Watermelon has become so popular even though most people do not know exactly and why they eat it. Many people eat water melon, yet they are ignorant of its health and nutritional values. It is both fruit and vegetable. Water melon is in the family of cucurbitaceous and is botanically known as citrillslanatus. It was discovered in Africa with the first recorded harvest in Egypt, somewhere around 5,000 years ago. From there, watermelon sprouted throughout Asia and Europe. Colonialists brought the seeds with them to the New World, where around four billion pounds of watermelons are now produced every year. It’s easily the best-loved fruit in America.
As a member of cucurbitaceous family like cucumber as well as squash and pumpkin, watermelons can weigh anywhere from two to 70 pounds. They grow on long vines and rest on the ground while they mature. Often oblong and light green in color, they can also be round, spotted, or striped with the white bands running from end to end.
To yield fruit, watermelons need to be pollinated by honeybees – even the sterile, seedless watermelon. The vines alone can grow in warm, sunny climates. They are usually ready for harvest in about three months.
Rather than being genetically modified as some people fear, seedless watermelons are sterile hybrids created by crossing male pollen -0 containing 22 chromosomes per cell (making it a tetraploid plant) with a female watermelon flower having 44 chromosomes per cell. When this seeded fruit matures, the small, white seeds contain 33 chromosomes (a triploid seed), rendering it sterile and incapable of producing seeds.
Watermelon stores very well at room temperature, but should be refrigerated after cutting. An amazing fact about watermelons is that its antioxidants, flavonoids, and lycopene content can remain for as long as seven days.
If you have ever tasted a watermelon, it is probably no surprise to you why this juicy, refreshing fruit has this name. Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92% giving its flesh a juicy and thirst- quenching texture while still also subtly crunchy. As a member of the cucurbitacea family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and ground that grow on vines on the ground. Watermelons can be round, oblong, or spherical in shape and feature thick green rinds that are often spotted or striped. (Many people report, however, that they like the taste and predictable ripeness of a watermelon best if the watermelon is symmetrical in shape). Watermelons range in size from a few pounds to upward of ninety pounds. Between 600-1,200 different varieties of watermelon exist worldwide, but all of these varieties belong to the same scientific genus and species of plant, called Citrullislanatus.
While we often associate a deep red/pink color with watermelons, there are many varieties that feature orange, yellow, or white flesh. These varieties are typically lower in the carotenoid lycopene than red/pink varieties. Some are seeded while some are seedless.
If you’ve gotten used to thinking about the juicy red flesh at the center of a watermelon as its only nutrient-rich area – and far more nutrient – rich than the more lightly – colored flesh that is farther out near the watermelon rind – it is time to change your thinking. In a recent study, food scientists compared the nutrient content of flesh from different parts of watermelon: flesh from the center, the stem end, the blossom end) (opposite from the stem), and the periphery (the part nearest to the rind). What they’ve discovered were impressive concentrations of phenolic antioxidants, flavonoids, lycopene, and vitamin C in all of these different areas.
The exact distribution of nutrients was also highly dependent on the variety of watermelon. But there was no area in any of the watermelon varieties that came out badly in terms of nutrients, and in many of the watermelon varieties, the flesh’s outer periphery contained impressive concentrations of most nutrients.
RIPENING OF WATERMELON
Research has shown that the biggest jump in lycopene content occurs at the time when a watermelon’s flesh turns from white-pink to pink. Yet when that flesh continues to ripen, resulting in a color change from pink to red, the lycopene content becomes even more concentrated. Prior to ripening, when the flesh of a watermelon is primarily white in color, its bet-carotene content is near zero. Even when allowed to ripen to the white – pink stage, a watermelon still contain very little of its eventual beta-carotene content of a watermelon steadily increases. Like lycopene and beta-carotene, total phenolic antioxidants in a watermelon also increase consistently during ripening, all the way up until the appearance of fully red flesh. The bottom line: eating a fully ripe watermelon can really pay off in terms of nutrient benefits.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF WATERMELON
Not surprisingly, watermelon contains a hefty amount of vitamin C that helps your immune system produce antibodies to fight disease. There’s also a 17% daily value of vitamin A, boosting eye health and preventing such disease as macular degeneration and cataracts. The vitamin B6 content helps form red blood cells and assures your nerves will function as they should. Your body uses vitamin B6 to help break down proteins, so the more protein is consumed; the more vitamin B6 is needed. Potassium, although a relatively small amount is in watermelon, helps balance fluids, in your cells. (Low potassium levels sometimes cause muscle cramps.)
