First cultivated almost 4,000 years ago, melons smell and taste sweet, provide minimal calories and add color to your meals. And they also provide a range of nutrients that help you stay healthy and feel your best. Whether you prefer watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or a variety of melons, the pleasing taste only touches the surface when it comes to the benefits of melons in your diet.
Melons, like squash, are members of the gourd family. Although watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe are among the most popular fruits in the melon family, other varieties include the horned, casaba and banana melons. Low energy density is a primary benefit of melons, meaning they help you add volume to your diet without piling on a large number of calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that low-energy-density foods can help you feel full and satisfied with fewer calories.
While the nutritional content of melon types varies, most are good sources of important vitamins and antioxidants. For example, casaba, cantaloupe and honeydew melons are good sources of vitamin B6, niacin and folate. Watermelon provides lycopene, a cartenoid that gives the melons their color and may, according to the American Cancer Society, have a protective effect against lung, prostate and stomach cancer. Additionally, 4.8-oz. portions of honeydew melon and cantaloupe provide 45 percent and 80 percent of the daily value of vitamin C, respectively.
Fruit in the Diet
Including varieties of melons in your diet helps you meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendation of 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit daily for adults. Most people need to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets, which can have a positive impact when you're restricting calories or simply trying to consume a balanced, health-centered diet. A cholesterol and fat free food, melons range in calories from 24 to 32 calories per 1/2-cup serving, according to the Network for a Healthy California.
Even though melons are packed with healthful nutrients, proper preparation protects you from possible contaminants lurking on the outside. The CDC recommend washing uncut melons in soap and warm water to prevent transferring contaminants from the rind to the inside of the melon. Once you've cut a melon, you can safely store the cut fruit in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days, according to the CDC.