Watermelon SaladWatermelon is a wonderful addition to a summer menu. As a fruit salad, it can be made ahead of time, chilled and served at the beginning or end of a meal. Watermelon is currently a hot nutrition item not only because of the lycopene in the red flesh but because of the tart white rind which contains citrulline.

Citrulline in an amino acid that helps dilate blood vessels to improve circulation. It is converted into arginine (another amino acid) to help produce nitric oxide for muscle relaxation and reduce muscle soreness, making it a prime ingredient in energy drinks. Other foods high in arginine are shrimp, spinach, sea vegetables, sunflower and sesame seeds.

Watermelon needs to be fully ripe to get the most benefit of lycopene. A light pink instead of red flesh has significantly less lycopene. Americans consume over 4 billion pounds of watermelon each year and ranks high in lycopene along with tomatoes, pink grapefruit and guava. Lycopene is a very stable carotenoid and does not begin to deteriorate until after 7 days of storage according to a 2004 research study in Postharvest Biology and technology.

Watermelon seeds are a summer staple for chewing and spitting. Roasted seeds do contain some iron and zinc but the oxalates and phytates in them limit nutrition bioavailability. A little protein can be consumed from the seeds (1 gram per 24 seeds) but watermelon is a fruit and therefore not a good protein source. Those white seeds found in seedless varieties are only seed coats and add no nutrition.

Grape and Watermelon Salad is a popular way of enjoying the red flesh while the tart rind cubes are added to lime juice and diet uncola in a blender for a refreshing beverage (gin and vodka may be added, if desired). The only thing that goes into compost is the tough outer skin. Those desiring a more traditional watermelon salad can substitute 1 cup chopped cucumbers instead of grapes.

Grape & Watermelon Salad

1 pound seedless organic grapes
3 cups seedless watermelon cubes
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons vinagrette dressing
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

Combine grapes, watermelon, feta cheese and dressing in bowl. Toss gently. Sprinkle on mint leaves. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Calories per serving 82
Protein 2 g
Carbohydrates 13 g
Fat 6 g
Sodium 78 mg