Last Updated on October 12, 2020
When we think of the cantaloupe (also known as the muskmelon), what usually comes to mind is a fruit to be consumed as a snack, or for dessert after a hearty meal.
Little do many of us know that this sweet, tasty delicacy is actually loaded with a wide variety of benefits that may very well improve our overall health and well-being.
If you’re reading this now, you’re probably curious about what exactly these health benefits are and how this fruit can be of great help.
The origins of the cantaloupe
Prior to becoming what is known as a popular summer fruit, the cantaloupe’s origins can be traced back to the Italian town of Cantalupo, located near the holy city of Vatican.
The seeds of this fruit were flown in all the way from Armenia, which was then harvested in the papal gardens during the Renaissance Era.
Similar to watermelons, pumpkins, honeydew melons, cucumbers, and squash, the cantaloupe is of the muskmelon variety that is grown on a vine.
The color of the fruit also varies depending on which region of the world it grows. The fruit of the American cantaloupe is more orange in color, while European cantaloupes are more of the green variety.
Finding a ripe cantaloupe
Cantaloupes are known for their sweet, refreshing flavor, which can be best tasted when they are in a properly ripened state. But as a fruit with a harder shell, it can be quite a challenge to determine the state of what is underneath that shield-like exterior.
So how can you know if your cantaloupe is ready for consumption? One way to go about it is the ever-reliable smell test. Just like how it is with mangoes, it should have a sweet smell which you can very much sense on the onset.
And similar to an avocado, a ripe cantaloupe is softer as it matures, and you can test this by pushing against it with your thumb.
If you happen to purchase a cantaloupe that is not yet ripe enough for eating, there are several ways to speed up the process. One way is to set it aside at room temperature inside a paper bag for a few days upon purchase. Add in some fruits that produce the chemical ethylene such as a banana or an apple.
It is worth noting that cantaloupes are not the type of fruit that readily responds to the chemical reactions of ethylene. It doesn’t ripen up quickly like avocados will, but doing this can still contribute one way or another to making your cantaloupe ripen faster.
The Nutrition Facts
What exactly makes the cantaloupe an underrated super fruit? What it lacks in antioxidants that can be found in blueberries, oranges, and plums, it makes up for its richness in various phytonutrients.
One good example is its abundance in Vitamins A and C, which are carotenoids that act similarly to antioxidants. In the same manner, it goes after free radicals that may cause cellular damage. Cantaloupes also contain other nutritious components such as fiber, Vitamin K, and potassium, just to name a few.
According to the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a cup of diced cantaloupe roughly contains a total of 53 calories, along with 1.31 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fat, 1.4 grams of fiber, 12.2 grams of sugar, and 12.7 grams of carbohydrates.
The primary health benefits
Now, let’s get into the real meat of the topic: the main health benefits that eating a hearty serving of cantaloupes can provide. We’ve already mentioned how it provides similar benefits to fruits with antioxidants, so let’s look at the many other ways it can benefit our health.
Cantaloupes are not only rich in Vitamins A and C. It is also loaded with phytochemicals such as lutein, beta-carotene, and cryptoxanthin, all of which are key in preventing the dreaded cancer disease.
Specifically, it shields cells from further DNA damage that are usually brought on by free radicals from consuming too much processed food, red meat, and refined sugars.
Several studies have already proven how consuming food with high amounts of vitamins A and C are connected to the deterrence of cell mutation. Add in other chemical pheromones like cucurbitacins, and you essentially have a cancer-fighting fruit in the form of a cantaloupe.
Prevention of Macular Degeneration
For those who aren’t familiar, Macular Degeneration is a condition where the afflicted individual suffers from blurred to totally impaired vision that may affect one or both eyes.
It usually happens during the elder years, affecting beyond 10 million Americans, which is way more than the number of those suffering from glaucoma and cataracts combined.
But once again, the carotenoids present in the cantaloupe are deemed powerful enough to help treat this disease. Specifically, it can combat symptoms of vision impairment, but with the aid of the necessary healthier lifestyle choices.
While an established cure for macular degeneration has yet to be discovered, incorporating a healthy amount of carotenoids for those compromised by this disease can be of great benefit in the long run.
Helps reduce inflammation
There are several reasons why the body can be subjected to inflammation, such as an untreated infection or injury. Whatever the main cause may be, consuming cantaloupes is one way to alleviate inflammation.
As noted in various studies, people who include cantaloupes in their regular diet showed decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their bloodstreams. CRP is the primary marker used to measure the inflammation levels of the body.
It once again points back to the cucurbitacins (B and E, specifically) that are responsible for relieving pain brought by diseases that cause inflammation.
Prevention of cardiovascular diseases
Because inflammation is curbed by many of the cantaloupe’s primary components, it is also helpful in the prevention of many cardiovascular diseases.
Such ailments are usually caused by extreme oxidative stress and inflammation, which can cause more severe problems like coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure, among others.
In this case, it’s the beta-carotene and vitamin C combo that plays a big part. It particularly diminishes oxidant levels, which ultimately inhibits blood flow inflammation.
The regular consumption of cantaloupes is also seen as a way to prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries, ensuring strong heart health.
An aid in muscle recovery
Athletes, in particular, are well aware of how potassium is key for their recovery. As they subject their bodies to immense levels of physical stress, it is the one nutrient to relax blood vessels, preclude muscle cramps, and lower blood pressure.
Cantaloupes are rich in potassium, bearing more than 400 mg per cup, which is greater than what a banana can give you. As noted by the USDA, it contains 427 mg, and a serving of 1/8 of a cantaloupe already packs 184 mg.
So if you happen to be suffering from any form of cramps or aches, a healthy serving of cantaloupe may just do the trick. Not only are you recovered a lot quicker, you are also bound for vast performance improvements as well.
An effective weight loss support
There seems to be a major struggle among people who are looking to shed the extra unwanted pounds from their bodies. Most of it, of course, is rooted in poor dietary choices.
The great thing about cantaloupes is that they not only taste good, but they are also an effective aid for weight loss, given their low levels of sugar, saturated fats and cholesterol.
The cantaloupe is also very dense with high fiber content which easily fills up the stomach, ultimately helping prevent any cravings of unhealthy food.
In addition, the phytonutrients found in the fruit helps maintain blood sugar at a healthy level, which is also key to managing weight. At the same time, it controls metabolic levels, another essential factor in burning the unwanted pounds.
Cantaloupes as a proponent for an overall healthy body
It can be said that cantaloupes are usually overlooked and are somewhat unpopular among fruit lovers. Many would go for the usual citrus fruits, peaches, or bananas, completely neglecting the wealth of health benefits that a cantaloupe brings just in a single cup.
Now that we’ve tackled every good thing this super fruit brings to the table, adding it to your daily diet can only render good results.
Not only does it help in superficial aspects such as weight loss and muscle recovery, but it also operates on a more cellular level like fighting cancer, preventing cardiovascular diseases and reducing inflammation. Best of all, cantaloupes taste delicious.
So the next time you drop by your local supermarket or fruit store, be sure to stock up on some cantaloupes. Based on studies and science alone, it provides enough good reasons for you to include it into your daily diet for a healthier body.