Cantaloupe is a sweet, juicy fruit that makes a refreshing addition to salads, smoothies, and yogurts. It has high water content, but that does not mean that it lacks nutrition. Cantaloupes are rich sources of several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Their health benefits include boosting immunity, alleviating menstrual cramps, lowering inflammation, and regulating blood pressure.
What is a cantaloupe?
Cantaloupes, also known as rockmelon, sweet melon, or spanspek, are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. They grow on low vines and have a webbed outer skin that turns from green to beige when ripe. A ripe cantaloupe is sweet, juicy, and tender. An unripe fruit usually lacks flavor and is crunchy, while the overripe fruit has a mushy texture.
The cantaloupe originated in a region from South Asia to Africa. It was introduced to Europe in 1890.
The nutritional profile of cantaloupes
One cup (156 grams) of raw cantaloupe contains (1) –
- Calories – 53
- Water – 141 grams
- Fat – 0.3 grams
- Proteins – 1.28 grams
- Carbohydrates – 13.6 grams
- Fiber – 1.25 grams
- Calcium – 1% of DV
- Iron – 2% of DV
- Vitamin C – 94% of the daily value
- Vitamin A – 106% of the daily value
Cantaloupe is also a rich source of vitamin K, vitamin B6, niacin, folate, magnesium, and potassium. It contains antioxidants like choline, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
Health benefits of cantaloupes
The high water content (90%) of cantaloupes keeps you hydrated. It is also rich in potassium, an electrolyte that our body loses when we sweat. Eating electrolyte-rich foods like cantaloupes after exercising helps the body recover and lowers the chances of muscle cramps and fatigue. Proper hydration also improves digestion, keeps kidneys healthy, and helps regulate blood pressure.
2. Keeps your eyes healthy
Cantaloupe protects the eyes from several age-related eye diseases, including macular degeneration. It is rich in beta carotene, which can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by 50 %. Cantaloupe contains antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein, which are known to protect the eyes and scavenge free radicals in the retina. The vitamin C content in this fruit also helps in reducing the risk of cataracts.
3. Lowers the risk of developing asthma
Cantaloupes are rich in various nutrients that can help reduce the risk of asthma. One of these nutrients is beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body and can reduce the incidence of exercise-induced asthma.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant in cantaloupe that fights free radicals to lower the risk of asthma. According to a 2013 study from Japan that included 452 children age 3 to 6, the children with the highest intake of vitamin C are less likely to develop asthma than those with a lower intake (2).
4. Keeps your heart healthy
Cantaloupe contains fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, which play an essential role in keeping the heart healthy. Fiber lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, which helps in preventing heart disease. One cup of cantaloupe contains 1.25 grams of fiber, which is around five percent of our daily requirement.
The potassium content in cantaloupe helps to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, and protect against the loss of muscle mass and bone mineral density. Since cantaloupe keeps you hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood, which helps to regulate blood pressure.
5. Improves digestion
Cantaloupe is rich in both fiber and water, both of which are essential for a healthy digestive system. They help to promote regularity, prevent constipation, and keep the digestive tract healthy. Having a healthy digestive tract also helps to ward off ailments like irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and colon cancer.
6. Reduces cancer risk
According to the Harvard School of public health, foods rich in beta-carotene like cantaloupe may protect against prostate cancer (3). Beta carotene and zeaxanthin also have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer (4).
7. Helps relieve period cramps
Cantaloupes contain vitamin C, which helps to diminish unpleasant symptoms of menstruation like muscle cramps, excess pain, and mood swings. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties, which help to decrease cramping. Women lose iron during menstruation. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron. The fiber content of cantaloupes also helps in reducing muscle spasms.
8. Reduces stress
Cantaloupe contains potassium, which is a vasodilator. A vasodilator widens the blood vessels to make the passage of blood easier. This process helps to lower blood pressure and keeps you stress-free. When the blood vessels are constricted, it can stimulate the release of cortisol which is a stress hormone. Potassium also increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, which helps in keeping you calm and stress-free.
