In the song, Watermelon Sugar, Harry Styles extolled its virtues as a metaphor for something he had an immense desire for. In the land where they find ways to make all things cute, Japan, they grow some square watermelons that can command up to $200. You can even find mini varieties; personal sized, which are just big enough for two, or, if you are a member of my family, it may barely suffice for one. Its cross-cultural popularity is apparent in that watermelon is highly cultivated around the world.
On a hot summer day, as the sun draws the glistening beads of sweat from your forehead, there is not much that is more refreshing than an ice-cold slice of juicy, drip down your arm with each bite, sweet as the day is hot, watermelon.
As its name suggests, watermelon is a great way to hydrate — each one is over 90% water. Eating it can help with satiety which means you may feel fuller sooner and it is low in calories so there you have a win-win!
As for nutritional value, watermelon scores high in that arena as well. It is one of the best sources of lycopene, an antioxidant linked to decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders. Watermelon has more of this nutrient than any other fruit or veggie, with the possible exception of guava. Yes, even more than tomatoes. To load up on lycopene, choose a melon with bright red flesh rather than a yellow or orange variety. And seedless melons tend to have more lycopene than those with seeds.
This nutrition-packed giant of melons also contains vitamins A, C, and B6, and potassium. Vitamin A is vital for skin and eye health. Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system and aids in the absorption of iron. Potassium is important for nerve function and can help lower blood pressure. Vitamin B6 helps your body break down protein and, like potassium, is important for nerve function and, like Vitamin C, good for the immune system. While I am singing watermelon’s praises, I must also add that it has no fat, cholesterol, or sodium, and is low in carbs.
Just as a juicy, sweet watermelon is a summer delight; a dry bland watermelon can ruin a glorious summer day. So how do you choose the perfect watermelon? Do you hold it up to your ear and thump it? Do you look for the greenest rind? As a lifetime foodie, I’ve always had an intense interest for all things related to food.
As I child, I would hang on the words of food “experts” and built a practical knowledge that has served me well. Joe Carcione, aka The Green Grocer, taught me — and probably a million others — how to pick the perfect watermelon. “Forget the thumping, if someone swears they always pick sweet watermelons by listening for the thump, they are just very lucky.” I’ve been giggling at watermelon thumpers for decades, LOL.
So, how then? Look for a watermelon that the ends are fully rounded, then search for a big yellow spot. Once it has met those criteria, THEN you pick it up, BUT DO NOT THUMP IT. You should feel it for heaviness. You want it to feel very heavy for its size. I’ve been charged with bringing watermelon to family gatherings since… let’s just say, a long time. This generation may not have the Green Grocer but I am passing on his wisdom and wish you all a summer of sweet, juicy, healthy and refreshing watermelons!
Contributing writer Denise Lum is a Health and Fitness Coach raising her family in Alameda. Contact her via [email protected] or FitnessByDsign.com. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Denise-Lum/.