During the hot summer months, there are few things more refreshing than tucking into a juicy watermelon. But even when you’re dying to delve into a piece of the fruit, there’s a time when you shouldn’t take a bite. If you spot an unsightly mark inside your watermelon, you need to get rid – and for good reason.
Of all the different fruits out there today, watermelons’ sheer size and striking colors make them undeniably one of the most eye-catching. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to miss them while browsing the supermarket shelves. But while you may then be tempted to grab a melon to take home with you, don’t gorge on it all in one go. After all, despite the fruit’s health benefits, you can still get sick if you overindulge.
Indeed, if you just so happen to eat large portions of watermelon each day, you run the risk of being struck down not only by indigestion, but also diarrhea and excess gas. And the potential issues with watermelon overconsumption don’t end there, either.
You see, watermelons possess a lot of potassium, and in excess this chemical compound can have a negative effect on one of your most vital organs. Specifically, it’s said that too much potassium can trigger an irregular heartbeat over time. But in addition to these risks, there’s actually something else that you need to look out for when you first open up a watermelon – and it’s important that you thoroughly investigate the fruit, too.
For some of us, there may come a point when we feel the need to adopt a healthier lifestyle – in order to lose weight, perhaps, or simply to be in the best physical condition possible. But while it’s simple enough to make the pledge to get fit, getting started on this new path is another thing entirely.
Changing up your diet is probably one of the easiest ways to kick things off, though, For instance, you can swap some of the more indulgent or calorific treats you eat with more nutritious fruits and vegetables instead. And watermelons may just satisfy your sweet tooth without you having to dip into the cookie jar.
Watermelons certainly hit the spot when the warmer weather comes around, anyway. That’s probably why they’re so popular in Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy. And while you can still enjoy watermelon throughout the year, it does have a specific season that begins in May. That period then comes to a close in September, as fall approaches.
And providing you eat them in moderation, watermelon can certainly help you on any health kick. For one, the fruit is both loaded with vitamin A – which plays a big role in maintaining the condition of your hair and skin – and the cell-boosting vitamin C.
Watermelons contain some helpful chemical compounds, too. Lycopene is one of these, as it can help strengthen both your bones and your heart if you incorporate it into your diet. What’s more, this so-called “phytonutrient” can even help stave off the threat of prostate cancer.
Then there’s watermelon’s bountiful supply of amino acids and antioxidants. And, as it happens, those are both just as good for us as lycopene. That’s according to dietitian Angela Lemond, who explained further when talking to Live Science in 2017.
Lemond told the website, “Foods that are high in antioxidants and amino acids allow your body to function optimally. Antioxidants help prevent damage and cancer.” She added, “Amino acids are the basic building block for protein, and protein is used in virtually every vital function in the body.”
Meanwhile, when a watermelon becomes ripe, another antioxidant known as beta carotene comes into play – and this too can be of great assistance to the body. Lemond explained, “Beta carotene is an antioxidant found in red-orange fruits and vegetables. It helps with immunity, skin, eye and the prevention of cancer.”
Nutritionist Victoria Jarzabkowski also shared some interesting facts about lycopene’s effects with Live Science. The food expert – who works at The University of Texas at Austin – claimed, for example, that the carotenoid’s anti-inflammatory properties could help if you become unwell.
“When you’re sick, you have cellular damage,” Jarzabkowski told the website. “[This] can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, smoking, pollution [and] disease, and your body becomes inflamed [as a result]. It’s called ‘systemic inflammation.’ The lycopene in watermelon makes it an anti-inflammatory fruit.” But that’s definitely not the only health benefit on offer.
Watermelons don’t contain any fat or many calories, you see, and that makes them a perfect aid in weight loss. The fruit itself is also made up of over 90 percent water – which explains why it’s so refreshing – while the electrolytes in its juice can help stave off issues such as heatstroke.
“Watermelons help with overall hydration,” Lemond told the science website. “And that is a great thing. They say we can get 20 to 30 percent of our fluid needs through our diet alone, and foods like these certainly help.” There’s a small percentage of fiber in a watermelon, too, and naturally that’s a boon for the digestive system.
So, if watermelon isn’t already a regular part of your diet, then it’s definitely worth snacking on a slice every now and again. That said, a challenge awaits you even after you decide to pick up one of the juicy fruits at the grocery store. More specifically, you have to judge whether the melon in question is ripe enough to get the most out of it – and that can be difficult to discern.
