Wonderful watermelon

In the UK, summer seems to have disappeared! Fortunately, though, the gorgeous seasonal fruit hasn’t. This really is my favourite time of year for delicious, fragrant fresh fruit that’s packed full of flavour and fabulous nutrients to keep us healthy.

Global markets means we can have most fruit all year round, but with a hefty cost both environmentally and flavour wise. Those force fed strawberries that land on the super market shelves in early February are always disappointing and are nothing compared to ones that are locally grown and ripened in the early summer sun.

As well as flavour, the other great benefit of eating summer fruits in the summer is that they provide you with specific nutrients that protect the part of you that’s at risk at this time of year – your skin.
The strong summer sun (when it decides to come out!) can play havoc with skin; too much UV exposure is connected to a wide variety of issues from wrinkles to cancer. It’s those naughty free-radicals that cause the damage. Fruits such as raspberries, nectarines, tomatoes and watermelon are packed with anti-oxidants – vitamin C and other phytonutrients – that mop up the free radicals and prevent long term damage.

I don’t tend to buy watermelon whilst in the UK as it can be really expensive, particularly after living in India where they are locally grown and seriously cheap! But being summer, the prices are currently more reasonable, so I’m taking advantage of this delicious giant fruit.

As the name suggests, watermelons contain a lot of water – 92%. So it’s really hydrating and great for a hot day. But on top of that, it also contains a surprisingly large number of nutrients that really help our bodies in different ways. For a start, the bright red/pink flesh contains a load of lycopene, a phytonutrient renowned for its’ ability to help prevent and reduce cancers, particularly prostate and ovarian. It’s even a more concentrated source than tomatoes, which are usually recognised as having fabulous lycopene levels.

It’s also great for keeping our guts happy and healthy, with a good fibre content and lots of anti-inflammatory amino acids such as choline and citrulline. Research shows that citrulline also helps to keep blood pressure under control and can reduce muscle soreness and increase recovery time after intense exercise. I decided to try this out the other day after my morning training run by blitzing some watermelon flesh in the blender to produce juice (but with the fibre included). I’m not sure if it made any difference, but it certainly tasted good!

And as mentioned above, watermelon contains good amounts of vitamin A and C which help support our skin and hair so not only will it help hydrate you on a hot day, it will also repair sun damage and keep those wrinkles at bay. That’s got to be good!

Because of it’s crisp, crunchy texture, watermelon is great in quick summer salads. I love this combination of watermelon, spinach, avocado and pine nuts – it’s super tasty and has a good mix of textures. The avocado will help increase the absorption of vitamin A as well as give a great helping of lovely vitamin E, another skin enhancing vitamin, and healthy fats. Pine nuts have been added in just because they make me think of summer (plus they are a fabulous source of manganese as well as healthy fats and fibre), but you could use walnuts, or pumpkins seeds if preferred.

So if you’re sunning yourself on a Mediterranean beach or just waiting at home for the sun to come back out, why not add a little watermelon into your diet – your skin will love you for it!

Watermelon, spinach, avocado and pine nut salad (serves 2)
1 slice watermelon chopped into cubes
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
1-2 handfuls pea shoots or lambs lettuce
1-2 spring onions or half small onion, sliced
1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 small ripe avocado, sliced
drizzle flaxseed oil (optional)
salt and pepper
Scatter the leaves in two bowls and add the chopped watermelon and onion. Mix together lightly with your hands then scatter the avocado and pine nuts over the top. Drizzle a little oil around and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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