It has been officially dubbed one of the healthiest foods in the world. It’s appealing in every way possible, except maybe for its size, which might make it difficult to carry home from the grocery store. However, other than that, its taste, texture, color, sweetness, and, of course, the remarkable health benefits of watermelon have made it a preferred fruit for literally thousands of years. Here are some amazing things you probably didn’t know about this veggie-fruit, diets you can include it in, scrumptious recipes, and all its health benefits.
Watermelon’s surprising history
This outstanding summertime fruit is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5000 years ago. There are various paintings of watermelon in tombs dating from that period, including in the famous Tutankhamun’s. However, the type they used to cultivate and eat was nothing like the one we know and love today. The ancient watermelon or the ur-melon, so to say, even if it was similar in shape, color and, probably, size to the modern one, it was very hard and bitter to taste.
It is now believed hot countries such as Egypt and Libya farmed the oblong fruit for its high water content, a quality which we still value today. However, they began fiddling with it and growing different varieties until they turned it sweet and tender.
Jumping some 2000 years further into the future, we come to the era between 500 BC and 400 AD when the watermelon spread from Africa to the Mediterranean countries. First, it was taken on journeys purely because it was a source of fresh water, but since it was so sweet and delicious, they started trading it. Its healing and cooling properties took Europe by storm and, from Europe, it reached the Americas by boat. Along the way, watermelon mesmerized everybody, from Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist and Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, down to you and I, regular Joes who buy it from the supermarket.
Awesome health benefits of watermelon you didn’t know about
Indeed, you might already know that watermelon is very healthy. You might also know it’s cooling, refreshing, chock-full of vitamins and has the right kind of sugar that will keep you running all day long without harming your system and glucose levels in the blood. You might also be aware it’s highly hydrating and that, in the summertime, it’s much more advisable to drink as much watermelon juice as you can, rather than plain water. However, you might not know the following surprising health benefits of watermelon.
#1. Watermelon is richer in lycopene than tomatoes are
In case you are wondering, lycopene is an antioxidant from the carotenoid family which gives fruits and vegetables a distinct red color. This is also the reason why it’s most often associated with tomatoes, which are considered the best source of the powerful lycopene we have at hand.
Surprisingly enough, this is wrong. Watermelon is actually higher in its lycopene content. For example, if we were to compare a large ripe tomato with one cup of watermelon, the latter has 1.5 times more lycopene than the first.
#2. Watermelon juice is excellent for muscles soreness
Researchers have discovered that watermelon is very high in I-citrulline. This compound is an amino-acid which protects against muscle pain. For example, they conducted one study on men working out. Some were given raw, unpasteurized watermelon juice to drink prior to their workout while others were given a placebo. The ones who drank juice experienced reduced muscle soreness one day after the workout.
Therefore, next time you work out, juice around one-third of a watermelon in your juicer and drink it. However, be careful how much you drink, because the juice in itself in high in fructose, so it may be better to eat the whole fruit if you have problems with that.
#3. Watermelon rind and seeds are completely edible
Not many people in the western hemisphere know this nugget of information, but watermelon is edible in its entirety. The sweet flesh can be consumed as it is, frozen or even fried or grilled. The fruit’s rind can be eaten raw, or it can be pickled, a staple in southern cooking in America. Eastern countries, such as China, consume the seeds as well, well roasted, as a snack. They also ground them very finely to make flour which they add to bread.
Apart from all this, the fact that the watermelon’s rind and seeds are edible is a clue to the fact that it’s also a vegetable. Indeed, watermelon is another piece of produce that erases the boundaries between fruit and veggie, just like the tomato, the cucumber, avocado, beans, peas, corn kernels or squash.
#4. Watermelon is made almost entirely out of water
Did you ever wonder why watermelons are so dense and heavy? That’s mostly because their cells are almost exclusively filled with water. In fact, watermelons are 91% liquid. This high percentage makes them the perfect candidate for hydrating you during all those hot summer days. You can eat it as it is, but you can also make all sorts of juices, smoothies, and cocktails out of it, which will be delightful on a scorching day. More of these recipes below.
#5. Some types of watermelon are yellow
Another little-known fact about the sweet giant is that there are certain varieties which come in yellow rather than the standard red. It’s called the Yellow Crimson Watermelon and, if you can find it available for purchase, don’t hesitate in bringing a couple home with you. They are actually even sweeter than their red brothers, the common type called Crimson Sweet. Their slices have a wonderful natural honey aroma and their very own brand of nutritional benefits.
Watermelon diets and cleansing courses
Watermelon is a preferred choice by far when it comes to losing weight or cleansing diets. The reason is that going on a watermelon diet is relatively easy and tasty. While on this type of diet, you are supposed to eat nothing else but watermelon for a short while. As stated, it’s an easy thing to do, seeing as watermelon is sweet and delicious, unlike most other diet foods. Apart from that, the results show fast.
However, there are some restrictions, as well as some words of caution when it comes to the watermelon cleansing course. First of all, since there are no actual protein sources involved, doctors as well as nutritionists don’t recommend this diet to pregnant women, children or people that have a poorly functioning immune system.
Second of all, people should understand this is a so-called ‘flash diet’. The term stands for very short-term diets that fix your weight and detox problems only for a short period. Doctors point out that, even though it helps you lose pounds once it’s over, people return to their dietary habits, gaining all the pounds back.