In fact, sometimes you’ll only learn how good the fruit is once it’s been cut open. So with that in mind, we’ve got a few tips that will help you select the right watermelon. And as it happens, you’ll definitely need to look out for a specific mark when next out shopping.
To begin with, you should pick up the watermelon and feel its weight. And if it seems quite heavy – regardless of its size – that’s a good first sign. From there, you should turn the fruit over and listen to the sound made when you tap its underside. Generally, a “deep hollow” noise indicates that the melon in question is good to eat; a duller sound, by contrast, means that you should leave it be for the moment.
And there’s an even more obvious tell that a watermelon is ripe: typically, there will be a yellow mark on its underside. But if you’re still concerned about finding the perfect produce, there’s yet another thing you can do. Take a trip to a farmers’ market; that way, the vendor can grab the right melon for you without much hassle.
Once you’ve finally got hold of the watermelon, however, you do need to be careful if you want to preserve it. For instance, you may have bought the fruit with the intention of eating it at a later date. In that case, it’s suggested that you keep it in your fridge for a maximum of two weeks.
But if you’ve since chopped the watermelon up into slices, that timeframe is significantly reduced. At that stage, you can only store those pieces in the fridge for up to five days; any longer, and there’s a very good chance that they’ll go off.
Thankfully, there’s another alternative storage method that will allow you to keep the watermelon for a lot longer than that. By chopping the fruit up into skinless slices, it can last for months in your freezer. Then, when the moment comes to eat the melon, you only need to stick it in the fridge for a few hours to defrost.
In fact, timing is everything when it comes to watermelons – especially if you want to get them at their freshest. Owing to the bright green rind that covers the flesh, though, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if a melon has started to spoil. Yet there are still a few clear signs out there, and all you need to do is keep your eyes peeled.
You see, some of the clearest indicators of a watermelon’s condition can be found on its skin. Often, overripe produce develops colored spots that range from blue to white, with these patches usually denoting that a form of mold is growing on the fruit’s exterior. These can also make the melon softer than normal.
And if you see those blemishes, you’d probably avoid that particular watermelon and opt for one that seems fairly ripe on the outside. But appearances can be deceiving, and you may still have picked up a spoiled item from the supermarket shelf. When you eventually carve your melon open, then, you could be in for a shock.
If the watermelon is off, you may notice some discoloration to its pink flesh. These marks are normally quite dark, too, so they’re easy enough to spot. And should you come across any unsightly blemishes like these, you’re advised to dispose of the fruit straight away – as consuming it will likely leave you feeling ill.
In fact, there are a few other signs to look out for after cutting the watermelon open. The flesh may be exuding a type of slime, for example, and naturally that means you should best steer clear of snacking on it. Bad produce may emit a foul or sour smell, too.
In all of those instances, then, the watermelon has to be thrown away, But, unfortunately, finding a bad fruit isn’t always so easy. Sometimes, in fact, there are times when the problem can’t be seen or smelled at all – and only tasting the melon gives the game away.
After taking the first bite from a slice of watermelon, then, you should be wary if the flavor is a little off – particularly if it seems fizzy or sour. And should that happen to you, it’s suggested that you don’t swallow the mouthful and discard what’s left.
What’s more, in 2011 a story circulated around the internet that seemed to hint at another potential issue with the fruit. That year, a number of reports emerged from China that suggested the watermelons there were literally “exploding.” But this wasn’t a natural phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, and a shocking explanation for the anomaly eventually came to light.
As it turned out, a number of farmers in China were becoming quite frustrated with the lack of growth in their watermelons. So, in order to help speed things up, they decided to douse the fruit in forchlorfenuron – a substance that should accelerate the growing process. This quick fix was more trouble than it was worth, though. In fact, you could say that it blew up in the farmers’ faces.
Then, after that story hit the headlines, a rumor started to spread. According to one theory, a crack in the center of a watermelon meant that it may have been exposed to forchlorfenuron. Naturally, then, people went on to shy away from eating that part of the melon – even though they actually had little to worry about.
You see, American farmers don’t use forchlorfenuron on watermelons, meaning there was no cause for concern when it came to U.S.-grown fruit. And, in fact, there’s a far more reasonable – and entirely natural – explanation for a melon’s interior crack.
