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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LOVE WATERMELON? YOU’LL LOVE AQUAMELON WATER!

November 24th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

In July, I wrote about Tsamma juice, a watermelon-based drink that aimed to finally put watermelon juice on the fruit juice map. Today, I’m excited to announce yet another refreshing option called AquaMelon Water.

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The drink was created by Desmond Williams, a business administration graduate student at the University of South Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Williams is a runner, who puts wedges of watermelon in his freezer for a post-run snack. That simple idea was the inspiration behind AquaMelon Water.

But Williams also discovered a University of Florida study that gives the drink some very real health benefits. Results from the 2010 study showed the ability of watermelon juice to decrease blood pressure in some people, thanks to the amino acid, citrulline, found in watermelon juice.

With a great idea in place, Williams entered AquaMelon Water in start-up business competitions, with the goal of winning enough money to take the product to production. And, wouldn’t you know it, his idea was a winner! AquaMelon Water won the USF Fintech Business Plan Competition (and a $20,000 prize) and was runner-up at the Florida Venture Forum.

So what’s the future hold for AquaMelon Water? Time will tell, but I really hope to see it on shelves at my local grocery store soon!

UP NEXT: Some Thanksgiving facts you can use to impress your guests

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MY ATTEMPT AT MAKING WATERMELON JERKY

September 23rd, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Have you noticed that as you get older, your Christmas gifts tend to get less and less memorable? Oh, sure, there are a few standouts from adulthood, like in 2001 when I received my very first MP3 player (which held a whopping total of 30 songs!).

Last Christmas featured another highlight, when my wife bought me a dehydrator. As a fan of beef jerky and dried fruit, I had been wanting a dehydrator for a long time, and unwrapping that gift gave me thrill that I hadn’t felt on Christmas morning in a long time.

Since then, I’ve used it countless times to dry out various meats, but I’ve yet to use it to dry fruit – until recently.

This past weekend featured my first attempt at creating watermelon jerky, and the results were surprisingly good. Then again, most things you place in a dehydrator tend to come out pretty good. The reason has a lot to do with the dehydrating process itself. In short, it’s a slow cooking process that removes almost all of the moisture from the food item. The result is a shriveled version of the original but with a condensed flavor.

Here’s a recap of my weekend watermelon jerky experience:

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I started with a few dozen pieces of watermelon, which were cut about a half to a quarter of an inch thick. Like anything you put in the dehydrator, you want it to be sliced relatively thin. Slice it too thick, and it’ll never dry out, or it’ll be too tough and chewy. Slice it too thin, and it’ll dry quickly and be too brittle.

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Unlike beef jerky, which requires you to marinate the meat for several hours, watermelon jerky requires almost no preparation. Some folks add a little salt to their watermelon slices prior to drying them, so I sprinkled a little salt on half of my watermelon pieces. The other slices were dried without salt, just as Mother Nature had intended them.

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After setting the dehydrator to 135 degrees, all that was left to do was sit back and wait. Beef jerky takes about 6-8 hours, depending upon how thick the beef is sliced. Since this was my first time making watermelon jerky, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I decided to monitor the progress closely – peeking in every few hours – to make sure I stopped the dehydrating process at just the right time.

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The wait was agonizing and took WAY longer than I thought it would (about 20 hours total), but the result was well worth it! The watermelon jerky was super sweet, chewy and tasted almost like watermelon candy. I’ve already started planning my next attempt at watermelon jerky, which I might create with the help of various savory marinades. Stay tuned!

UP NEXT: A funny photo that proves that fall has definitely arrived

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SECOND SLICE: HEADING BACK TO SCHOOL (WITH A LITTLE WATERMELON)

August 20th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picAhh, back-to-school time. Some kids are excited about it. Some kids dread it. I was one of the few who got excited about it. I’d lay out all my new school supplies days ahead of time, sharpening all my new pencils perfectly, zipping them up in the little plastic pouch in my Trapper Keeper.

Now that I’ve got a four-year-old who’s heading off to pre-school this fall, things like “back-to-school season” take on a new meaning to me, and I’m able to relive some of the bittersweet joys that came with the end of summer vacation and the beginning of a new school year.

I will admit that I really need to work on my pre-schooler lunch-packing skills. According to my wife, a Cup-o-Noodles and a soda aren’t a suitable midday meal for our daughter’s lunch box. (Really? Then why do they fit so perfectly in there?) Besides, that’s exactly what I ate in college on most days, and I did awesome in college. Just sayin’.

And then I think back to my own school lunches. Occasionally, I’d get watermelon in my lunchbox, which happens to be the topic of this post.

Moms everywhere: If your son or daughter is packing a lunch this year (I’m assuming kids still do that), please consider changing up the ole apple and orange fruit rotation by putting a little watermelon in there now and then.

If you need some ideas, you can find some fun recipes for kids on the National Watermelon Promotion Board website. Some might be good for lunchboxes. If you want to do something simple, consider just a few chunks of watermelon in a baggie. It’s nutritious, it’s delicious… it’s fun! Throw in a few banana slices and grapes, put it in a plastic container, and that’s great, too.

