Why This Really is the Perfect Summer Fruit

What are your go-to foods in the summertime, with those warmer, long and lingering days? There are two I typically like to eat with an equal degree of regularity. And you might want to follow my lead.

One is sweet potato and the other is cantaloupe. I consider these two foods to be similar and equally good from a nutritional perspective. Although one of these foods is a fruit and the other a tuber, they deliver the same type of nutritional punch.

Sweet Source of Beta-Carotene and Much, Much More

Cantaloupes are melons and grow in many parts of the world, including farms throughout the United States and Canada. They are also called rock melon and are first cousins to the honeydew melon and watermelon.

The reason that I prefer cantaloupes over in-season berries and other fruits is that they are very tasty when they’re ripe and make a great snack, addition to fruit salad, or standalone fruit choice. Did I also mention they are great with vanilla bean ice cream? Now there’s a summer treat.

And they are loaded with nutrients like vitamin C and cartenoids such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, vitamins consisting of folate and vitamin K, and minerals like magnesium and potassium.

In fact, the carotenoids within cantaloupes have some special nutritional properties.

The beta-carotene can convert to the active form of vitamin A, which is essential for immune function and night vision. Beta-carotene has also been shown to be a powerful free-radical scavenger and effective in preventing cancer cell growth.

Zeaxanthin is a potent antioxidant that can help protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataract development; it fights free radical damage from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Popular Melon a Tasty Source of Fiber, Too

Combined with the high concentration of soluble fiber, cantaloupe helps prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes by keeping cholesterol levels lowered and reducing high blood pressure. Diets with higher amounts of soluble fiber also are associated with fewer digestive issues, constipation, less inflammation, fewer cases of diverticulitis and a healthier internal environment populated with friendly bacteria.

The carotenoids found in cantaloupe have been shown to slow down cancer cell growth and transformation in several forms of cancer including colon and prostate. Vitamin C here plays a significant role in this too, because it is essential for controlling the body’s immune response. Cantaloupe’s vitamin C helps with the destruction of cancer cells, the control of inflammatory response and the healing of wounds and injuries.

Fresh cantaloupe is really hard to beat. You can look forward to adding it to smoothies, salads and your Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for a high-protein lunch. It is a versatile fruit with a rich, sweet taste and beautiful orange color.

Try to buy them fresh from a local grower at a farmers’ market. Ripe melons will be a bit soft and have a sweet aroma.

Here’s to a Healthy Dessert…

For a real treat, refrigerate the cantaloupe for one hour. Remove and cut into cubes. Place into a bowl and scoop vanilla bean ice cream on top. Add one teaspoon of Grand Marnier on top and serve yourself and four of your friends.

Ware, M., “What are the health benefits of cantaloupe?” Medical News Today website, July 3, 2014; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279176.php, last accessed July 7, 2014.