Watermelon is one of the fruits of the summer and one of the fruits of the Mediterranean diet. Everywhere you go in the Mediterranean you will see watermelons being sold in fruit markets and been served in restaurants as breakfast, lunch and dinner as part of the Mediterranean cuisine.
Watermelon is a delicious fruit with many nutritional properties strengthening our health and fortifying our body. Watermelon gives us particular pleasure during the hot summer months when it is served cold satisfying us with its refreshing taste while cooling us down at the same time.
Many people are with the impression that watermelon has neither nutrients nor vitamins like the other fruits or vegetables do. This is because people believe that watermelon contains just water and sugar and this is the idea that has prevailed among the masses over the years. The truth however about the nutritional properties of watermelon is very different and this is why watermelon has been part of the Mediterranean diet, during the summer when it is in season.
Watermelon History: It is believed that watermelon has its origins in South Africa and it was brought to the Mediterranean by the Egyptians and their kings, the Pharaohs, in the second millennium BC. There are references of the watermelon in the Old Testament when the Israelites where leaving Egypt to return to the Holy Land. This tasty fruit was carried in the ancient times both as a fruit and as a source of water as well since it is well known that 90% of watermelon is water.
Watermelon’s nutritional properties:
Recent studies have shown that watermelon is rich in Vitamins A, B6, C and in fiber, potassium and lycopene. The content of watermelon in sugar and calories is low, while at the same time it does not contain any fats or cholesterol. These characteristics make watermelon beneficial for our health and a fruit to be looked after.
Watermelon contains substantial quantities of Vitamin C and carotine B both of which are antioxidants contributing to the protection of our body from various forms of cancer.
Vitamin A is important for the protection of eyes and for night vision while at the same time enforces the lymphocytes of our body which fight the various infections.
Vitami B6 contributes to the composition of the neurotransmitters of our brain like the seratonin, melatonin and dopamine. These substances are important aspects of a number of neural functions, help us to fight stress, phobia and panic and in general contribute to our wellness feelings.
Vitamin C helps the immune system of our body in the fight against infections and protects us from those antioxidants which accelerate the mechanisms of aging.
As stated earlier, watermelon is rich in potassium which helps in the heart functions and control of the blood pressure.
Additionally watermelon is a very good source of fiber which help in the intenstine functions. Fibers help us against constipation and contribute in the prevention of the rectum cancer.
Watermelon seeds contain cucurbocitrin, a substance which contributes to the reduction of blood pressure and improves the kidney functions. Watermelon contains less sugar than apple and it is impressive to note that one watermelon contains half the sugar of an apple. The sugar content of watermelon is 5% and the reason that watermelon has such a sweet taste is the fact that the sugar is the major substance which gives its sweet taste. Two cups of watermelon have just 80 calories with no content of fat or cholesterol.
In the past 2 years the scientists have paid particular attention to the lycopene concentration in the watermelon. Lycopene is the substance which is responsible for the red color in tomatoes, watermelon and other red fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is a strong antioxidant and from the results of the various studies it has been deduced that it reduces the danger of the prostate cancer and has beneficial effects for the cardiovascular system.
Watermellon is particularly rich in lycopene and the lycopene contained in watermelon is biologically more available for the body than the lycopene contained in a tomato because the tomatoes have to be cooked in order to release the right quantities of lycopene something not needed for the watermelon. Watermelon can be thought of an alternative, tasty and sweet source of lycopene.
In conclusion we can safely say that watermelon, a fruit in the mediterranean diet, is the pleasant surprise of a nutritional, healthy and low calorie fruit that can be enjoyed not only during the summer but all year round.