Enjoy Watermelon – It’s Good For You!

Posted: June 23, 2012

Watermelon is a favorite summertime treat, both as a snack and with a meal. And best of all, it’s good for you...

Watermelon consists of about 92 percent water and 8 percent sugar. It’s fat free,
nutritionally low in calories (50 calories/cup) and high in energy. It’s also a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C. 

Watermelon contains lycopene, a phytochemical that may help reduce the risk for cancer and other diseases. Other great sources of lycopene are tomatoes, red grapefruit and guava. Lycopene is part of the large class of plant compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids create the yellow, orange or red color in some plants. 

There are more than 50 categories of watermelon, generally divided into "picnic" and "ice-box" varieties. Picnic types are round or oval and weigh 12-50 pounds. Ice-box varieties are designed to fit in the refrigerator and weigh only 5-10 pounds. Most watermelons have red flesh, but yellow or orange flesh varieties are available.

When choosing a watermelon, select a firm, symmetrical melon which is free of bruises or cuts. Lift the watermelon; it should be heavy for its size. Look on the underside for a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. If the stem is still attached, it should look dry and brown. If you buy cut watermelon, the seeds should be dark; the flesh firm and well colored for its type. If the flesh has white streaks or large cracks or seeds have begun to separate from the flesh, don’t buy it. 

Eating quality can be improved by leaving the melon at room temperature for two to four days. The flesh will not become sweeter, but it will turn softer and juicier. Once cut, however, keep it refrigerated. Also, wrap it tightly in plastic to protect the other foods in the refrigerator from the ethylene gas that melons give off. 

Before you cut the watermelon, be sure you wash your hands and also wash the watermelon under cold running water, to remove excess dirt. A melon can be scrubbed with a hard-bristled brush to remove soil. Wash all cutting boards, utensils, and countertops that contact cut melons thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinse, sanitize, and air-dry.

Here’s a refreshing fruit salad recipe to try this summer.

Summer Fruit Salad
1 cup diced strawberries
1 cup cubed watermelon
1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or canned (packed in juice and undrained)
Directions: Stir fruit together in a medium bowl, cover and chill. Makes 4 servings.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.