One of my favorite things about this time of year in the southeast is that it’s watermelon season. In my mind, almost nothing beats a good (big) slice of juicy, sweet, refreshing watermelon. That it has so many health benefits is like not only icing on the cake, but whip cream, nuts and a cherry as well. Which reminds me, I’d really rather have watermelon than cake most of the time, and for someone who has had a sweet tooth since first coming down the birth canal, that’s saying a lot. 🙂
Watermelon may not be available year round in most parts of the country, but when it is in season you should definitely take advantage of the many cleansing, protective, nourishing properties it brings to the table. This refreshing fruit may also help quench the inflammation that contributes to conditions like asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer and arthritis. And it’s packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C (a cup of watermelon provides almost 25% of the recommended daily requirement), a good source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), and it contains the potent carotenoid lycopene. These powerful antioxidants travel through the body neutralizing free radicals, and lycopene has been found to be protective against a growing list of cancers, including prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and colorectal.
Watermelon is rich in the B vitamins necessary for energy production and is a good source of B1, B6, magnesium, and potassium. Because this fruit has a higher water content and lower calorie content than many other fruits (a cup of watermelon contains only 48 calories), it delivers more nutrients per calorie—a real plus if you’re watching your weight. And even though many of us were told as children to eat our carrots to insure good eye health, it turns out fruits like watermelon may actually provide greater protection against macular degeneration and other diseases of the eye. So eat plenty of this refreshing fruit, or make yourself a summer spritzer by blending some watermelon with a little raw honey, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and some seltzer or sparkling mineral water, then serve with a sprig of mint. And don’t forget to have a seed spitting contest with your friends or kids—or even your friends’ kids! 😉
When buying watermelon, select one that is heavy for its size, with dull, not shiny, skin, and then store it in a cool, dark place or the fridge. A large yellow spot on the underbelly is a good sign that the melon ripened on the vine, rather than being picked too early.
3-Day Watermelon Kidney Cleanse:
Cleansing with watermelon is easy to do, delicious (unless you happen to not like this wonderful fruit) and effective. This particular protocol actually serves as a whole body and colon cleanser, but is particularly good for the kidneys and bladder. This routine has positive benefits on the heart, stomach, liver and more, plus acts as a rejuvenating blood tonic, and therefore has a regenerative effect. Watermelon helps the liver to process ammonia (waste from protein digestion) into the safer form of urea, and this increased effectiveness in the production of urea takes some of the strain of dealing with the by-products of protein digestion off the kidneys. For that reason , this cleanse is especially good for anyone regularly eating a high protein diet. It’s also good for those who consume alcohol and/or caffeine, and menopausal women can use it to relieve hot flashes.
Watermelon is considered very alkalinizing, as well as anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-coagulating. It’s an effective digestive aid, diuretic, and laxative. It lubricates the intestines and is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and silicon. It actually has half as much sugar as an apple, yet tastes sweeter because it’s mostly (92%) water. And watermelon contains glutathione, which guards against cataract formation. This amazing fruit also helps lift the spirits from depression and has been used to improve halitosis, a hangover, mouth sores, sore throat, and urethral pain. Talk about an ideal food choice for a cleanse!
Every part of the watermelon—flesh, rind (if organic) and seed—can be consumed with some benefit. Watermelon rind contains chlorophyll and can be eaten (close to the skin) or run through a juicer for building the blood and strengthening the glands. In some parts of South America watermelon rind is applied to the temples and forehead to cool a headache, and the pulp is used topically to treat heat rash and burns. The black watermelon seeds are a traditional remedy for strengthening the kidneys. The seeds, juice and pink flesh can all be juiced together. They contain curcurbocitrin which dilates the capillaries. Seedless watermelons are more convenient to eat, but look for ones that contain seeds. The seeded varieties are said to have more life force than the seedless ones, which makes sense since a seed virtually contains the life force energy of a whole plant in sub-compact form!
There are several ways you can do this particular cleanse. You can keep it simple and just consume the watermelon “as is” for the entire 3 days. Or, if you have the time and inclination, you can get a little more creative and use the following routine:
Upon rising: Drink 6 oz. of watermelon juiced with ½ a lemon and some grated ginger (optional).
Mid-morning: Make a smoothie by placing 2 cups of watermelon in a blender, food processor, or Vita-mix. Adding 2 TBS. of chopped cilantro is optional.
Afternoon: Eat 2 to 3 cups of watermelon cut in chunks.
Evening: Make a “soup” by pureeing 4 cups of watermelon that’s been seeded and cubed; stir in the juice of 1 lime, 2 TBS. chopped fresh mint, 1 TBS. minced fresh ginger, and 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom. Eat and enjoy!
