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STUDY: Summer fruit a major source of antioxidants
JOURNAL: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
ABSTRACT: New government research shows that tomatoes should not be considered our only major source of lycopene, the phytochemical (natural plant substance) that could help prevent certain cancers and other health problems. Watermelon is just as good a source.
COMMENTARY: Lycopene is the substance that gives tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and red and pink grapefruit their characteristic color. Besides adding color, lycopene seems to be a powerful antioxidant. It neutralizes highly unstable molecules that would otherwise react with and damage our cells.
In a large Harvard University study, the risk of prostate cancer was a third lower in men who ate the most tomato products compared to men who ate the least, and many researchers believe lycopene was the reason. Later studies also linked greater consumption of foods high in lycopene with a lower risk of prostate and other cancers.
According to a new report published in Agricultural Research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) tested 13 varieties of watermelon for lycopene content and found that watermelon contains more than tomatoes do. The amount of lycopene varied among varieties (red seedless have most) as well as growing conditions.
Even without these new findings about lycopene, watermelon has always been an excellent choice for snacks, desserts and salads. Each cup (about half a large slice) offers about 14 milligrams of vitamin C (16 to 19 percent of recommended daily intake). Watermelon also offers a weight-control bonus. A one-cup serving can satisfy a sweet tooth with just 49 calories, making it one of the fruits least concentrated in sugar and calories.