What is a cantaloupe? Cantaloupes are also commonly known as muskmelons, mush melons, rock melons and Persian melons. They are a member of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae, along with honeydew and watermelons. It is known to contain substances that can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing the risks of heart disease, reduce the risk of cancer and prevent cataracts.
How can it help? According to John Erdman, Ph.D., director of the division of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois in Urbana,
“Cantaloupe is one of the few fruits or vegetables rich in both vitamin C and beta-carotene.”
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that is either converted to vitamin A or retinol once ingested or it can act as an antioxidant that protects cells from the damaging effects of harmful free radicals that cause cancer. This compound also maintains skin and eye health and lower the risks of coronary artery disease, stroke, macular degeneration and other age-related diseases. Diets rich in beta-carotene from plant foods like 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 Half a cantaloupe provides 5 milligrams of beta-carotene, an estimated 50 percent of the Daily Value – the value that represents the necessary intake of a nutrient per day.
Vitamin C, on the other hand, boosts the immune system, lowers hypertension, helps against cataracts, and is essentially a potent water soluble antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and assists in the synthesis of collagen which makes the blood vessels and muscles strong. It also keeps the blood vessels clear and the blood moving smoothly. One cup of cantaloupe contains 68 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 113 percent of the Daily Value.
Another antioxidant called zeaxanthin is also present in cantaloupe. It filters out harmful blue light rays and plays a protective role in eye health.
Moreover, cantaloupe is also a great source of another component that lowers blood pressure – potassium, says George Webb, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and biophysics at the University Of Vermont College Of Medicine in Burlington. One half of a cantaloupe contains 825 milligrams of potassium which is equivalent to 24 percent of the Daily Value. This is more potassium than a banana can offer.
Potassium is used by the body to help eliminate excess sodium, which in large amounts can cause blood pressure to rise. The more potassium intake, the more sodium loss and most likely the lower the blood pressure. This is particularly true for salt-sensitive individuals.
In a large international study involving more than 10,000 people, researchers found that those with the highest levels of potassium had the lowest blood pressures while those with the least were more likely to have higher blood pressures.
Furthermore, studies have shown that potassium may help prevent the low density lipoprotein cholesterols a.k.a. bad cholesterol to undergo chemical changes that cause it to stick to artery walls, while at the same time tends to raise high density lipoprotein cholesterol a.k.a. good cholesterol levels. It may also help thwart the hardening of arteries called atherosclerosis and the formation of blood clots that cause stroke and heart attack.
This is an example of a dish that utilizes the cantaloupe and other herbs and spices that can help reduce the risks of cancer such as the jalapeno and mint.
1 medium cantaloupe
1 small jalapeno pepper
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. fresh mint
1/8 tsp. salt
Peel the cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Cut into dices of desired size (recommended is ½ inch). Place into a bowl and add the finely minced jalapenos and mint, salt and lime juice. Stir to mix.
Yields 4 servings with each serving containing 56 calories, 0.4 grams total fat, 0.1 grams saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 83 milligrams sodium and 1.4 grams dietary fiber.