Melon: juicy refreshment (nd-aktuell.de)

Watermelons in a regional market in Bangladesh.

Watermelons in a regional market in Bangladesh.

Photo: IMAGO/Joy Saha

Bright pink on a white edge with a dark green smooth skin – this is how cut watermelons shine in front of sales stands. Like cucumbers and pumpkins, they actually belong to the vegetable group, even though they taste fruity, sweet, and juicy. There are two different kinds: watermelons and sugar melons. Both are refreshing on hot summer days.

Especially watermelon, which contains only 8.3 grams of sugar per 100 grams, is highly recommended for people with diabetes or high blood pressure. But melon also has health benefits. They contain an average of 12 grams of sugar per hundred grams and, compared to watermelon, typically have five times the vitamin C, ten times the vitamin A equivalent and three times the potassium.

The mineral potassium acts as an antagonist of sodium and is necessary for a balanced water balance and a well-functioning cardiovascular system. Especially if you sweat a lot in the summer heat, you need not only to replace the water, but also to replenish the elements sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, which are called electrolytes.

Sugar melons with the genus name Cucumis melo include the yellowish honeydew melon, the netted melon with a white-gray mesh structure on the rind, and the gray-skinned cantaloupe melon.

Melons are native to Africa and the East. In the 3rd century BC, they were widespread in Greece, China and the Roman Empire. At that time, melons only reached the size of modern oranges. Larger specimens did not begin to be bred until the 14th century.

Due to its oval shape, a melon can reach a length of 30 centimeters and a weight of four kilograms. It has a smooth yellow skin, and the flesh is yellowish-green. Their taste resembles honey. On hot summer days in southern countries, it is served as a traditional snack along with salty and spicy snacks.

The pulp of net melon is often light orange, which indicates the content of carotene in it. Cantaloupe-type light gray melons, which look quite inconspicuous on the outside, are dark orange to almost red on the inside and have the highest carotenoid content of any melon, which as a precursor to vitamin A is very beneficial for the eyes, skin and mucous membranes.

A watermelon with the botanical name Citrullis lunatus can weigh up to 15 kilograms. Their shape varies from round to oval, the shell usually has a dark green or green-gray pattern. The bright pink flesh is slightly plumper than cantaloupe and contains 90 to 95 percent water.

It is this water that makes them so refreshing and perfectly quenches thirst. Cell-bound water makes a huge difference to regular drinking water: with the help of fructose and glucose found in fruit, the intestines can much better absorb the minerals potassium, calcium and magnesium stored in fruit. It is beneficial for people with diabetes.

People with diabetes suffer especially from thirst. When women with diabetes go through menopause, there are often fluctuations in blood sugar and sugar metabolism that is difficult to control. If, in the case of diabetes, the concentration of sugar in the blood gradually rises to more than 180 milligrams per deciliter, or the equivalent of 10 millimoles per liter – this is the so-called renal threshold – the kidneys can no longer fully absorb sugar. Part of the sugar is then excreted in the urine. At the same time, it extracts more water and mineral substances from the body, which is noticeable by frequent urination with strong urges to urinate. This can actually dehydrate the body and also lead to potassium deficiency.

If the body does not have enough potassium, it can further disrupt sugar metabolism. In addition, a lack of potassium combined with excessive sodium intake (usually from table salt) is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The body cannot use magnesium optimally if it lacks potassium. Low levels of potassium in the blood can lead to muscle weakness and heart arrhythmias.

Therefore, potassium-rich fruits and vegetables or potatoes are important for everyone in the summer. If the stove and kitchen must stay cool on hot days, pieces of melon instead of the daily potato contribute to a good supply of potassium.

Foods with a low “glycemic index” are often recommended for people who are overweight and have a sugar intolerance. These include oatmeal, due to which the blood sugar level rises only gradually and slightly. In theory, melons are not so good here. However, if you consider the total amount of suitable sugar per 100 grams, then for watermelons, an acceptable “glycemic load” is six grams, that is, a well-tolerated “load” for blood sugar levels.

Pairing cantaloupe with protein and fat-rich ingredients such as walnuts, toasted kernels, or goat cheese can help the sugars in cantaloupe to be absorbed more slowly by the intestines. You can even use watermelon seeds. They contain protein, unsaturated fatty acids, as well as magnesium, calcium and iron. Pan-fried in a little oil and lightly salted, the seeds can be sprinkled on soups and salads, or ground and mixed into bread dough.

More than 250 grams of melon during a meal is also not recommended due to limited intestinal capacity. Like green cucumber, melon stimulates the bowels. To avoid diarrhea caused by bacteria, it is important to maintain an uninterrupted cold chain for cut melons. Melons should be bought whole. Cut and cover with a plate or food film, they have a place in the refrigerator.

Some melon varieties, such as the Galia melon, are quite small and can be grown in the same family. Currently, health food stores sell very small diluted watermelons, weighing only 600 grams. Even lonely people can eat a fruit for three days without throwing away the valuable remains.

Especially large specimens of watermelons, such as those sold at discount stores, can be eaten together with friends or family, or can be shared with good neighbors.

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