One of the natural chemicals in watermelons is citrulline, which coverts in the kidneys to arginine, an amino acid that works hard for heart health and maintaining a good immune system. Keep obesity and type 2 diabetes from becoming issues. Arginine also removes ammonia and other toxicities from your body.
The antioxidant lycopene is the star player in watermelon, a compound known to pack even more of a punch than tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and guavas. While most of these fruits get their reddish color from anthocyanin flavonoids, it’s the lycopene content that does it for watermelon.
What does this do for the body? While nearly 92% of watermelon is water, the 8% left over is rich in this compound, protecting and nourishing the heart, prostate, and skin. Lycopene discourages inflammation and may also be important for maintaining strong healthy bones, not to mention its ability to neutralize harmful free radicals. Research indicates that lycopene has greater potency when ripe in fact, while it’s still white inside, well before maturity, the vitamin and mineral content and just about every other nutritional benefits is closed to zero.
Another anti-inflammatory phytonutrient in watermelon is cucurbitacn E, or triterpenoid, which blocks the activity of pain-, fever – and inflammation – causing enzyme cyclooxygenase. Cucurbitacin E also neutralizes nitrogen – containing molecules in the body.
The nutrients are very similar throughout the entire watermelon and not concentrated in the darker red centre as some people believe. In fact, the white rind, which isn’t normally eaten, has some of the highest nutrient concentrations.
However, consume watermelon in moderation because it contains fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
IT IMPROVES LIBIDO / SEXUAL HEALTHY: Research has shown that watermelon has ingredients that deliver beneficial effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido. Phytonutrients with the ability to relax blood vessels (and may be even prevent erectile dysfunction) include lycopene, beta-carotene, and the more unfamiliar citrulline, which converts to arginine, an amino acid. When this compound is ingested, it dramatically strengthens the heart and circulation system. This may also serve in the treatment of angina, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular ailments.
Four men and five postmenopausal women ages 51 to 57 – hypertensive but otherwise healthy received therapeutic dose of watermelon in a test to determine its effectiveness against pre-hypertension. Scientists found improved arterial function and lowered aortic blood pressure in all nine participants, and reported that in addition to the vascular benefits, eating watermelon may even help reduce serum glucose levels and prevent prehypertension from progressing to full-blown hypertension, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND ANTIOXIDANT
Phenolic compounds in watermelon – including flavonoids, carotenoids, and triterpenoids make this fruit a choice for anti inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. If you had to pick a single nutrient from this anti-inflammatory and antioxidant category that has put watermelon on the map, that nutrient would be lycopene. Alongside of pink grapefruit and guava, watermelon is an unusually concentrated source of this carotenoid. Whereas most fruits get their reddish color from anthocyanin flavonoids, watermelon gets it reddish pink shade primarily from lycopene. The lycopene content of watermelons increase along with ripening, so to get the best lycopene benefits from watermelon, make sure that your melon is optimally ripe. (See our section entitled, ‘How to elect and store’ for practical tips on selecting a fully ripe watermelon). The lycopene in watermelon is a well-documented inhibitor of many inflammatory processes, including the production of pro-inflammatory messaging molecules, the expression of enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase that can led to increased inflammatory response, and the activity of molecular signaling agents like nuclear factor kappa (NFKB). Lycopene is also a well-know antioxidant, with the ability to neutralize free radical molecules.