Eat Well Jun. 19. 2013

Watermelon Cubes

Jun. 19. 2013
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon.  Today I share another way to squeeze watermelon into your diet (not that there needs to be much convincing, right?). Watermelon is a quintessential summer and hot weather treat. Summer days aren’t complete in my mind without sinking my teeth into a large halved slice of watermelon, even if it means having watermelon juice running down my hands and mouth. I like to think of it as a right of passage in the world of eating watermelon!

Today I share several fun and unique ways to use watermelon including how to get ready for bikini season! There are many varieties of watermelon, even ranging in shape from oblong, square (!), round, small, large, white, yellow flesh, and of course red/pink fleshed (some with different antioxidant properties). The rich red-pink colored flesh in watermelon is a visual of the lycopene content, lycopene has been studied in great detail regarding the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds which inhibits pro-inflammatory markers.

How to buy and store // The key is to choose watermelons which are heavier for their size, this indicates that the watermelon has a high water content, therefore it’s more ripe, contains higher nutrients and vibrant flavor (a.k.a. more lycopene)! Watermelons grow on the ground so it’s normal and typical to see watermelons that have a flat “ground spot” on their exterior-  avoid the ones that have a white/green spot as this indicates it’s not as ripe as a yellow colored ground spot. Prior to cutting the whole watermelon, store at room temperature for further ripening. After cutting, refrigerate to preserve freshness, flavor, and nutrients as with most fruits and vegetables (although the lycopene content remains stable after cutting).

  • Knock-knock test for whole uncut watermelon } You’ve seen people around the grocery store or farmers market tapping watermelons to hear the sound/thud, choose watermelons with a deep, hallow, bass sound.
  • Purchasing pre-cut watermelon } choose the ones deepest in color with no white streaking.

We all know watermelon tastes great, but what you may not know about watermelon is the amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits! Watermelon is a perfect summer fruit for decreasing the bloat, especially since this is bikini season, watermelon can help decrease the “bloat” as it’s a natural diuretic. Watermelon has also been touted as natures “Viagra” as it helps relax blood vessels due to the nitric oxide content, which also plays a role in decreasing blood pressure and general cardiovascular health (also due to to lycopene content). Watermelon has also been studied regarding it’s effects on atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetic/metabolic syndrome . As with most studies, the amount of citrulline studied is greater than we would typically eat (consuming 1 cup of watermelon yields about 250mg of citrulline, some studies use upwards of 1000-2000mg (1-2g).

My fellow fitness friends should use this almighty fruit as it contains high amounts of the amino acid citrulline and arginine, both popular in the fitness/athletic communities for their muscle repairing properties and reducing muscle soreness/fatigue. Arginine also is typically used pre-workout to increase blood flow and protein synthesis secondary to conversion into nitric oxide (citrulline–>arginine–[NOS, nitric oxide synthase]–>NO, nitric oxide). Before I go to in depth here, let’s get back to this yummy hydrating watermelon!

Nutrition Stripped nutrient breakdown of WATERMELON |

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Carotenoids |notably lycopene (4532mcg/100g serving), beta-carotene
  • Amino acids | notably citrulline, arginine, and nitric oxide related benefits
  • Antioxidants | phytonutrient Cucurbitacin E (which had many health benefits)

Fun ways to eat watermelon |

  • One of my absolute favorite ways to eat watermelon is using a fun melon baller to create the small watermelon balls.
    • These are especially great for the little ones as you can put the watermelon balls on to small toothpicks for healthy “lollipops”
  • Classically sliced in large halves.
  • Sprinkle of sea salt onto a slice (I know this may sound odd, but all my Southern folk will know what I’m talking about…even though I’m from Ohio…)
  • Cubed into large pieces, as a simple snack.
  • Thinly sliced long ways for Watermelon Noodles.
  • Diced into large cubes and tossed in a leafy green salad.
  • Use fun cookie cutters to make artistic shapes for a party theme or for the little ones.

Watermelon Cubes // simply blend fresh raw watermelon into your Vitamix or other blender until smooth (it will resemble water). Pour the blended watermelon into your favorite ice-cube trays and have fun with the shapes/trays!

How to use Watermelon Cubes |

  • In filtered//sparkling water for a refreshing Simply Infused Water.
  • Add into your daily Stripped Smoothie or other smoothies for added hydration benefits and flavor.
  • Add small wooden sticks into the ice cube tray before freezing for mini-pop sicles for yourself or a perfect small treat for children.
  • Add a couple Watermelon Cubes into your water bottle on-the-go.
  • Crush into “crushed” watermelon granita (a traditional Italian dessert similar to shaved ice with a coarser crystalline texture); without any added sugar.
  • Blend and puree in your Vitamix or food processor, into a watermelon slush for drinking or eating with a spoon.
  • Add to cocktails//mocktails for a sweet subtle flavor that keeps the drink chilled.
  • Keep other fruit and foods cold in a lunch box, by packing not only an “ice cube” but also a treat chilled watermelon treat.
  • Toss in fruit salad at a summer picnic outside to keep the fruits chilled.

How would you use Watermelon Cubes? What is you favorite way to eat watermelon? Share below, I love hearing your ideas!

Hydrate YOself,

xo McKel

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