Watermelon may not be the official fruit of summer, but it is a popular and healthy choice when the temperatures rise. There are more than 50 varieties of watermelon, with seeds or without. Watermelon is the most consumed melon in the US and is at its peak sweetness mid-summer.

Watermelon is approximately 92 percent water; a 2-cup serving of watermelon contains about 12oz. of water. A 2-cup serving is also low in calories (about 80 calories) and has 2g of fiber, making it a perfect snack or dessert for those of us watching our weight. The thirst quenching fruit-that’s really a vegetable-is packed full of healthy nutrients. Watermelon is a concentrated source of the antioxidant lycopene, a naturally occurring chemical that gives this melon its red color, and may help to protect against some cancers and heart disease. Watermelon is also high in Vitamins A and C, which are two nutrients important for a healthy immune system, hair and eyes.

On your next trip to buy produce, take care in selecting a whole watermelon; look for one that:

  • Is heavy for its size, firm, symmetrical, and free from bruises and cuts or dents.
  • Has a rind that is relatively smooth and that is neither overly shiny nor overly dull.
  • One side of the melon should have an area that is distinct in color from the rest of the rind, displaying a yellowish or creamy tone. This is the place that was resting on the ground during ripening. If the fruit does not have this, it may have been harvested too early

There are many ways to enjoy watermelon, the easiest being slicing and eating. Other ideas:

Add lemon to your water(melon). Blend one cup fresh lemon juice, one half gallon of water, one half gallon of watermelon juice/puree and sugar (but easy does it!) to taste.

  • Lightly brush slices of watermelon with olive oil and put it directly on the grill for a couple of minutes on each side.
  • Cut watermelon into bite size chunks and toss it with balsamic vinaigrette, a little bit of feta, and mint for a light and fresh summer salad.
  • Replace tomato with watermelon in your favorite gazpacho.
  • Use watermelon to make salsa and serve with multigrain crackers or to compliment your main dish. Mix one cup diced watermelon with two tablespoons diced red onion; one finely diced jalapeno; lime juice; two teaspoons of chopped cilantro; salt and pepper to taste.
  • Make a watermelon frozen yogurt by pureeing watermelon and low-fat vanilla yogurt together and freezing.

Watermelons are delicious and also fun to learn about! Did you know that early explorers used watermelons as canteens? Visit the Watermelon Promotion Board, at watermelon.org, to see more fun facts and recipes this July, National Watermelon Month.

Sources: United States Department of Agriculture, fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, watermelon.org, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.