I assure you I wasn’t pressured into writing this “better lunches” blog entry by a group of angry children. It’s just a simple plea from the kid in me who remembers how great it was to get some watermelon for a mid-afternoon snack now and then.

UP NEXT: A healthy take on a classic dessert

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TSAMMA WATERMELON JUICE HAS ARRIVED!

July 28th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picI’m a juice fan. Apple juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, you name it. As a watermelon lover, however, I’m a little frustrated by the lack of watermelon juices on the market. Oh sure, you’ll find watermelon-flavored beverages out there, but many of them only taste like watermelon, and are loaded with all sorts of other things.

So when I heard about a new product called Tsamma watermelon juice, I got excited. And when I read more about the product, I got even more excited.

Tsamma watermelon juice is 100 percent juice and has no added sugar. It’s made with 95 percent watermelon juice, and uses over a pound of fresh watermelon to make each 8-ounce serving!

The juice is made by Frey Farms, which is one of the largest watermelon shippers in the United States. I recently chatted with Sarah Frey-Talley (who founded Frey Farms in 1994 at the age of 17!), and asked her a few questions about the new juice and what it’s like to work side-by-side with her family.

Sarah, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk with me! Since this is an interview about watermelon, I have to ask: Are you a chunks or wedges kind of person?

That’s not really a fair question! I have millions of watermelons available to me throughout the year so I’m a bust-it-open-and-eat-the-heart-in-the-field kind of girl. However, when I slice them up at home I like the presentation of the wedge better.

You founded Frey Farms in 1994 when you were just 17! What motivated you to do something so ambitious at such a young age?

When I was a child, I would accompany my mother on a small melon delivery route. My job was to walk into the store make the sale, unload the melons and collect the cash.  I loved it so much that I decided to make a career out of it. I’m still doing what I enjoyed most as a child. That’s my definition of success.

Frey Farms is actually a family business. You work alongside your brothers, and together you make it all happen. Is working with family challenging at all, or does it make it more rewarding?

Both! We all do what suits our strengths best. Working with family is definitely one way to stay in touch. :)

There are so many different juices in stores – apple juice, orange juice, grape juice – what’s the inspiration behind a watermelon juice?

Watermelon juice is the most refreshing and hydrating juice on the market!  The inspiration for Tsamma can be directly attributed to the ingredients panels on most juices and sports drinks. Ugh! I’m just a melon farmer but even most doctors can’t pronounce half of the ingredients used in most sport drinks.

The purpose of Tsamma juice is to hydrate, replenish and recover. The bonus is that it tastes amazing! It delivers key vitamins and minerals to the body, but it’s very light and refreshing. Most premium juices are very thick and you tend to want to sip them, but not Tsamma. You actually drink this juice!

In case anyone is wondering, the name of the juice is pronounced “sah-mah,” but how did the juice get its name?

We named our drink Tsamma to pay homage to the ancient ancestor of all modern watermelon varieties. The Tsamma melon grows wild in the Kalahari Desert and is still used as a source of hydration.

I’m sure our readers would love to buy some Tsamma watermelon juice. Where can they find it?

It’s available coast-to-coast in many retailers, including Whole Foods in the Midwest, Hannaford Bros in the northeast, The Fresh Market nationally and Dollar General Market stores.

You can find it in Michigan retailers such as Family Fare, D&W Fresh Market, Neiman’s Family Market, Foster’s Market, Harding’s Market, Glen’s, Shop-N-Save Food Centers, University Foods, VG’s Food Center, and Hollywood Super Market. Tsamma is also coming soon to select Walmart stores in Florida and the Midwest!

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HOW HYDRATED ARE YOU?

June 27th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picYou can’t spell “watermelon” without “water.” You can’t create a watermelon without water, either. At 92 percent water, watermelon boasts a refreshingly high water content, and it’s also rich in vitamins and antioxidants, making it a natural power drink.

From daily adequate intake to replenishing the body after a workout, Americans’ hydration needs call for more water—and more watermelon.

To get a better understanding of those hydration needs, the National Watermelon Promotion Board commissioned a survey to find out how important hydration is and how much Americans know about hydration. Armed with that insight, the National Watermelon Promotion Board is also able to determine how watermelon fits into those hydration goals.

The survey was conducted earlier this year, and the results are in.

Nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe they have to drink something to stay hydrated, according to an online survey conducted in May among 2,050 U.S. adults by Harris Poll, and commissioned by National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB). Yet the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 44 percent of adults drink fewer than four cups of water per day and, in some cases, no water at all.

“Every system in your body – from reproduction and digestion to circulation, mood and memory – depends on water,” says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., and author of several nutrition and wellness books. “Consequently, water helps ward off fatigue, a common health complaint in the United States.”

In fact, three in five Americans (62 percent) agree they don’t have enough energy on days when they don’t hydrate enough. One-third (34 percent) of Americans say they don’t drink a lot of water, as they prefer something with flavor instead – and those numbers are higher (41 percent) among Millennials.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board is on a mission to help hydrate Americans, reminding them that they can eat their hydration, too. That edible hydration, of course, can come from watermelon. Two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) agree that, of all produce, watermelon is the one they would choose to eat to help them hydrate.

