Monday, July 22, 2013

Health Benefits of Watemelon

Like no other fruit, watermelon is considered by many to be a perfect Summer fruit. Thanks to its high water and mineral content, water melon is a tasty thirst quencher. This quality was greatly appreciated as far back in history as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China. 


Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. It is a vine-like flowering plant that most probably originated in Southern Africa. The plant produces large fruits whose flesh is pink or dark red when ripe. The fruits are covered with thick, green rind. There are more than 1200 varieties cultivated all over the world.

Watermelon is rich in nutrients:
  • vitamins, especially the vision supporting vitamin A, the immune system modulating vitamin B6 and the immune system boosting vitamin C 
  • minerals, especially magnesium and potassium
  • amino acid citruline 
  • carotenoids lycopene and beta carotene
  • flavonoids lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin
  • tripterpenoids
As mentioned before, because of its very high water content, watermelon is a wonderful thirst quencher. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the red flesh of the fruit is considered to be cooling and used to purify blood and dispel symptoms of internal and external heat. A very popular watermelon lozenges are prescribed to cure sore throat. To address different symptoms, Chinese doctors use all parts of the fruit, including the rind and the seeds.

Watermelon is a perfect anti-aging superfood. It has few calories, but is very rich in phenolic compounds that include flavonoids, carotenoids, and tripterpenoids. These compounds help fight inflammation and provide protection against free radicals.

The carotenoid lycopene that gives watermelon its red color, is a very effective free-radicals scavenger. In fact, watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable - 15 to 20 mg per two-cup serving. The content depends on the ripeness of the fruit.

Lycopene has the ability to inhibit many inflammatory processes in the body including:
  • the production of pro-inflammatory messaging molecules
  • the expression of such enzymes as the cyclo-oxygenase and the lipoxygenase that can lead to increased inflammatory response
  • the activity of molecular signaling agents like nuclear factor kappa B (NFkB)
Another anti-inflammatory compound, the tripterpenoid cucurbitacin E, blocks the activity of cyclo-oxygenase enzymes and neutralizes reactive nitrogen-containing molecules or the RNS.

Watermelon is an amazing source of the amino acid citrulline. The flesh of a watermelon contains about 250 mg of citrulline per cup. Among others, citrulline is converted by the kidneys and the endothelial cells (cells that line our blood vessels), into amino acid arginine. An enzyme called nitric oxide synthase or NOS, takes the amino acid arginine and uses it to help produce nitric oxide (NO). NO is a muscle relaxant that tells the smooth muscles around our blood vessels to relax. When this happens, the space inside our blood vessels can expand, allowing blood to flow more freely. The relaxation of muscle tension and increase in blood flow constitutes the mechanism by which NO can improve the erectile function in men. Although consumption of watermelon significantly increases levels of arginine in the body, the amount of citruline is not enough to cure erectile dysfunction with one portion of watermelon alone.

Citruline also has the ability to flushe the kidneys and the liver of stored aluminum. Aluminum can be damaging to the cells. It not only enters our bodies from the environment, but is also a byproduct of protein breakdown within the body.

Latest research also demonstrated that citruline may affect the way fat is deposited in the human body. When citruline converts into arginine, arginine-related molecules called polyarginine peptides are also formed in the body. These compounds are able to block activity of an enzyme called tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase, or TNAP. When TNAP activity is shut down, fat cells (adipocytes) create less fat. The less fat is produced, the less fat is deposited in the body.

Watermelon seeds are also beneficial to health. They contain B Vitamins; incredibly bio-available iron and zinc; magnesium; omega 6 fatty acids; and the cardiovascular system supporting amino acid arginine. They also contain lysine, tryptophan, and glutamic acid.

The nutrient content makes watermelon one of the healthiest foods available to us. Although a ripe watermelon contains sugar, the fruit has a law glycemic index which means that it will not cause rapid spikes in blood glucose levels. Some animal studies suggest that watermelon juice may even have a positive effect on blood sugar metabolism.  

Watermelon is considered to be a natural diuretic. It helps increase the urine flow, but unlike caffeine it does not put any strain on the kidneys. Moreover, watermelon helps the liver process ammonia.

Watermelon is a good source of amino acids cystein, glutamate and glycine that are necessary for the synthesis of glutathione. Glutathione is the body own antioxidant, detox agent and immune system modulator. Glutathione helps the body effectively excrete mercury, aluminum and pesticides, and improves the efficacy of vitamins C and E in the body.

When fully ripe, watermelon is an alkaline-forming fruit. This fact alone makes watermelon incredibly beneficial to health as diseases such as cancer can only thrive in an acidic environment.

By Dominique Allmon

*Watermelon is a very versatile fruit that can be eaten in many ways. For raw recipe suggestions please click here

         


*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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Health Benefits of Watermelon by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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