What’s Hidden Behind the Sweetness of Watermelon?

Michael Merschel wrote . . . . . . . . .

Whether they’re serving as snacks at a family reunion or props in a late-night comedy act, watermelons and fun just seem to go together. But how does watermelon hold up health-wise?

Smashingly, you might say.

“I’m definitely impressed by its health benefits,” said Tim Allerton, a postdoctoral researcher at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

Fruit is always part of a healthy diet. But watermelon’s combination of nutrients makes it special, Allerton said.

It’s a rich source of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. It’s also a good source of vitamins C and A (plus beta carotene, which helps produce vitamin A), and it has fair amounts of vitamins B1, B5 and B6. You get all of that for only 46.5 calories per cup.

Befitting its name, watermelon is about 92% water, which suggests why ancestral watermelons were carried in Africa’s Kalahari Desert as long as 5,000 years ago. This is a treat with a lineage: Modern-looking versions are depicted in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Where watermelon really stands out is in its concentration of certain antioxidants, which regulate cell-damaging free radicals in the body. “Our body has its own antioxidant system, but it helps to get a boost from our diet,” Allerton said. “And watermelon is a good source of those antioxidants.”

Lycopene, which gives watermelon its reddish color, is one of those antioxidants, along with vitamins C and A. Lycopene also works as an anti-inflammatory and has been linked to lower stroke risk. It is most abundant in cooked tomato products, but watermelon’s lycopene levels are about 40% higher than raw tomatoes.

Watermelon also has glutathione, which Allerton called a “versatile, global antioxidant.”

And watermelon is high in an amino acid called citrulline, which has been a focus of Allerton’s research. “Watermelon is pretty unique because not a lot of foods are high in this,” he said.

In a small 2013 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, citrulline in watermelon juice was credited with helping relieve sore muscles in athletes.

Citrulline also is linked to the production of nitric oxide, which is important for the health of blood vessels. Several small studies suggest citrulline in watermelon extract could lower blood pressure, although those effects were seen in people eating the equivalent of more than 3 pounds of watermelon a day for six weeks.

That’s a lot of watermelon. But aside from the general idea that overindulgence in anything is a bad idea, Allerton said there’s no downside to enjoying it.

Even though it has natural sugar and a high glycemic index – a measure of how fast sugar enters the bloodstream – it has a low glycemic load. That means its actual effect on blood sugar is small. And it will fill you up faster than, say, a bowl of cookies.

All nutrition and science aside, afficionados of the fruit just enjoy the taste. Superfan Mark Twain wrote, “It is the chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”

Allerton prefers his straight up, but he adds that watermelon juice retains many of the benefits of the whole fruit because so much of the fruit is water already.

That makes watermelon work well in smoothies. Or you can turn it into a fruit salsa.

Experts agree the secret to finding a ripe one is to look for a creamy yellow spot from where the watermelon sat on the ground. If the spot looks more white than yellow, then the melon may not be fully ripe. Weight also is a sign of quality – the heavier the better.

But most experts say you can’t learn much about a watermelon’s ripeness from thumping one. So you can probably leave that to the comedians.

Source: American Heart Association

What’s for Lunch?

Fried Shrimp Set Meal at Izakaya Restaurant in Nagoya, Japan

The price is 980 yen plus tax.

Even on ‘Down’ Days, Music a Motivator for Runners

The key to pushing through mental fatigue while running might be adding some earbuds to your workout gear.

U.K. researchers worked with 18 fitness enthusiasts to determine the impact of music on running performance. They found that running to self-selected tunes improved runners’ performance when mentally fatigued during two separate tests.

“Mental fatigue is a common occurrence for many of us, and can negatively impact many of our day-to-day activities, including exercise,” said study author Shaun Phillips, of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport.

The first test looked at the effects on interval running capacity — alternating between high-intensity running and lower-intensity jogging — on nine physically active exercisers. The second test involved a 3-mile time trial with nine runners.

The groups completed a 30-minute computer-based cognitive test that put them in a mentally fatigued state before completing high-intensity exercise. Researchers tested the runners both with and without self-selected motivational music after assisting the participants with a pre-test questionnaire that asked them to rate the rhythm, style, melody, tempo, sound and beat of the music.

Songs included Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Kanye West’s “Power” and Queens of the Strong Age’s “No One Knows.”

The researchers found the interval running capacity among the mentally fatigued fitness enthusiasts was greater with music compared to without music. It was the same as when the participants were not mentally fatigued.

The 3-mile time trial performances also showed small improvements with self-selected music versus no music.

The positive effects of music could potentially be due to altered perception of effort when listening to tunes, researchers said. This presents an opportunity for further study on how listening to music while running affects other groups of people, as well as in different exercise challenges. Research is ongoing at the University of Edinburgh.

“The findings indicate that listening to self-selected motivational music may be a useful strategy to help active people improve their endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued,” Phillips said in a university news release. “This positive impact of self-selected music could help people to better maintain the quality and beneficial impact of their exercise sessions.”

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

Source: HealthDay

Halibut with Puttanesca Sauce

Ingredients

1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup oil-cured black olives, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons capers
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 halibut steaks (about 6 to 8 ounces each)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. Drain tomatoes, reserving 1/2 cup liquid. Seed and coarsely chop tomatoes.
  2. Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add onion and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Raise heat to medium high, add tomatoes, reserved liquid, olives, capers, anchovies, and rosemary and cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Heat remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of halibut steaks with salt and pepper. Cook steaks until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
  6. Reheat the sauce until it simmers. Stir in parsley. Serve the halibut with a little sauce on each steak.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: What to have for Dinner


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