceived similarly as little more than colored flavored sugary water. In other words… empty calories. As far as fruit goes, we assume it provides little nutritional value and is higher in sugar than most of its cousins!
Fortunately for these hot summer days, that’s just not true. Watermelon’s sugar content (for one slice) is comparably to that of a medium sized apple. While it may have a higher glycemic index than other fruits, the glycemic load (measured to account for impact of carbs based on serving size of fruit consumed) is very low. Other fruits commonly thought of as “sugary” like bananas and grapes have glycemic loads 3-4 times higher than watermelon.
All that water in watermelon makes it especially hydrating, refreshing and cooling on a hot day, as well as quite satiating, making it a weight-loss friendly fruit. Watermelon boasts high levels of vitamins A and C along with minerals potassium and magnesium. The red-colored flesh is thanks to the well-known antioxidant lycopene (commonly associated with tomatoes), touted for it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. The redder and riper your watermelon, the higher the lycopene content will be. That said, the white flesh near the skin boasts high levels of other valuable phytonutrients, so it is not to be left behind.
When choosing a melon at the store, pick one that is heavy for its size. The heavier it is, the juicier it will be.
As for how to enjoy a watermelon… the age-old “popsicle” wedge will never lose its appeal. But its mild flavor and subtle sweetness also pairs well with salty, pungent and savory add-ins. Red onions and salty cheeses like feta go well, as do various green herbs like basil, mint, parsley or cilantro and sharp leafy greens like arugula. Such watermelon salad recipes are plentiful on the web. Find one and find some new ways to enjoy this healthy summer fruit while it’s hot!