Cantaloupes: Common Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts?

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Cantaloupes: Common Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts

Cantaloupes: Common Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts?

A sweet, juicy slice of cantaloupe is refreshing on a hot summer day, or any time of year. Like other melons, cantaloupe has a high water content (about 90 percent), but being packed with water doesn’t mean that this popular fruit lacks nutritional value.

About cantaloupe

It is thought that the fruit was named “cantaloupe” for Cantalupo, an Italian town near Vatican City, where melon seeds brought from Armenia were planted in the papal gardens during the Renaissance, according to World’s Healthiest Foods.

Cantaloupes are in the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, which includes other plants that grow on a vine, such as watermelon, honeydew and casaba melons, as well as pumpkins, squash and cucumbers. According to the University of Illinois Extension, the cantaloupe is a variety of muskmelon. North American cantaloupes (Cucumis melo reticulatus) are known for their uniform “netting” over the rind; European cantaloupes (Cucumis melo cantalupensis) have greener skin, little netting, deep grooves and would surprise most Americans by being called cantaloupes.

Cantaloupe nutrition is a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A, in the form of carotenoids. In fact cantaloupe is thought to be one of the highest fruit sources of vitamin A, while also providing potassium, and B vitamins including thiamine, niacin, folate, as well as vitamin K, magnesium, and fiber. Also good source of the mineral potassium. Another benefit is that the fruit’s deep-orange flesh is full of flavor, but is low in calories.

“This melon is a great choice when it comes to nutrients per calorie,” said Heather Mangieri, a Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian and nutritionist, author and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“One cup of cantaloupe contains only about 55 calories (due to its high water content) but offers over 100 percent of your daily needs for vitamin A, over 50 percent of the daily needs for vitamin C, 1.5 grams of fiber and is a good source of potassium,” Mangieri said.

According to a 2006 study published in HortScience found that cantaloupes have even higher concentrations of beta-carotene, which are plant pigments found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables that the body converts to vitamin A, than oranges, even though oranges are brighter in color.

Nutrition facts

Here are the nutrition facts for one cup of cantaloupe, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

Cantaloupe
Serving size: 1 cup, cubed (160 g)
Calories 54 (Calories from Fat 3)
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Nutrition Facts

Cantaloupe

Serving size:
1 cup, cubed (160 g)
Calories 54
Calories from Fat 3

Health benefits

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods such as cantaloupe decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Cantaloupe is not a well-studied fruit on its own. Most of the research on the health benefits of the melon has focused on a person’s total dietary intake of fruits and vegetables in general, or studies have looked at diets rich in specific nutrients or plant compounds found in these fruits, such as carotenoids, potassium or vitamin C. This makes it hard to draw firm conclusions about the unique health benefits of cantaloupe.

Antioxidant power

Cantaloupe is a rich food source of vitamins A and C.
“Vitamins A and C are both antioxidants that work to keep your body healthy,” Mangieri said. Antioxidants can have protective effects by neutralizing free radicals, which can damage DNA in cells and promote chronic inflammation in the body.

Free radicals cause cell damage and disruption that can contribute to diseases. “Antioxidants such as vitamins A and C may help prevent conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis,” Mangieri added.

Heart health

There is strong evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and can also lower blood pressure, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Eye health

Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can keep your eyes healthy and may help fend off cataracts and macular degeneration, two common age-related eye problems, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The antioxidant, found in cantaloupe, filters out harmful blue light rays and is thought to play a protective role in eye health and possibly ward off damage from macular degeneration. A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Digestion

The fiber and water in cantaloupe can aid digestion and help prevent constipation, when included as part of a high-fiber diet, such as a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Asthma

The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, found in yellow and orange fruits such as cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, and leafy greens, including spinach and kale. Vitamin C is another important nutrient that may protect against asthma and is found in abundance in cantaloupe, as well as citrus and tropical fruits.

Blood pressure

The fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and choline content in cantaloupe all support heart health. Consuming foods that are high in potassium can help to decrease blood pressure. Getting enough potassium is almost as important as reducing sodium intake for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). Foods that are high in potassium include cantaloupe, pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, spinach, and bananas.

