How healthy is watermelon? – New York Times

Watermelon is the summer fruit. In the United States, it is more popular than cantaloupe, cantaloupe, and all other melons combined.

It’s also good for your body, especially on a hot day. Here’s a roundup of the healthiest qualities of watermelons, plus some cute and delicious recipes from New York Times Cooking.

Watermelon is an apt name because it is more than 91 percent water. When you eat an average-sized wedge (10 ounces or more), you’re effectively drinking a full cup of water.

Hydration keeps the body functioning properly, from promoting blood flow to bowel regularity. The water in watermelon helps keep you hydrated, which can be very helpful in hot weather when you lose more fluids through sweat.

Our bodies recognize and use water molecules regardless of the source, said Dr. Tamara Hew-Butler, a sports medicine scientist at Wayne State University. Moist foods such as fruits, vegetables and soups are considered sources of water.

Older people, in particular, may find it easier and more enjoyable to get some of their fluids through fruit, said Amy Ellis, a dietitian and associate professor of nutrition at the University of Alabama. They tend to feel less thirsty and therefore drink less, one of the reasons why they are at a higher risk for dehydration and heat-related illness during a heat wave.

Because watermelon is mostly water, it’s also low in calories, with just 46 in a one-cup serving.

Some people think it has too much sugar because it tastes so sweet, but it’s actually very moderate, said Dr. Ellis. One cup of diced watermelon contains about 9.5 grams of sugar, which is less than the 13 grams in a cup of diced apples or the nearly 15 grams in a cup of blueberries.

That’s so little that the fruit likely won’t cause a spike in blood sugar, added Joanne Slavin, a dietitian and professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota.

However, calories are energy, so watermelon alone doesn’t feed your body enough, said Samantha Dieras, a dietitian and director of outpatient nutrition services at Mount Sinai Hospital. But when you eat watermelon as part of a balanced diet, the water content and sweet flavor can help you feel full.

Watermelon is fat and sodium free, which is good for your heart. But the jury is still out on whether watermelon plays an active role in reducing the risk of heart disease, said Dr. Slavic.

Dr. Slavin, Dr. Ellis and Dr. Dieras all suggested that the amino acid L-citrulline and the micronutrient lycopene, both abundant in watermelon, may improve heart health. There is a rationale for these ideas, said Dr. Slavic.

Scientists know that the kidneys convert L-citrulline into nitric oxide, which can relax artery walls and lower blood pressure. And lycopene, a chemical found in some plants, can reduce inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. People tend to associate lycopene with tomatoes, but watermelon has more.

However, independently funded human studies directly examining the effect of watermelon on heart health have not shown measurable improvements. Watermelon is not a magic bullet, said Dr. Ellis, who led one of the studies. It will not replace blood pressure medication or anything like that. But if included in a diet of nutrient-dense foods, it can be a good thing for blood vessel health.

Watermelon does not lend itself well to canning, drying or freezing, said Dr. Slavin, so it’s harder to enjoy in the off-season. She thinks this is one reason why the fruit is so beloved.

Watermelon is summer and happiness, she said. When someone opens a fresh watermelon and gives you a piece, that’s the best.

It’s also delicious in a dinner salad, soup or fizzy drink. Here are some recipes from NYT Cooking to get you started.

In this satisfying grain bowl, watermelon is paired with farro, cheese, herbs, and red onion. You can substitute faster cooking rice or quinoa for the farro.

Keep a bowl of this chilled soup in the fridge for an instant meal on hot days. The watermelon softens the sweetness of the ripe summer tomatoes in the blended mixture.

Juicy with chunks of watermelon, tomato and cucumber, this ultimate summer salad is made even more refreshing with a watermelon dressing. The toasted ciabatta and crumbled feta make it filling enough to be a meal.

This delicious fruit dish topped with a spicy cumin-citrus dressing can work with any fruit, but it’s especially good with watermelon. It is delicious as a snack on its own or as a side dish.

Juicing watermelon is a great activity all summer long. Top it off with fizzy ginger beer for a non-alcoholic splash? Genius.

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