Everyone loves watermelon in the summertime, and so does your heart!
Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is unfortunately common for many Americans, affecting approximately one in three adults according to the CDC. As with many of today's health related issues, medication can help, but diet can also play a major role in improving health. Shoppers can use the guidance of their local supermarket dietitians to educate and remind them what foods can improve their health. Here's a great example of a summer favorite and its health-boosting powers.
The juicy watermelon may be more than just a summer thirst quencher. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, looked at the effects of L-citrulline, an extract of watermelon on blood pressure, and found that just six weeks of consumption normalized blood pressure in adults who previously had elevated blood pressure. The study was conducted by food scientists at Florida State University, who comment that “the findings suggest that this ‘functional food’ has a vasodilatory effect, and one that may prevent pre-hypertension from progressing to full blown hypertension, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.” Watermelon is the richest known edible source of the amino acid L-citrulline, which has been found to regulate healthy blood pressure.
Helping regulate blood pressure is just one of the many benefits of this juicy favorite. Watermelons are nearly 92 percent water and are excellent sources vitamins including, vitamin A, which helps maintain eye health; vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system; and vitamin B6, which supports brain function and helps convert protein to energy. And we can’t forget potassium and magnesium, which help muscle and nerve function and help maintain the body's proper electrolyte balance.
Watermelon also has the highest concentration of lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable (think orange and red produce), a powerful antioxidant that improves cardiovascular function and is said to prevent several types of cancer. According to a USDA study, the quantity of carotenoids from watermelon, particularly lycopene and beta-carotene, increases if stored at room temperature.
How to shop for watermelon? Look for melons that have a smooth skin, and are heavy for their size. Another quick tip is to look for an area on the rind that is yellowish or different from the rest. This dull spot is the place that was resting on the ground during ripening, and can indicate a good ripe fruit.