Summer’s Favorite Melon
It’s the first barbecue of the summer. The sounds of children yelling as they run through the bright green grass, adults chattering, and a warm breeze weaving through the trees fill your ears. As you walk through the buffet, you pick up a buttery corn on the cob and a juicy hamburger. You’re about to sit with your friends when you realize something is missing from your plate—a slice of watermelon. Just as the vibrant red fruit plays a key role in summer gatherings, it also plays a key role in our health and religion.
Watermelons come in all shapes and sizes. There are Golden Midgets, which weigh only three pounds and have rinds that change from green to bright yellow when ripe; Janosik Watermelon, which are oblong, have yellow flesh, and weigh around 10 pounds; and Hamby Watermelon which have the classic green rind and red flesh. Seedless watermelon, commonly found in grocery stores, are not the product of genetic engineering, but rather of very careful breeding. To create a seedless watermelon, horticulturist breed a regular watermelon, that has 22 chromosomes, with a watermelon that has double the usual amount of chromosomes, 44. The watermelon that comes from this combination are seedless, having only tiny white traces of seeds. This process takes extra time and care, as the seedless watermelon flourish in warmer temperatures than their seeded counterparts. This is why seedless watermelons are often slightly more expensive.
Despite the variety in appearances, all watermelons share certain health benefits. Watermelons are 92 percent water and full of electrolytes. As described by the United States National Library of Medicine, electrolytes help control the amount of water in the body and are lost when we sweat. Consuming watermelons is an ideal way to get back the electrolytes we lose on hot summer days, and in turn keeps us hydrated.
In addition to electrolytes, watermelons have significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as lycopene. So when we eat watermelon, we benefit from each of these nutrients!
Vitamin A contributes to the health of our skin, keeping it moisturized, and also the health of our teeth and tissues. Additionally, it creates the pigments in our retinas and promotes good vision. Vitamin C is another nutrient that keeps the skin strong by healing wounds. These benefits are especially important in the summer, when the constant exposure to bright rays has the potential to damage our skin and eyes.
Key for brain development and function, B6 helps create the hormones that control mood and the body’s natural clock. The body is unable to store B6, so eating watermelon is an easy way to make sure you have a constant source of the vitamin.
Watermelon, as described by science website www.livescience.com, has one of the highest measures of lycopene found in fresh fruits. The redder the flesh, the more lycopene it contains. Lycopene prevents heart disease and cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon, and pancreas. Maybe the saying should be changed to “A watermelon a day keeps the doctor away.”
Science books and nutrition booklets aren’t the only texts that praise watermelon; the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]) is said to have enjoyed this summer staple.
Aisha (may God be pleased with her) said that Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] used to eat watermelon with fresh dates (Tirmidhi).
It’s easy to add this melon to our diets and reap the health and spiritual benefits it offers. You don’t even have to eat it by itself; there are lots of surprising ways to integrate this wonder fruit into your family’s meals.
Watermelon can help create a sweet salsa when combined with carrots, bell peppers, lime, and salt. It also pairs well with chicken and tabouli, or alongside shrimp. Another option is the traditional Arab snack of watermelon slices with Arabic white cheese. For more exciting ways to enjoy watermelon, make sure to check out The Watermelon Board at www.watermelon.org.
Watermelon is a refreshing part of every summer barbecue, get-together, and picnic. But, who knew it had so many health benefits? Be like the Prophet (PBUH) and snack on some watermelon and dates while the season is ripe.
Taskeen Khan currently attends UIUC. She has previously written for Huffington Post Teen and Islamic Horizons Magazine. Khan has also won several Silver Keys and honorable mentions in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.