Watermelon for Vascular Health

May 17, 2011

Educate your shoppers on the health benefits of watermelon, one of American's favorite summertime fruits.

Elevated blood pressure (or 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, some medicines can help, but diet can also play a major role in improving health. Shoppers can use the guidance of their local supermarkets to educate and remind them what foods can improve their health. Here's a great example of one of summer's most popular foods and it's healing powers.  

A small study recently published in the American Journal of Hypertension, studied the effects of L-citrulline extracted from 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 of several vitamins including, vitamin A, an antioxidant which helps prevent macular degeneration and thus maintain eye health; vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system; and vitamin B6, which helps 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 recent USDA study, the quantity of carotenoids from watermelon, particularly lycopene and beta-carotene, increases if stored at room temperature.

In addition to promoting to shoppers these health benefits, retailers can assist shoppers in how to shop for watermelon. Tell them to 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.

Also be sure to offer up ideas for incorporating watermelon in the diet. This fruit is extremely versatile and can be used in fruit salads, beverages, savory salads and even cold soups.