Watermelon Benefits + Recipes For Your July 4th BBQ
No picnic or summer barbeque is complete without a side of red and juicy watermelon. The perfect compliment to a hot summer day, watermelon is affordable, versatile, and brings out our inner kid at first bite – complete with chin-drippin’ juice (#worthit). Watermelon also offers up a healthy dose of benefits, so it’s only fitting to highlight this wonderfully nourishing fruit. We’re serving up several delicious ways to enjoy watermelon this summer—boozy recipe included.
Watermelon and wellness
Low in calories and mostly water (over 90%) along with natural electrolytes, watermelon is a superstar for hydration. It helps detoxify the body and decrease bloat since it’s a natural diuretic. While it does contain sugar, the glycemic load of watermelon is quite low. Glycemic load measures how a food will impact blood sugar levels, factoring in the amount of carbohydrates per serving (vs. glycemic index, which indicates how fast a food breaks down to sugar in your bloodstream without considering portion size). A glycemic load of less than 10 is considered low, and watermelon comes in at 7.2 (1 cup). This means that what you’d consume for a serving of watermelon won’t cause your blood sugar to spike—sweet news, indeed.
Watermelon contains vitamins A, B6, C, the minerals potassium and magnesium, as well as beneficial plant compounds (lycopene, citrulline, and cucurbitacin E)—it’s no wonder this superfruit is picking up steam in the wellness world and even making it’s way into skincare. Watermelon boasts powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits, associated with the following:
· Fitness: Studies have shown that consuming watermelon juice pre-workout can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time in athletes. This is likely due to the muscle-repairing properties of amino acids citrulline and arginine.
· Heart health: Citrulline increases nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it helps your blood vessels relax and expand, improving circulation and lowering blood pressure (also why watermelon has been touted as nature’s Viagra!). Lycopene, a carotenoid found in red-fleshed watermelon and tomatoes, protects against oxidation and has been associated with improved general cardiovascular health.
· Inflammation and Cancer: The antioxidants in watermelon can lessen inflammation and cellular damage caused by free radicals, and prohibit DNA from harmfully mutating. Additionally, lycopene may play a role in the prevention of breast and prostate cancer.
· Skincare: In addition to water (which our skin loves), the vitamins A and C in watermelon promote collagen and elastin cells, which help give us supple skin and strong, healthy hair. Lycopene and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) may also protect the skin from harmful UV rays (timely for watermelon season).
· Immunity: Vitamin C can shorten the duration of sickness and boost our immune system. Watermelon is also healing for our digestive tract, where most of our immune system resides.
· Eye health: Beta-carotene may prevent age-related macular degeneration or help the disease from getting worse.
Try these summertime bites and sips:
Watermelon coconut aloe juice
TRY THIS: when you need to rehydrate on a hot summer day or after a grueling workout. The aloe adds a restorative boost.
- 4 cups whole de-seeded watermelon flesh, not including the rind (enough to fill a large blender 3/4 of the way)
· coconut water
· 1/4 cup aloe flesh, pressed or scraped from the leaf, greens discarded (you can find aloe leaves at Whole Foods)
· fresh basil, to garnish
· Note: I added juice of one lime (optional)
1. Fill the blender with the whole watermelon flesh—about 3/4 of the way full. Top with enough coconut water to just cover the watermelon (or less). Add aloe flesh. Blend. Serve. Garnish with a basil or mint leaf and enjoy.
Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad
TRY THIS: for a star salad at your July 4th bash. The combination of flavors is so good!
· ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
· ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
· ¼ cup minced shallots (1 large)
· 1 tbsp honey
· ½ cup olive oil
· 1 tsp kosher salt
· ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
· 6 cups baby arugula, washed and dry
· 1/8 seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut in 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
· 12 oz good feta cheese, ½ inch diced
· 1 cup whole fresh mint leaves, then julienned
1. Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. If not using within an hour, store covered in refrigerator.
2. Place arugula, watermelon, feta and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough dressing to lightly cover the greens and toss well. Serve immediately.
Note: I found this recipe made more citrus vinaigrette than needed, so make sure to add slowly to prevent drenching your greens.
TRY THIS: because…#yeswayfrosé
· 1 (750 mL) bottle of rosé
· ½ cup fresh watermelon syrup (recipe below)
· ½ cup fresh watermelon juice
· ½ lime, juiced
· watermelon slices for garnish
· ½ cup fresh watermelon juice (from about 2 cups of fresh watermelon cubes)
· 1/3 cup sugar
1. The night before, pour the rosé into two ice cube trays and freeze.
2. When you’re ready to make the frosé, place the rosé ice cubes (they will not freeze entirely due to the alcohol), watermelon syrup and juice and juice from ½ lime in a blender.
3. Blend until it’s a slushy-like consistency. You may need to add a handful or two of ice. Add more watermelon juice (not syrup) or more rosé from another bottle if liquid is needed to help blend.
4. Pour or scoop into desired glasses and garnish with a watermelon wedge.
To make the watermelon juice, blend the watermelon cubes in blender until pureed and smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove pulp. Take half of the juice (1/2 cup) and place in a saucepan with the sugar (the other ½ of the juice will be reserved for the frosé) and heat until the sugar dissolves. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let it come to room temperature, then seal it in a jar or container and place it in the fridge. You can do this ahead of time.
Post written by Ascend Health Coach and content editor, Ashley Hart