A healthy diet should include several servings of fruit every day. Although fruit contains fructose, which is a form of sugar, it comes in a fiber package so you will not get a sugar rush followed by a crash. Plus, fruit contains many beneficial vitamins and minerals.
A Healthy Diet Includes Plenty of Fruit
One of the great joys of summer is ripe, juicy cantaloupe. Its extremely high water content will keep you hydrated and refreshed even on scorching hot, asphalt melting days. This special melon, technically a muskmelon, is the most popular melon in the U.S. The exact origin of this vined plant, a member of the pumpkin family, is a mystery. According to the University of Illinois, the oldest pictorial record of a cantaloupe appeared in Egypt in 2400 B.C. You can credit Christopher Columbus for bringing muskmelon seeds to the New World. Cantaloupe owes its name to the town on Cantalupo, Italy, where its seeds were planted in the Papal Garden.
Healthy Diet Nutrition in Cantaloupes
One cup of cantaloupe contains only 60 calories, 15.6 grams of carbs, and a healthy dose of fiber and protein to keep you feeling full and promote good digestion.
A single serving of cantaloupe fulfills the daily requirements for both Vitamins A and C, which strengthen the immune system to fight off infections, preserve vision, and help make healthy skin and bones. It is also a good source of B vitamins, especially B6, niacin and folate, critical for keeping nerve and blood cells healthy and for making DNA.
Healthy Diet Benefits of Cantaloupes
1. Cantaloupes are Loaded with Beta Carotene
According to a USDA analysis, cantaloupes contain more beta carotene than many other yellow-orange fruits, including apricots, oranges, peaches and mangoes. They even best carrots in bioavailable B-carotene levels. This antioxidant plays two important roles. It is converted into Vitamin A, an essential vitamin critical to the growth and development of healthy cells, good vision, and a strong immune function and it also helps fight the free radicals that damage our cells as we age.
2. Cantaloupes Fight the Common Colds
As we age we’re more susceptible to viruses like the common cold. Cantaloupe, with its high Vitamin C content, is an excellent cold-shortener. A meta-analysis of the studies on Vitamin C’s effects on the common cold found that it reduced the duration of colds in adults by 8%.
3. Cantaloupes Help Keep Us Hydrated
Older adults risk dehydration because as our bodies age, they contain less water, and, at the same time, our thirst mechanism becomes less reliable. Eating foods with a high water content helps considerably. Cantaloupes’ 90% water content serves as an excellent dehydration preventative. Some of the benefits of being adequately hydrated include better digestion, healthy kidneys, and lower blood pressure.
4. Cantaloupes Can Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. A large population study of adults 50 years and older found that those who consumed three or more servings of carotenoid-rich fruits such as cantaloupe, had a 36% lower risk of AMD compared to those who ate less than one-and-a-half servings per day. Interestingly, no similarly protective effective was associated with increased vegetable intake.
5. Cantaloupes are Good for Heart Health
Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. for the past 80 years. By age 55, more than half of U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Much of the emphasis has been on reducing sodium intake. But now researchers are starting to focus just as much on increasing intake of potassium rich foods like cantaloupe to control high blood pressure. Maintaining a proper balance between sodium and potassium, an electrolyte that signals heart muscle contractions, is the key to a healthy heart.
6. Cantaloupes are Diabetic Friendly.
Cantaloupes are one of the fruits with a high glycemic index, but that’s not cause for concern because they rank very low on the glycemic load, a more accurate measure of the effect of food on blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends eating cantaloupes as a part of a healthy diet since they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
How to Choose a Ripe Cantaloupe
Select a fruit that is tan-gold in color. Being able to assess the ripeness of the melon is critical since cantaloupes do not ripen once they are picked. Scientists are currently testing an electronic nose in the field that uses gas chromatography to determine, in under a minute, which cantaloupes are ripe. But until that happens, the melon experts recommend a three-step test: sniff, shake and squeeze. The cantaloupe should smell like fragrant flowers, the seeds should rattle when shaken, and the melon should give a little when you squeeze its sides. If you buy an under-ripe melon you can soften it by putting it in a paper bag, but it won’t taste any sweeter. If you need instruction on how to cut and cube your cantaloupe, Martha Stewart will show you how in this video.
How to Enjoy Cantaloupe in Your Healthy Diet
This sweet fruit can be eaten in wedges or in a summer fruit salad. A cantaloupe salsa adds a nice flavor boost to grilled chicken or fish. If you’re hosting a dinner party, prepare a healthy appetizer by skewering wedges and adorning them with lime juice and chili powder. Make a healthier summer dessert by barbequing cantaloupe slices for about 1-2 minutes until they caramelize. A squeeze of lime and a drizzle of honey finishes them nicely. A chilled cantaloupe soup or cocktail is a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. The sweet favor of cantaloupe pairs perfectly with the saltiness of prosciutto.
Click here for USDA recommendation to include fruit in your healthy diet.