Before bedtime: Take a salt/baking soda enema using ½ tsp. crystal salt and 1 tsp. baking soda added to the enema water.
Repeat this routine for a total of 3 days.
Watermelon is so much more than just a highly refreshing summertime treat. From the perspective of a growing body of clinical research, it is a truly medicinal food.
Only this month, research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found watermelon juice is an effective remedy for reducing the recovery heart rate and muscle soreness in athletes who were given 500 ml of watermelon juice (16.9 oz) containing 1.17 grams of the naturally occurring amino acid L-citrulline.
Additional research indicates watermelon may possess the following health benefits:
- Boosting Your Antioxidant Levels: Watermelon is exceptionally rich in lycopene (hence its red color) and other carotenoids such as lutein and beta carotene. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that regular watermelon juice consumption resulted in significant increases in blood plasma concentrations of lycopene and beta carotene. Keep in mind that lycopene has been found to have over 40 potential health benefits, and beta carotene (especially in its natural, food-complexed form) equally plentiful health benefits, adding extra significance to this finding. Also, the watermelon-induced increase in plasma antioxidant levels may lend explanation to why an epidemiological study of the Chinese found greater watermelon intake to be associated with a lower risk of cancer.
- Reducing Blood Pressure/Improving Arterial Health: A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that middle-aged obese subjects with pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension who were given 6 weeks of treatment with a watermelon extract containing 6 grams of L-citrulline and L-arginine daily, experienced reduced ankle blood pressure and altered carotid wave reflection, an indication of improved arterial function. The inability of the blood vessels to dilate and function properly is known as endothelial dysfunction, and is likely the most well-known initiating step in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. If watermelon can ameliorate or reverse this process, it would certainly provide a breakthrough alternative to many of the drugs used for primary prevention, such as the cholesterol-lowering statin drug class, whose side effects, numbering in the hundreds, include heart muscle dysfunction and damage.
- Increasing Plasma Arginine Concentrations: A 2007 study published in the journal Nutrition found that watermelon juice consumption increases plasma arginine concentrations in adults, proving that the L-citrulline from this plant origin was effectively converted into arginine. This is a highly significant finding because arginine has a great number of health benefits, especially for ameliorating the aforementioned cardiovascular problem known as endothelial dysfunction. There are at least 20 studies in the biomedical literature documenting its therapeutic role in improving endothelial dysfunction, but you can view over 150 potential health benefits of arginine on the GreenMedInfo database.
- Combating Metabolic Syndrome: A promising pre-clinical study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2007 found that watermelon pomace, a rich source of L-citrulline, significantly improved metabolic syndrome in diabetic, overweight rats. This study is of particular interest because it lends support to relatively new research showing that fruit consumption is not harmful for type 2 diabetics. The new study results were described as follows: ” These results provide the first evidence to our knowledge for a beneficial effect of watermelon pomace juice as a functional food for increasing arginine availability, reducing serum concentrations of cardiovascular risk factors, improving glycemic control, and ameliorating vascular dysfunction in obese animals with type-II diabetes.”
- Watermelon Seeds, a Rich Source of Protein: It behooves us to mention the fact that all parts of the watermelon have something to offer. The seeds, in fact, are an excellent source of protein (see the whfoods.com link at the end of this post for more on the seeds). A 2011 study published in the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology found that “The good nutritional and functional properties of watermelon seed meal proteins suggest their potential use in food formulations.” While seedless watermelon are far more convenient to eat, keep in mind that they can not reproduce without human intervention and so there are several good reasons to choose seeded varieties.
So, next time you are in the mood for watermelon, and are concerned about its notorious sugar content, ‘weight-promoting effects,’ and therefore possible diabetogenic and cardiotoxic properties – think again. Quality and moderation are the only things to make sure you are careful about when deciding to consume watermelon. Otherwise, enjoy it (remember Vitamin P(leasure)) and know that it may just be as good for you as it tastes.
And btw, many of the animal critters who visit my backyard seem to love watermelon and know it’s good for them. A couple of years ago I got in the habit of throwing some of the *rind w/ a little “meat” still on it out for the local wildlife, not knowing how many “takers” I’d have. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the groundhogs chowing down (they’ll eat almost anything!), but I didn’t expect squirrels to be so excited about it, too. Another thing they both like is avocados, another near perfect food. Who knew?! It’s fun sharing things with my animal friends and I like knowing we are all benefiting health-wise. Plus, it’s a great way to recycle and cut down on waste. 🙂
*Check out these articles about the benefits of eating the rind, including weight loss:
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