Everyone has their favorite summer melon. For most, the watermelon has become iconic; look at stock photos of picnicking families and you will see it frequently, often alongside sandwiches, hot dogs or burgers. The reality is, come warm weather watermelon is available everywhere, and it dominates the produce department from May all the way through August. But the second most recognizable melon, the cantaloupe, is available year-round and never goes out of style. Unlike its more watery cousin, the cantaloupe is popular because its flesh is similarly sweet but much more dense, making it far better for recipes and anyone who prefers to bite into a firmer fruit.
[info courtesy of nutrition-and-you.com & organicfacts.net]
Many varieties of cantaloupes are grown all over the world. However, two common types have become popular in the western world. The European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo cantalupensis) derives its name from the Italian papal village of "Cantalup" and features lightly-ribbed, pale green skin that looks quite different from the North American cantaloupe. Galia melon and charentais belong to this category. North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo reticulatus), famous in the United States and some parts of Canada, is named reticulatus due to its net-like (or reticulated) skin covering.
In general, cantaloupe fruits feature round or oblong shape, measure 4.5- 6.5 inches in diameter and weigh 1-2 pounds. Internally, its flesh color ranges from orange-yellow to salmon, has a soft consistency and juicy texture with a sweet, musky aroma that emanates best in the completely ripe fruits.
What's so great about cantaloupes?
They help boost the immune system. Cantaloupes not only have the beta-carotene and phytochemicals working in its favor against free radicals, but also a healthy dose of vitamin-C. Vitamin C similarly scavenges disease-causing free radicals and act as an important line of defense for a healthy immune system. Also, vitamin-C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which seek out and destroy dangerous bacteria, viruses, and other toxic substances.
Cantaloupes may help in preventing cancer. Cantaloupes are rich sources of beneficial nutrients, including beta-Carotene, an essential carotenoid that the body requires and a powerful antioxidant. It has been linked to reduced chances of a number of different types of cancer, and the phytochemicals present in fresh fruit like cantaloupes have also been linked to anti-tumor behavior.
Cantaloupes contain substances which are known to help maintain eye health. Cantaloupes contain carotenoids, which are associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, as is the vitamin-C content of cantaloupes.
Cantaloupes have a high amount of dietary fiber, which is an essential component of healthy bowel movements and digestive health. Eating a proper amount of dietary fiber can bulk up your stool and reduce your chances of becoming constipated, and can make your bowel movements more regular and consistent. By insuring a smooth flow through your digestive tract and colon, you reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and other dangerous gastrointestinal conditions.
Eating cantaloupes is good for your skin. Cantaloupes are wonderful places to find beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin-A. The body converts the beta-carotene into vitamin-A, which enters the skin and stimulates the membranes of skin cells and increases regrowth and repair.
They help reduce stress and anxiety. Potassium is one of the essential nutrients found in cantaloupes. Potassium has been shown to relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Excited levels of blood pressure can act as a stressor on the body, and can even induce the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Potassium also increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and reduce the presence of stress hormones in the body, which can seriously reduce symptoms of anxiety.
The phytochemicals in cantaloupe also have anti-inflammatory qualities. This means that having a proper amount of cantaloupe in your diet can help prevent oxidative stress on your joints and bones, thereby reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation of these vital areas can lead to conditions like arthritis.
There are plenty of ways to consume cantaloupe aside from raw... Not that there is anything wrong with a nice, juicy slice or cube of cantaloupe. However, eating raw cantaloupe is common; most of us have enjoyed melon slices and fruit salad numerous times over the courses of our lives. Consider this an opportunity to experiment a little with this wonderful fruit, rather than doing the same old thing!