Yes, “hollow heart disorder” is actually the real culprit. This phenomenon occurs when the watermelon is separated from its main source of pollen, with that characteristic rupture developing as a result. And food expert Gordon Johnson revealed more about the disorder when in conversation with Mashed.
“[Hollow heart disorder] occurs in poor weather conditions – and oftentimes in the early watermelons,” the University of Delaware researcher told the site. “That’s because we’re more likely to have cold nights or stormy conditions – particularly cold nights, where those early flowers are the most affected.”
Johnson added, “[Due to the lack of pollen], there is reduced release of the plant hormone that controls the development of storage tissue, leading to hollow heart.” So, if you discover a crack inside a watermelon, there’s nothing to worry about. Regardless of what you’ve read in the past, the fruit is perfectly fine to eat.
Now, if you’re a watermelon lover, you may already be aware of all the signs that we’ve talked about here. Yet Lemond had one final warning to share when talking to Live Science. As we’ve previously mentioned, you could be putting your health at risk by overindulging in this particular fruit.
Yes, while a “bad” watermelon can make you sick, consuming too much ripe produce in general could cause yet more issues. “Eating more fruits and vegetables of any kind naturally helps decrease overall calories of the diet,” Lemond said. “We know that people that eat higher quantities of fruits and vegetables typically have healthier body weights.”
Nonetheless, Lemond concluded, “However, I do not recommend eating only watermelon. You will lose weight, but that weight will be mostly muscle. My recommendation is always to vary your selections. Watermelon is a great hydrating food, so keep it in along with other plant foods that offer other benefits. Variety is always key.”
So, watermelon is great for you in moderation – and as part of a properly balanced diet, of course. But is another much-loved fruit – the avocado – just as healthy? And what exactly are we doing to our bodies when we snack on avo toast every weekend? Well, let’s find out.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” the old saying goes – but the apple may have had its days as a universal symbol of healthy eating. Avocados have taken the culinary world by storm, both for their subtle nutty flavor and their many health benefits. In fact, your daily avocado intake could have some startling effects on your body.
The avocado’s rise to popularity has been stratospheric. One way to quantify it is the amount of the fruit that Americans eat annually. In 1989, that figure was about a half-kilo of avocado per person. As of 2016, though, Americans had begun to consume 3 kilos each annually – and that number could very well be on the rise.
It was only comparitively recently that the the avocado began to skyrocket toward the popularity it has today. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow included a recipe for avocado-slathered toast in her 2013 cookbook, It’s All Good. From there, things took off as more and more people touted the fruit’s tastiness – and its health benefits, some of which will probably surprise even the biggest avocado fans.
People have been enjoying the health benefits of avocado for a seriously long time. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that the natives of Central America were cultivating and eating the nutritious fruit circa 10,000 BC. In fact, this region is still where avacados are most commonly grown to this day.
Mexico is home to the majority of the world’s avocado production, although you can find farms south of there, too. They also grow well in the Caribbean and in California – farmers have brought them overseas to southern Europe and Israel, too. In spite of their popularity today, though, it took a long time for American consumers to catch onto the trend.
The first effort came in the 1920s. At that point, avocado farms had made their way into California, but people didn’t know the fruit by its name today. Instead, they called them “alligator pears,” which makes sense – they have a similar color, and the rough exterior skin resembles that of a reptile.
Even so, “alligator pears” weren’t selling, and the California Avocado Society wanted to do something about it. So, they decided to launch a high-toned advertising campaign. They bought space in Vogue and The New Yorker, extolling the avocado as the “aristocrat of salad fruits,” according to a 2018 article from the BBC.
However, these ads didn’t exactly propel the avocado to superstardom. Instead, they created an “air of superiority around avocados,” according to the BBC’s Guy Kelly. Some might argue that the fruit still carries such a reputation. But that wasn’t necessarily the case in the early 1990s, when California farmers tried once again to market their produce.
This time, though, California farmers ignited a true obsession with their fruit. They wanted to spike avocado sales, of course, so they decided to rebrand their harvest to make it a must-have ingredient at Super Bowl parties the country over. How could an avocado fit into such a get-together? As a bowl of guacamole, naturally.
