Cantaloupe is a summer time staple. It’s sweet, fresh and tasty. Great as a snack or a healthy alternative to sugary desserts, they can also have some awesome health benefits. Wonderful on its own, cantaloupe complements the flavor of many other foods. Combine with cottage cheese or yogurt to add protein to a low fat snack. Melon compares well with vegetable mixes and on chicken as a main ingredient in salsa.
Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends one and a half to two cups of fruit daily.
These melons are part of the cucurbit family of plants, Cucurbitaceae. Much of the fruit Americans know as cantaloupe is actually muskmelon. They are identified by the surface of the rind which has a “netting” like pattern. The name “cantaloupe” comes from the Italian city Cantaloupo, near Rome, where the seeds originate from in the 1400s. Watermelons, honeydew melons, and others are part of the same family.
California is the largest producing state for the fruit in the U.S. The melon is also grown in Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Colorado, and Arizona. Despite high domestic cantaloupe cultivation, the U.S. also imports the melon from Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico.
Choosing the Right Melon:
Ripe fruit should feel heavier than you might think based on their size. If you tap a knuckle on the melon, it should sound deep and solid, if it sounds hollow, it may not be ripe yet. The rind will likely be cream-colored or golden. Green or gray melons are not yet ripe.
Tips for Eating and Preparing Cantaloupe:
Wash the outside of the melon before cutting it open, to prevent bacterial contamination. After slicing the fruit, cut off the rind, and scoop out the seeds. Don’t leave the melon out in room temperature for more than two hours. If it will not be eaten within this time, store in the refrigerator.
- Squeeze it fresh into sparkling water for a light, clean, hydrating drink.
- Puree the melon with peaches, with a touch of honey and lemon juice for a tasty cold soup.
- Chop it up with other melons and berries for a delicious fruit salad.
Nutrients and Vitamins in Cantaloupe:
They contain beta-carotene which gives the melon its color and is a great source of vitamin A. Good levels of vitamin A maintains healthy tissue, helps keep bones strong, improves retina health, and boosts the immune system. Beta-carotene can help prevent asthma in some people. Some studies also suggest that beta-carotene can help in the prevention of various cancers.
They are high in ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. This is an antioxidant, which protects your DNA from damage. Vitamin C also helps your body maintain healthy bones and skin. The fiber and vitamin C in cantaloupe can help decrease blood pressure, which can reduce risk of stroke.
Potassium can be found in cantaloupes as well, which supports the metabolism.
The fiber in melons, combined with the moisture, helps maintain healthy digestion.
They, along with other melons, have a high water content with natural electrolytes which makes it a great snack during the hot, summer months.