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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cantaloupe, The Affordable Superfood

When we talk about superfoods, we tend to focus on expensive, exotic things like goji berries or aronia berries. But there are plenty of incredibly healthy foods that are within reach on a tighter budget. You can add cantaloupe to your growing list of affordable superfoods!

Superfood can be a confusing term, because it’s one that marketers often use to tout a food’s real or inflated health benefits. The meaning of the word superfood has been a bit altered by marketing efforts, and I think it’s time for us to co-opt it again. Can we just use superfood to mean food with proven health benefits? Isn’t that what we expect when we see “superfood” in the news or on food packaging?

We know that foods like quinoa, kale and collard greens are nutrient-dense, but there are lots of more humble fruits and veggies that deserve space on our plates. Cantaloupe is one of those unsung nutritional heroes, but not in the way that you might expect.

Cantaloupe’s Health Benefits: Just the Facts
A cup of cantaloupe has only 60 calories and is a good source of antioxidants. It delivers 120 percent of your daily vitamin A along with 108 percent of your daily vitamin C and 14 percent of your daily potassium requirements. It’s a good source of fiber, niacin, vitamin B6 and folic acid.

Cantaloupe is also an incredibly hydrating food, which is good news during this scorcher of a summer. A 177 gram serving of cantaloupe contains 160 grams of water, making it more than 90 percent water.

All of that is good, but overall it’s nothing to write home about. Lots of fruits and veggies provide these nutrients. What makes cantaloupe so special is its price point.

World’s Healthiest Foods explains that cantaloupe’s biggest benefit is that we tend to eat more of it than other fruits because it’s more affordable.   A cup of cantaloupe costs 40 cents on average, while a cup of blueberries costs four times as much.

Consuming more fruits—including cantaloupe—is associated with a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, according to a 2006 study. Metabolic syndrome is actually a blanket term for conditions that increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It refers to symptoms like high blood pressure, a high waist to hip ratio, and high cholesterol.

When 20 to 25 percent of Americans are suffering from metabolic syndrome, we need to promote healthy foods that are within reach, even on a budget. There’s a perception that eating healthy food has to cost a lot of money, and the way companies market pricey superfoods is part of what builds that false idea.

When we talk about superfoods, we tend to focus on expensive, exotic things like goji berries or aronia berries. But there are plenty of incredibly healthy foods that are within reach on a tighter budget. You can add cantaloupe to your growing list of affordable superfoods!

But wait! There’s more.
Cantaloupe seeds—which most people discard—are incredibly healthy, too. They’re a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. An analysis of a cantaloupe seed drink found that it was a good source of iron and magnesium, as well. There’s not a ton of research on the benefits of cantaloupe seeds, but what’s out there is definitely promising.

How to Eat Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe gets a bad rap as the boring part of fruit salad, but there are more ways to eat it than just chopped up in a bowl without any fanfare. My favorite cantaloupe preparation is as a whole-fruit juice. Just throw some cubes into the blender, puree until smooth, and chill until you’re ready to drink or serve it up over ice. If you want a thinner drink, just add water until you reach the consistency you’re going for. Since cantaloupe is so high in water, you can drink chilled cantaloupe puree without straining out its healthy fiber. It has the consistency of tomato juice, and it’s super refreshing on a hot day.

You can also try chopping it up into a cucumber salad, baking it into muffins, freezing into a sorbet, or blending into your next smoothie.  

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