9. Boosts immunity
Cantaloupes are a rich source of vitamin C, which plays a vital role in strengthening the immune system. Research shows vitamin C increases white blood cells, which help in destroying viruses and bacteria. Vitamin C is also essential for the growth and repair of tissue all over the body. It helps heal wounds and repair and maintain healthy bones, skin, cartilage, and teeth.
10. Helps in weight loss
Cantaloupes are high in fiber, which helps to keep you satisfied, control hunger pangs, and aid in weight control. It is also low in calories (53 calories in one cup) and contains no fat or cholesterol.
11. Reduces inflammation
Inflammation is the normal immune response that helps your body fight infection. However, chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Cantaloupe extract has a powerful antioxidant called superoxide dismutase. According to a 2004 study, superoxide dismutase can reduce oxidative damage to cells (5).
12. Good for hair
Cantaloupe contains several nutrients that prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth. Vitamin A is essential for sebum production, which helps to keep the scalp and the hair moisturized. Vitamin C is needed to build and maintain collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. Vitamin C is also essential for the absorption of iron. A deficiency in iron can lead to hair loss.
13. Keeps skin young and healthy
Vitamin A in cantaloupe helps improve sun-damaged skin. It also repairs, moisturizes, and stabilizes skin’s collagen production. Vitamin A and C also help protect the skin from damage from the UV rays of the sun.
Cantaloupe is a beautiful skin cleanser as vitamin A helps in removing the dead skin cells. Cantaloupe pulp can also be used for treating burns and abrasions. The antioxidants in cantaloupes help reduce fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and thus keep premature aging at bay.
Risks associated with cantaloupe
Fruits like cantaloupe are grown in direct contact with the soil, which makes them prone to contamination from bacteria like E coli, listeria, and salmonella. These bacteria that contaminate the rind of the melon can infect the inner flesh when it is cut open. You must use a veggie brush to wash the rough outer surface of the fruit before you cut it open. Store the cantaloupe in the refrigerator and wash your hands, knife, and the cutting board after cutting the cantaloupe to prevent infection.
People are often prescribed beta-blockers for heart disease. These beta-blockers can increase the level of potassium in the blood. People who take beta-blockers should avoid taking too much of high potassium foods like cantaloupes. Too much potassium is also harmful to people with kidney disease.
How to buy it?
The best way to choose a good cantaloupe is by smell. The fruits should smell sweet and slightly musky. A good cantaloupe should be symmetrical and feel somewhat heavy for its size. The outside rind should be light yellow to orange with no green. Its stem end should yield slightly when you press it with your thumb.
How to store?
If the cantaloupe is still slightly green and not yet ready, let it ripen at room temperature for two days. Keeping it in a paper bag will speed up the process. A whole ripe melon can be refrigerated for up to five days. If you’ve already cut wedges, cover the surface, and you can refrigerate for three days. You must keep the seeds intact to prevent the flesh from drying out. If you have cut cubes, they can last for one or two days in a resealable container in the refrigerator.
Ways to enjoy cantaloupe
1. Cantaloupe salsa
Finely dice cucumbers, onion, tomato, and cantaloupe. Coarsely chop a bunch of cilantro. Put them all in a salad bowl and add one lime juiced and zested, salt and pepper, and mix well. Cover with a plastic swap and refrigerate for two hours to let the flavors blend well.
2. Cantaloupe smoothie
Take one cup vanilla yogurt, ½ cup orange juice, one cup sliced cantaloupe, and four crushed ice cubes. Blend all the ingredients in a blender for 30 seconds and serve.
3. Grilled cantaloupe
Cut one cantaloupe into medium-sized cubes. Heat ¼ cup butter and ½ cup honey in a pan. Add /13 cup chopped fresh mint leaves. Thread cantaloupe cubes onto skewers and grill them lightly. Brush it with the honey mixture while grating. Serve with the remaining honey mixture.
Cantaloupes are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. A ripe cantaloupe is sweet, juicy, and tender and makes a refreshing addition to salads, smoothies, and yogurts. They are rich in several nutrients and provide numerous health benefits like improved heart and eye health, stress relief, improved immunity, weight loss, and better skin and hair health.