GUEST BLOG ENTRY: MOTHER NATURE’S HEART HEALTH PLAN

October 5th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

It’s no secret that watermelon is as healthy as it is delicious, but just how healthy is it? As healthy as a big, heaping salad? Or a kale smoothie? Today’s guest blog entry from nutritionist and dietician, Elizabeth Somer, sheds some light on all the ways watermelon may be good for your heart and more.

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Photo courtesy of University of South Florida

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce your risk. Preventing heart disease is a three-tiered job that includes a nutritious diet, daily exercise and healthy lifestyle habits.

You can slim your waistline AND protect your heart by focusing on Mother Nature’s best foods: colorful fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least two servings of colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal, and at least one at every snack, for a total of no less than eight servings a day.

Colorful produce is a good source of antioxidants that protect arteries from damage associated with inflammation. Almost all produce is cholesterol and fat-free, low in sodium, and rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. For example, watermelon provides vitamins A and C, potassium and heart-healthful antioxidants, such as lycopene. It also contains citrulline, a compound that aids blood flow. Watermelon provides a perfect combination of fiber and water, two compounds that help fill you up before they fill you out, so you push away from the table before you’ve overeaten. That makes watermelon a great inclusion in any weight-management plan.

While cutting back on saturated fat is good for your heart, a little healthy fat, such as the monounsaturated fats in nuts, avocados and olive oil, is good for you and helps boost absorption of some of those nutrients in produce, such as the lycopene and vitamin A in watermelon.

The healthy fat in avocado, combined with watermelon, chilies, cilantro and a little lime juice, makes a great salsa and topping for salmon or as a dip for veggies. Or, sprinkle pistachios over a spinach and watermelon salad (just go light on the dressing!).

Let’s put this into practice! A heart-healthy sample day’s menu would be:

  • BREAKFAST: Sprinkle berries on whole-grain cereal, and complement with a bowl of watermelon chunks
  • LUNCH: Toss some grilled chicken breast with two cups of fresh spinach for a healthy salad. Complement with a slice of sourdough French bread and an apple
  • DINNER: Serve salmon with steamed broccoli and a sweet potato for a filling meal
  • SNACKS: Dip your watermelon slices in fat-free yogurt, baby carrots in hummus or apple slices in peanut butter

Yes, the foods that protect your heart are the same foods that slim your waistline. And remember: If you eat well and move daily, your heart will thank you for it!

REMEMBER: All comments left on the blog this month are entered to win our October prize — the watermelon welcome mat — so comment as often as you’d like!

UP NEXT: A SPOOKY CARVING CONTEST

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LYCOPENE 101: HOW WATERMELON CAN HELP YOU GET MORE OUT OF THIS POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT

February 17th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

If you want to stay healthy and feel your best (and who doesn’t?), you might want to include more lycopene-rich foods — like watermelon — in your daily diet.
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What is Lycopene?

Lycopene is one of hundreds of carotenoids in fruits and vegetables (beta carotene is the most well-known). Lycopene is the pigment that makes many fruits and veggies a rich and vibrant red. While tomatoes have gotten the most press when it comes to their lycopene content, you might be surprised to hear that watermelon is also a source of lycopene, with 15 to 20 milligrams for every two-cup serving.

Why Do We Need It?

Adopting a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables is one of the best things a person can do to stay healthy, maintain a healthy weight, and lower disease risk. Adding lycopene-rich foods, like watermelon, to that mix is one way to reach that goal. Granted, lycopene cannot be converted to vitamin A like its cousin beta carotene, but it is a powerful antioxidant. This is just one of the reasons why it has been studied to identify its role in health promotion and disease prevention.

How Much Lycopene Do You Need?

Like all of the carotenoids in foods, the jury is still out on the exact amount of lycopene you need for health and possible disease prevention. What is known is that because this antioxidant-rich compound is fat-soluble, you can greatly improve its absorption by adding a little fat to any meal that contains a lycopene-rich fruit or vegetable. For example, one study found that adding avocado to salsa boosts lycopene absorption more than four-fold!

Here a few examples of how you can combine watermelon and certain healthy fat foods:

• drizzle a little olive oil on a watermelon and spinach salad
• snack on watermelon and low-fat (rather than fat-free) yogurt
• add a slice of watermelon to a salmon fillet sandwich
• add watermelon to chicken or shrimp kabobs
• snack on watermelon slices and pistachios

One thing is for sure: You can’t go wrong by adding colorful produce, like watermelon, to your diet. The results are good for your health today and tomorrow!

UP NEXT: An interview with a watermelon carver

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