Check out the handy infographic below for more information about the importance of hydration and how watermelon can help!

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QUOTABLE WATERMELON: A REFRESHING BALANCING ACT

June 19th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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The quote in today’s entry has been written in many different ways with many different types of food. Today’s rendition uses chocolate, but I’ve seen it written with ice cream and even beer. Most of the time, the quote includes some sort of indulgent food, which is what makes the “balanced diet” claim so funny.

Even though I’ve changed the quote to include watermelon, it’s still true – watermelon really is a key part of a balanced diet. Our own nutrition expert and registered dietician, Elizabeth Somer, sums up the case for watermelon in article titled Watermelon Wisdom:

“The more fruits and vegetables (you) eat, the lower (your) heart disease risk. Watermelon, in particular, is an excellent source of lycopene, a red pigment. In fact, watermelon has more lycopene than do tomatoes – up to 20 milligrams in each two-cup serving. Watermelon also is low or free of cholesterol, fat and sodium. Watermelon consumption (six cups) increases free arginine which maintains cardiovascular function.”

Like I’ve written about in the past, watermelon has also been ranked number one on a list of fruits that pack the most nutritional bang for your buck. In other words, watermelon doesn’t just balance your diet, it can also be used to balance your budget!

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February 12th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

RECIPE: WATERMELON POMEGRANATE TOSSED SALAD

Watermelon pomegranate saladThere are super foods (foods packed with health benefits), and then there are superhero foods, which are usually recipes made with one or more super foods. This Watermelon Pomegranate Tossed Salad is one of those superheroes.

According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board website, this salad is also known as the “Red Eye Special” because it’s rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds shown to protect eyes from vision loss. It also supplies more than half your daily need for the B vitamin, folate, the entire day’s need for vitamin A, along with hefty doses of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants.

To be honest, I’ve never actually eaten a pomegranate, but I’ve had pomegranate juice, so I know it’s delicious. After taking a look at this recipe, however, I might have to pick up a pomegranate or two during this week’s grocery trip. Before then, I’ll have to do some research to figure out what they look like.

Watermelon Pomegranate Tossed Salad

INGREDIENTS

Dressing
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (Pomegranate vinegar is the best)
1 1 /2 Tablespoons orange zest
1 Tablespoon agave syrup
1 small shallot, minced
1/8 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1 /2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad
8 cups baby spinach (one 6-ounce bag or carton)
3/4 cup diced red onion
2 cups diced watermelon (placed on paper towel to drain excess fluid)
1 clamshell (6 ounces)
fresh raspberries (as many as you’d like)
1 /2 cup pomegranate seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

Place juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer until reduced to about 3 tablespoons and liquid is a thick syrup. Set aside. When cool, add remaining dressing ingredients, from vinegar to salt and pepper. Whip. Set aside for flavors to blend.

Place spinach in a large serving bowl. Top with onion, watermelon, raspberries, and pomegranate seeds. Divide onto four salad plates and drizzle with dressing.

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SECOND SLICE: IS WATERMELON THE BEST FOOD EVER?

February 11th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

The following Q&A was posted previously here on What About Watermelon, but it’s a good question. A great one, in fact. It’s also a little hard to answer, but I gave it my best shot.

JACOB K. OF LITTLE ROCK, AR, ASKS: Is watermelon the best food ever?

 

pic2Anyone on our panel of experts could have taken a crack at answering this question, but as someone with a lifetime of eating experience, I’ll give this one a shot.

When I was a kid, I used to think the best foods ever were chocolate syrup and cherry licorice. Thankfully, my culinary tastes have evolved, although only slightly.

Keep in mind that determining the “best food ever” is no small task. There are a number of factors to weigh in making the assessment, including taste, nutritional value, accessibility, cost and, of course, how easy it is to grow or produce the item.

Using these criteria, I began comparing many foods – both traditional and modern – to see if it is possible to answer your question. I started with foods like pizza, bacon and cheeseburgers (or the elusive “pizza bacon cheeseburger”). They all rated extremely high on the taste scale, but had mixed scores when it came to nutritional value, accessibility and some other qualities.

I moved on to traditional staples of the human diet like bread, potatoes, cheese and rice. They, too, ranged up and down in their rankings, preventing them from making a serious run at the number one spot.

Finally, I compared watermelon with other fruits and vegetables. After a trip to the grocery store to sample a selection of produce (don’t worry, I purchased the goodies and ate them at home), I came to a simple conclusion: Yes, watermelon is the best food ever. Bear in mind, that’s just one watermelon lover’s opinion, but it’s backed up by some simple facts.

Not only does watermelon taste great, it’s also got its fair share of nutritional benefits and it’s pretty easy to grow or find. It even rates high in affordability, as evidenced by its recent number-one ranking on a list of most affordable fruits.

But what really put the watermelon over the top for me was its ability to pull double duty as both a food and a drink. You see, watermelon is comprised of 92 percent water (that explains the name), which makes it a refreshing snack in the absence of a beverage. Have you ever tried drinking a cheeseburger? It can’t be done. And that’s why watermelon, in my hungry opinion, is the best food ever.

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