Simply put, it doesn’t work in the long run. You go on the watermelon diet, you lose a few pounds and then immediately bounce back and gain them. A lifestyle change should accompany the watermelon diet, should you wish to not only lose the extra kilos but keep them off as well.
Thirdly, the diet is quite restrictive and extreme. Eating watermelon only for a few days straight will put your body through great effort. Indeed, watermelon is very healthy, but it cannot provide your system enough fuel to run on if it’s eaten on its own. You still need calcium and protein, which, unfortunately, the fruit lacks. When on this diet, you’re basically making your body run on water and sugar alone, forcing it to strain in its efforts to function normally.
However, the watermelon diet works wonders if you plan on using it as a jump start to a healthy and clean lifestyle or a more complicated diet plan. Rapidly losing a few pounds will give you the incentive to continue on another diet and exercising more.
Delicious watermelon-based recipes
To get the best out of the delightful watermelon, it’s an excellent idea to try adding it to some recipes instead of eating it as it is. Indeed, it’s delicious eaten by itself after it’s been lying in the summer sun, you brought it home, and you’ve just cut yourself a cracking huge piece. Still, you might grow tired of it before the season even begins properly, which is why we have some outstanding watermelon recipes for you, divided up into categories.
· Beverages and cocktails
#1. Watermelon ice cubes
All you need to do is puree an entire watermelon and put it into your ice cube tray. Once it’s completely frozen, add it to your favorite drinks, water included, for a truly refreshing beverage.
#2. Watermelon green tea
Is there anything better than these two flavors? You’ll need watermelon puree, strong, chilled green tea, and ice. Mix the ingredients, add the ice and serve cold. You can also spice things up with a bit of pomegranate juice or a sprig of lavender.
#3. Watermelon Malibu Surf
Are strawberries and watermelon reminding you of the Malibu beaches? Why not? You’ll need ripe strawberries, half a cup of coconut cream, as much watermelon as you want, and some whipped cream to top it all off. All the ingredients except the cream need to go into the blender until they’re smooth. Chill them for one hour in the freezer, pour into a tall glass and add a healthy dollop of whipped cream. Relax and enjoy!
#4. Agua Fresca
This beautiful name stands for ‘fresh water’ in Spanish and rightfully so. Once you get a hang of it, you’ll want to drink a whole gallon in one sitting. Finely chop a watermelon, and squeeze another one or two until you get six cups of the juice. You can add about half a cup of sugar if you feel the need, but you shouldn’t, since the watermelon is sweet enough as it is. Add one serving of water to the mixture and the juice of one large lime and you’re ready to go on heavenly Latin beverages.
#1. The BCWTP
The acronym stands for bacon-cheddar-watermelon-tomato-pesto sandwich. This alone should tell you what to do. However, you can replace the cheddar with any other cheese of your preference. You can also use any bread you like although a hardy one is recommended, fit to hold together all these amazing and healthy ingredients.
#2. Mozzarella sandwiches the gluten-free way
This only means you will have to replace the bread commonly used in this sandwich with delicious, thick watermelon slices. Place the mozzarella slices and plenty of fresh basil leaves between the watermelon pieces, secure with toothpicks and enjoy this guilt-free treat.
#3. Pork and watermelon
The strong fragrance of pork will pair superbly with the sweetness of the watermelon. You will need one poppy seed roll, smeared with a dab of Dijon mustard. Build the sandwich using about 6 ounces of roasted pork loin, very finely sliced. Sprinkle your watermelon slices with chili powder and tower them on top. Then add the lid of the roll. Enjoy with some green salad leaves.
#4. Taboule, chicken, and watermelon
All three ingredients, neatly stacked in a veritable work of culinary art. Start by placing a relatively thick slice of watermelon at the bottom, on your plate. Then smear a layer of taboule salad, then another slice of the fruit and then some more taboule. Top everything off with slices of grilled chicken breast and chives.
#1. Watermelon smores
Bring this outdoorsy camping dessert inside and add some watermelon to it, so that it’s even more delicious and healthy. Crumble the graham crackers you would usually use for the smores and spread them on a plate. Add on top two large blocks of watermelon. Add small marshmallows all over the place and cover everything in a little drizzle of fudge sauce. Now that’s a real summer treat!
#2. Watermelon cupcakes
Ok, these are not ‘real’ cupcakes, but they’re a lot healthier. All you have to do is to carve small cakes out of watermelon flesh and place a dollop of cream and sprinkles on top. No one will tell the difference.
#3. Watermelon cake
Building on the recipe above for the cupcakes, why not go for an entire cake? Cut a low cylindrical shape out of a whole watermelon and ice it, just like you would a regular cake. Add toasted almonds on top, plus blueberries and strawberry slices to really make this recipe a feast for the senses.
#4. Watermelon and chocolate fondue
One more way in which you can enjoy watermelon in its purest form but still combine it with other delicious dessert elements is chocolate fondue-covered cubes. You need to find a chocolate fondue recipe you like. There are many out there, for specific types of chocolate, based on the cocoa, butter, and milk percentage. While the fondue is still hot, dip the watermelon cubes in and remember to stop eating at some point!
An incredible versatile fruit and vegetable, the watermelon has been a staple in our world’s cuisine for literally thousands of years. The health benefits of watermelon are too many and too important to be ignored so, this summer, make sure you dive head-first into a watermelon splash!