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Why You Should Eat Watermelon

05/08/2015 09:12 BST | Updated 03/08/2016 10:59 BST

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Watermelons originated in Africa and are grown on vines in sandy soil throughout the world. You need at least three months of reliably hot, sunny weather to grow and ripen a watermelon. Once picked, they do not continue to ripen. Today China is the leading grower and Turkey is second. Of course, it's best to eat locally-grown watermelon because of its shorter transportation time to your table, which results in fresher, tastier and more nutrient-rich fruit. South Americans love local watermelon juice. When I visited the Colombian coast last December, watermelon juice was served just about everywhere, even on the streets!

Besides the delicious flesh, watermelon rinds are also edible and are used for making pickles. Watermelon seeds, which are high in protein are eaten in China and have a nutty flavor and can be dried and roasted, or ground into flour.

Nutrition:

Watermelon is 92% by weight, the highest percentage of any fruit. That's why it's perfect for natural hydration during the hottest months of the year. One cup of diced watermelon contains only 48 calories. As with many other fruits, it's an excellent source of vitamins C and A. Watermelon also contains significant amounts of potassium, magnesium and vitamins B6 and B1. It's low in fat and sodium and provides fiber. Watermelon contains the amino-acid citrulline. The name citrulline is derived from citrullus, the Latin word for watermelon, from which it was first isolated in 1914 by Koga & Odake. Red and pink watermelon pulp contain antioxidants called carotenoids, including lycopene.

Why You Should Eat Watermelon:

1. Whether you're at the beach or just finishing a long bike ride or run, watermelon provides a good balance of vitamins, minerals, water and quick carbohydrates that often get depleted during a workout or in hot weather.

2. Drinking watermelon juice before you workout may reduce next-day muscle soreness. Watermelon is rich in an amino acid called L-citrulline, which the body converts to L-arginine, an essential amino acid that helps relax blood vessels and improve circulation. Although some studies show that watermelon juice may lessen muscle soreness after exercise, more research is needed. One cup of natural watermelon juice averages 75 calories.

3. Watermelon is good for heart-health (and your sex life) because it may relax and dilate blood vessels, thereby improving circulation. Its natural diuretic effect increases the loss of water and salt from the body, which may alleviate high blood pressure.

4. Watermelon is among the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant linked to both the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. However, more studies are needed in this area.

5. Watermelon is low in calories and high in satisfaction--two important reasons to keep it on the seasonal menu. When you crave a sweet summer dessert that's easy to prepare--cut up a watermelon!  Plus watermelons are easy to transport and are always a crowd-pleaser.

Watermelon Tips:

  • Store in the refrigerator
  • Cut and eat as soon as possible
  • Choose local and/or organically-grown melons
  • One serving is one cup of cubed watermelon
  • To make juice, place cubed melon in a blender and pulverize--it tastes great with a squeeze of fresh lime juice!

Check out this video on how to slice a watermelon:

To get slim this summer, buy Layne's book--Beyond The Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets Of The Super-Healthyfor diet tips and healthy recipes that will last a lifetime. Amazon (in the UK and US) has the book on sale this month.