Cantaloupe stirs up wonderful childhood memories for me. My mother kept a bowl of sliced cantaloupe in the refrigerator every summer to enjoy as a sweet, crunchy snack or a dessert on a hot day. In season May through November in the U.S., this delicious melon delivers a variety of benefits for health and happiness!
A one-cup serving of cantaloupe delivers an amazing 60% of the daily value for vitamin C and 30% for vitamin A – as beta-carotene, the plant form of the vitamin. Cantaloupe also supplies fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins B6, folate, niacin and thiamin. In addition, it contains lutein and zeaxanthin, powerful antioxidant nutrients found primarily in dark green and orange fruits and vegetables.
Cantaloupe’s impressive lineup of nutrients is involved in promoting health in a number of ways. Eating more foods high in beta-carotene and vitamin C help lower risk of both heart disease and cancer. In fact, studies show the strongest protection against heart disease comes with eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And cancer cases could be reduced by 20,000 a year if half the population ate one more serving of fruits and vegetables each day.
Lutein and zeaxanthin can protect against age-related eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration as well as heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. Finally, vitamins A and C also play roles in healthy skin, teeth and gums; protecting against infections; helping heal cuts and wounds and supporting a strong immune system.
California cantaloupe farmers are committed to producing safe, high quality melons for consumers. They are grown under a mandatory food safety program with government auditors inspecting all aspects of cantaloupe production.
And safety doesn’t stop at the farm. Once your cantaloupe is in your kitchen, be sure to wash the melon before cutting and eating. Rinse it well under running water and use a brush to remove soil and bacteria that may be stuck in crevices. By washing before cutting, you’ll avoid introducing bacteria into the edible part of the fruit when you cut through the melon with a knife.
Not only nutritious but also delicious, cantaloupe is a great addition to any meal or snack. Cool and refreshing, it can be mixed with yogurt at breakfast, eaten on a sandwich for lunch, folded with beef in a lettuce wrap for dinner. Or try cantaloupe tossed with shrimp and veggies for a ceviche appetizer in this recipe created by registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary consultant Cindy Kleckner.
Shrimp Cantaloupe Ceviche
- ¾ pound cooked salad shrimp
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 small lemon)
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 small lime)
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 small orange)
- 1 cup chopped cantaloupe, ¼-inch dice
- 1 cup peeled and seeded English cucumber, ¼-inch dice
- ¼ cup minced red onion
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 small avocado, chopped
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
- Whole wheat tortilla chips, Pita chips or plantain chips
- Combine the shrimp, lemon, lime and orange juice in a glass bowl. Stir in the cantaloupe, cucumber, onion and jalapeno. Refrigerate 30 minutes up to 4 hours for flavors to blend.
- Just before serving, stir in avocado and cilantro. Serve with favorite chips or in butter lettuce leaves.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Source: Cindy Kleckner, RDN, LD, FAND