High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density, and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.

Cancer

Diets rich in beta-carotene from plant foods such as cantaloupe may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. Beta-carotene has also been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population.

Digestion
Cantaloupe, because it is high in both fiber and moisture, helps to prevent constipation, promote regularity, and maintain a healthy digestive tract.

Hydration

With its high water and electrolyte content, cantaloupe is a great snack to have on hand during the hot summer months to prevent dehydration. It is also a great go-to snack after a workout for this same reason.

Inflammation

Choline is an essential and versatile nutrient that is present in cantaloupe; it aids the body in sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat, and reduces chronic inflammation.

Skin and hair

Eating fruits such as cantaloupe are beneficial for hair because they contain vitamin A, a nutrient required for sebum production, which is a compound that keeps hair moisturized and healthy. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair. Adequate intake of vitamin C is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. One cup of diced cantaloupe provides 97 percent of a person’s daily needs for vitamin C.

Cantaloupe also contributes to overall hydration, which is vital for having healthy looking skin and hair. It can even be used as a hair conditioner – mash together cantaloupe chunks and avocado, smooth onto hair and leave on for 10 minutes to replenish moisture and add shine.

Risks of eating cantaloupe

In general, enjoying cantaloupe poses little risk for most people. However, cantaloupes have been linked to more than 10 foodborne illness outbreaks in the past 10 to 15 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of these incidents were bacterial infections caused by salmonella, but people have also been sickened by E.coli, and there were some deaths reported in a multistate { outbreak of listeria.

In one analysis published in Epidemiology and Infection in 2006, researchers found that 25 outbreaks were linked to the consumption of cantaloupe and reported to the CDC between 1973 and 2003. These outbreaks affected more than 1,600 people, but the researchers suspect that the actual number of people sickened by eating contaminated cantaloupe was probably much higher because some cases of cantaloupe-related illness may never have been reported to health officials.

Cantaloupe may be vulnerable to outbreaks of foodborne illness because the fruit is grown in close contact with the ground, where it may become contaminated with bacteria from the soil, water or animals before it is harvested, according to Colorado State University. Bacteria can also be transmitted during the processing of pre-cut melon, from a knife cutting through contaminated rinds. If the same contaminated knife continues to be used, it can transfer bacteria to the flesh inside. (To stay safe when cutting cantaloupe at home, see the tips below.)

Bacterial contamination is not the only possible risk from eating cantaloupe. Some people with allergies to ragweed pollen may also develop symptoms of oral allergy syndrome immediately after eating melons, such as cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew.

Tips for cutting cantaloupe

  • Purchase melons without any visible bruises, cracks or soft spots on the skin.
  • Wash hands with soap and water before handling cantaloupes.
  • Scrub the outer surface of the melon with a vegetable brush under cool tap water before eating the fruit. Pat the fruit dry with paper towels to remove excess water.
  • Using a clean knife and cutting board, cut off the stem end (where the fruit was attached to the vine) of the cantaloupe and throw it out. Studies have found that this area is most likely to have bacterial contamination.
  • Cut the entire melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Using a knife or melon baller, cut up the orange flesh.
  • After cutting up the melon, wash any utensils and cutting boards used in hot, soapy water and refrigerate the sliced melon.

Fun facts

  • Cantaloupe seeds can be roasted and eaten as a snack.
  • California is the largest cantaloupe-producing state in the country. Over half of all U.S. cantaloupes are grown there. The next six states are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana and Texas.
  • The United States also imports cantaloupes each year, primarily from Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Additional resources

World’s Healthiest Foods: Cantaloupe
University of Maine Extension: Melons

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what Is Cantaloupe?

Cantaloupe (muskmelon, mushmelon, rockmelon, sweet melon) or spanspek (South Africa) is a variety of the Cucumis melo species in the Cucurbitaceae family.

In fact, a few doctors often recommend a healthy diet of cantaloupe and other citrus fruits for asthma patients to prevent frequent occurrence of asthma attacks.

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