Watermelon is an all-American favorite for meals and snacks. People can't seem to get enough of the sweet treat, and nutritionists, have long appreciated the health benefits watermelon provides. In fact, the American Heart Association recently recognized watermelon's nutritional properties by giving it the "heart healthy" seal of approval. Now research has shed new light on its potential health benefits.
The results are in. Watermelon is the leader in lycopene among fresh fruits and vegetables, having higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. In fact, fresh watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than fresh tomatoes. A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains an average of 18 mg and one medium -sized tomato contains 4 mg.
Lycopene is a red pigment found in plants and is part of a large class of plant compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids are fat-soluble and create yellow, orange or red colors in plants.
Watermelon contains lycopene that may help reduce the risks of prostate cancer. A study conducted by Harvard University researchers found that men who ate lycopene-rich diets of tomatoes and tomato products had a much lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
Preliminary research with processed tomatoes and tomato products shows that lycopene may provide a preventative effect against certain types of cancer, including esophageal and prostate, as well as against heart disease and stroke.
While lycopene continues to be at the center of much research, there is not yet enough evidence to warrant a recommended daily intake.
Watermelon is virtually fat free, nutritionally low in calories and considered an ideal diet food, and is high in energy.
Watermelon is practically a multi-vitamin unto itself. With a 2-cup serving of watermelon containing excellent levels of vitamins A, B-6, and C, this product contains a number of nutrients that are vital to good health.
Vitamin A is important for optimal eye health, can help prevent night blindness, and boosts immunity by enhancing the infection-fighting actions of white blood cells called lymphocytes.
Vitamin B-6 is used by the body to manufacture brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, which preliminary research shows may help the body cope with anxiety and panic.
Vitamin C in watermelon can help to bolster the immune system's defenses against infections and viruses and can protect a body from harmful free radicals that can accelerate aging and conditions such as cataracts.
There's no need to wait for more research to know that eating watermelon is a good thing to do!