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Melons: A Satisfying Snack
The next time you’re in search of a healthy, flavorful, satisfying snack, think melons – as in cantaloupes! Melons are full of nutrients and won’t put you over your calorie limit.
The cantaloupe, a small round melon, is refreshing, filling and a great source of key nutrients. In fact, of all melons, cantaloupes contain the largest amount of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant in the body and may help reduce the risk of some cancers.
Cantaloupe is also a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C.
As mentioned, cantaloupe is a caloric benefit to your diet. You can eat enough to feel quite full without having to consume a large number of calories.
The secret of the cantaloupe is the amount of water it contains. The high water content contributes to their volume or bulk, so they are a good source of fluids, too.
Melons belong to the Cucurbit family, which also includes cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds and squash. There are two categories of melons — watermelons and muskmelons.
Watermelons range in size and shape from miniature balls to 20 to 30 pound oblong melons with or without seeds.
Muskmelons contain a central cavity filled with seeds. There are three basic skin types — ridged, meshed or smooth.
A leading indicator of ripeness is smell. The melon should have a sweet aroma.
Store both ripe cut and uncut melons wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. This will prevent melon aromas from permeating other foods and vice versa. Slightly unripe melons can stand at room temperature for a few days to further develop flavor, aroma and texture.
Whole ripe melons will last about a week in the refrigerator and cut ones about two to three days. Cutting through the rind of an unwashed melon can draw bacteria from the surface into the flesh. Be sure to rinse the entire outside of melon with tap water before cutting to remove any surface dirt.
Melon Math: 3-pounce muskmelon equals 6 cups diced melon or 6 (1-cup) servings.
The nutritive value of melons greatly depends on the variety of melon. Melons are in the same family as squash; their nutritive value ranks somewhere between summer and winter squash. Most are excellent sources of vitamin C and potassium. Varieties with a deep orange flesh, such as cantaloupe, are exceptional sources of beta carotene, which provides vitamin A. The vitamin A in one cup of cantaloupe gives one-half of an adult male’s daily Vitamin A requirement and about two-thirds of an adult woman’s.
The great thing about melons is that the calorie and fat values are low. Use melons to boost your “5-a-Day” (fruits and vegetables) count.
Varieties of melons with a deep orange flesh, such as cantaloupe, are exceptional sources of beta carotene, which provides vitamin A.
Is the Melon Fresh?
Do not knock on a melon to check its ripeness – slap it instead, say pro-chefs. You are listening for a hollow ring, not a dull thud.
To test for ripeness in watermelon, snap thumb and third finger against the melon. If it says “pink”, in a high, shrill tone, the melon is not ripe. If you hear “punk” in a deep, low tone, the melon is ready to eat.
Melon Bits & Bites
- The melons grown and consumed in the United States are actually muskmelons.
- True cantaloupes come from Europe and have a distinct warty surface.
- The khaki-colored melons with the netted rind that we refer to as cantaloupes are the most popular of American melons. Cantaloupes are best June through September. Melons can be left to ripen at room temperature, but refrigerate as soon as they are ripe. If a cantalope is ripe, you should be able to hear the seeds rattling inside and they should give off a sweet fragrance. If the melon is soft all over, it is probably over-ripe.
- If a watermelon needs to be removed from the refrigerator, and must sit for a while before being cut, try placing it in a double brown bag to keep it cool longer.
- When you’re looking for a satisfying, nutrient-dense snack or dessert or side dish that will leave you with calories to spare slice into a fresh melon.
Quick Melon Frappe
Puree 1 cup cubed cantaloupe and 1 teaspoon chopped crystallized ginger in blender. Add 2/3 cup fat free milk, 1/4 cup plain fat free yogurt, 2 ice cubes and 1/2 tablespoon honey and puree. Makes 2 cups.
A delicious dessert: Pair your melons with frozen yogurt – or try the following recipe, packed with healthful, nutritious melons.
- Are an excellent source of beta carotene.
- Excellent sources of vitamin C and potassium.
- Calorie and fat values are low.
Melon Ambrosia Recipe
- 1 cup watermelon balls or cubes
- 1 cup cantaloupe balls or cubes
- 1 cup honeydew melon balls or cubes
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted
- Fresh mint, optional
In a bowl, combine melon balls. In another bowl, combine the lime juice, sugar and honey; pour over melon and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Sprinkle with coconut. Garnish with mint if desired. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Nutritional information per 3/4 cup serving:
Calories: 137; Fat: 4g; Saturated fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 0; Sodium: 12mg; Carbohydrate: 29g; Fiber: 2g; Protein: 1g; Diabetic Exchange: 2 Fruit
Read More: Food Facts