So, California avocado farmers doled out free samples of their harvest, as well as recipes that would turn the hard-skinned fruits into tasty guacamole. Their efforts can still be felt today – on Super Bowl Sunday, sports fans ingest a whopping 47 million kilos of the fruit, whether it’s whipped into guacamole or as part of another avocado-centric recipe.
Of course, avocados are now not confined to bowls of guacamole. People have come up with a slew of creative ways to eat the fruit. For example, adding slices of avocado into a fruit smoothie gives the beverage an even creamier texture. When combined with almond or coconut milk and sugar, avocado makes the perfect base for vegan ice cream.
And then, of course, there’s avocado toast. As previously mentioned, the actress Gwnyeth Paltrow included the breakfast recipe in her cookbook, It’s All Good. At the same time, a so-called “clean-eating” movement was sweeping the nation. People across the US began to adopt lifestyles similar to that of the Hollywood star.
The avocado-toast trend was especially popular with millennials – and their elders took notice. One in particular, millionaire property owner Tim Gurner, made his feelings known on a 2017 episode of Australia’s 60 Minutes. Gurner said that it was young adults own fault that they hadn’t gotten onto the property ladder – and it all had to do with their breakfasts.
Gurner said, “When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each.” Indeed, avocado prices have risen with their popularity. However, it would be a big mistake to blame millennials’ exclusion from the property market on their breakfast spread of choice.
Avocados have caused millennials problems, but in ways entirely unrelated to property ownership. Specifically, the fruit has gained notoriety for how difficult it is to cut. So many people have slashed through their hands while cutting the fruit that the injury has earned a very apt nickname – “avocado hand.”
Perhaps in response to the “avocado hand” trend, the California Avocado Commission has issued its tips for safely slicing into the fruit. They suggest placing the avocado flat on a cutting board, rather than holding it in your hand. Then, you slice it lengthwise twice so that you have it quartered.
Getting an avocado to this point takes time, though. For starters, it takes avocado trees about a decade to grow and mature before they start bearing fruit. They don’t sprout avocados all year long, either – in California, growing season typically stretches from February until September. Most of the fruit falls during the summer months.
Avocados can also be a bit problematic once they’re up for grabs at your local grocery store. They don’t have long shelf lives, and it can be tough to decipher if an avocado is ready to eat. Most people give the fruit a light squeeze to see if it gives into the pressure. If so, then the fruit should be soft enough to consume.
Unripe avocados can take anywhere from three to seven days to reach the perfect stage in their ripeness. Eat the fruit then, or pop it into the fridge for between three and five more days to keep it in perfect condition. After that, though, the fruit will probably start to brown – once that happens, it’s overripe and not particularly tasty to eat.
Once you master the arc of an avocado’s ripeness, though, you’re ready to fully incorporate them into your diet. That means you can spread it onto toast, smash it into guacamole, or eat it plain. It doesn’t matter how you eat it – in guacamole or sliced on toast – avacado provides a number of surprising health benefits.
For a start, avocados do seem to contain a high level of fat – just one half can contain 10 grams of it. Looking deeper, though, the fruit’s fats are monounsaturated, which we can eat without undue concern, as long as we do so in moderation. As a bonus, monounsaturated fats help level out cholesterol by boosting the amount of good cholesterol in your system while banishing the bad kind.
It’s not just high cholesterol that avocados can counteract. The fruit also contains a wealth of B vitamins – these are particularly helpful in protecting the body from infections and disease. On top of that, avocado has its fair share of vitamins C and E, too. Together, these vitamins, along with avocado’s natural chemicals, can help your body to ward off cancer.
A healthy avocado habit can protect your vision, as well. Namely, the fruit contains antioxidant phytochemicals, including zeaxanthin and lutein. Antioxidants can protect eyes from developing cataracts. So, regularly eating avocados could be a great defence mechanism – particularly when you consider that surgery is the only treatment that has proven to be effective for cataracts.
Nutritionist Carol Brown summed it up when she spoke to HuffPo in 2018 about the benefits of avocado. She explained, “Avocados are fantastic for you because they contain over 20 vitamins and minerals – vitamin C, vitamin E, many of the B vitamins […], magnesium and potassium. They are also loaded with ‘good fat,’ aka monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs).”
The immune system won’t be the only part of your body that responds to all these nutrients either. Because of their high fat and calorie content, avocados may seem like an unhealthy option compared to other produce. However, a more filling fruit has its upside – avocados have been shown to keep you fuller for longer, thus keeping your appetite in check.
