No summer barbeque would be complete without a refreshing side of watermelon, but did you know that watermelon can help prevent cancer?
Watermelon is a great hydrating snack and has shockingly little natural sugar compared to other fruit. It is also jam-packed with antioxidants.
When looking for a healthy snack or perusing the National Foundation for Cancer Research’s Cancer-Fighting Food section, the variety of antioxidants found in different foods is often mentioned. Everyone seems to understand that antioxidants are beneficial for the body, but before moving on – let’s discuss why they are so good.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the human body. If the levels of free radicals are too high, they can cause harm to the body. The more antioxidant-packed foods that go into the body, the better it can control these free radicals and prevent illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and, of course, cancer. When there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants, the body experiences oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause tissue damage and is the source of blame for the previously mentioned diseases.
So, which types of antioxidants are found in watermelon?
Perhaps the most important antioxidant in watermelon is lycopene. Lycopene gives watermelon its playful pink hues and is both an antioxidant and an anti-cancer nutrient. Helmut Sies, pioneer of oxidative stress and NFCR-funded researcher, was instrumental in identifying the role of lycopene in curtailing the damaging effects of solar radiation. Sies explained that while lycopene is in many cells, its presence in the skin protects against solar radiation damage. He also discovered that amongst all the naturally occurring carotenoids, lycopene ranked as the best in doing so.
Can watermelon help people already diagnosed with cancer?
Believe it or not, it can! In addition to helping the body manage free radicals, it can also help with dehydration and restricted fiber diets. Since watermelon is 90% water, chowing down on this snack is a great choice for patients with diarrhea.
How else can I enjoy watermelon?
If you’re trying to add more watermelon to your diet but looking for ways to spice it up, take that phrase literally with a savory and sweet chili lime watermelon dish! Here’s what to do:
Chili Lime Watermelon
Serves 2 | 15 minutes
- 4 cups of cubed watermelon
- 1 pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 3 tablespoons of crumbled cotija cheese
- 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, chopped
- Place the cubed watermelon in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the pinch of salt and the chili powder (using more if you’re feeling bold!). Toss well. Squeeze on the lime juice and top with the lime zest.
- Add the crumbled cotija cheese and cilantro. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Do you tend to steer clear of spicy foods? Not to worry – jazz up the barbeque with watermelon feta skewers!
Watermelon Feta Skewers
Serves 8 | 15 minutes
- 1 watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 bunch of basil leaves
- ½ medium red onion, cut into wedges
- 12oz block of feta, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cucumber, cut into 1-inch half-moons
- Balsamic glaze, for drizzling
- Assemble skewers by layering watermelon, basil, red onion, feta, and cucumber. Place skewers onto a serving platter.
- Drizzle balsamic glaze over skewers.
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