You should also find that your digestion improves if you regularly eat avacados. If you chow down on half an avocado, you’ll boost your body’s fiber count by five grams – that’s 20 percent of your recommended intake per day. Fiber keeps the digestive process moving, and it can loosen up any blocks that have caused constipation.
An avocado serves up a healthy helping of magnesium, too. This essential mineral can help calm you down – some experts refer to it as an anti-stress operative. It makes sense, considering that magnesium has a hand in the brain’s functions and deployment of moods. That’s why a healthy magnesium intake can ward off depression, as well.
And nibbling on an avocado can even help usher in a better night’s sleep. Sometimes, magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. On a reduced scale, however, low magnesium levels can cause a night’s worth of restless sleep. You can attempt to rectify either scenario by boosting your body’s magnesium levels through your avocado intake.
While sleep is essential to keep us feeling our best, avocados may have even more positive effects. Their monounsaturated fat supply can help ward off the side effects of aging, too. More specifically, Brown explained, “[Healthy fats are] crucial for every cell in your body — research shows a diet high in MUFAs may […] be protective against cognitive decline as we age.”
Your avocado also contains a quarter of your day’s requirement of vitamin K. It’s not necessarily a nutrient that gets a lot of attention, especially when it comes to bone health – calcium and vitamin D tend to take the spotlight. However, the vitamin K in your avocado can facilitate even more of your body’s calcium absorption, thus strengthening bones over time.
Additionally, avocados can help you bring healthy lives into the world. Folate, or folic acid, plays a vital role in healthy pregnancies – the right amount can help reduce a woman’s chance of miscarrying, for one thing. So, make avocados a part of your pre-baby prep, whether you’re trying to get pregnant or you’ve got a little one on the way.
In fact, adding avocados can also make the rest of your meal much more nutritious. Many nutrients are fat-soluble, which means that you have to ingest them with a fat in order for the body to make use of them. Pouring avocado oil onto a salad, for example, assists your body in absorbing many more nutrients from your veggies.
You can even slather avocados onto your skin and hair and reap benefits from that, too. All of those vitamins and healthy fats can impart your face and locks with a shiny, healthy glow. Cover your skin in plain avocado or find a recipe for a healthy mask – either way, you’ll feel brighter afterward.
Of course, there is a possibility that you can have too much of a good thing. You don’t want to eat multiple avocados a day, since the average one contains around 30 grams of fat. Instead, nutritionist Brown told HuffPo that she advises clients to eat only half an avocado per day, although they can bump that up to one entire fruit at the most.
Brown rationalized those numbers, saying, “You can actually overdo even the healthiest of foods. A little variety is key because you require other nutrients that are not found in avocados, like protein and carbs.” So, you may be tempted to have feast on avocado toast, smoothies, and salads all day long, but refrain from eating more than one piece of the fruit per day.
In the grand scheme of things, eating too much avocado isn’t the worst thing you could do for your body. Brown said, “There are worse foods to overdo, of course. But in general, I’d limit your avocado intake to one a day, and only have it for one meal.”
In addition to that, it is important to keep in mind that avocados do contain a noteworthy amount of saturated fats, and these have their links to both stroke and heart disease. Of course, a moderate intake of avocado shouldn’t cause any undue complications. Still, you should keep risks in mind alongside the rewards of avocado-eating.
If you need a further incentive to eat avocado responsibly, be mindful of the fact that overdoing it can cause oral allergy syndrome to develop over time. This food allergy isn’t quite as serious as others, but it can be bothersome. It mainly causes your mouth and throat to itch, a sensation that’s annoying, to say the least.
Orthodontist Sue Liebman explained why this minor allergic reaction happens. She said, “Symptoms usually appear directly after contact, although they can pop up an hour or so after ingestion. The reason for it seems to be a cross-reactivity or similarity of the proteins found in latex and in avocados or similar type fruits that cause such an allergic reaction.”
Fortunately, you can still eat avocados, even with oral allergy syndrome. Simply cook or lightly heat the fruit so that the reaction won’t occur. And, with that – and all of the rest of what you’ve learned about avocados – you’re ready to digest it healthily. When you do, you’re going to reap a whole bunch of benefits thanks to everyone’s favorite “alligator pear.”