Diane Becker, "Country Life"

Watermelon is a super food, and luckily we live in a place where they grow super-tasting, mouth-watering watermelon. You can not only pick them up in the grocery stores, but there are roadside stands and farmers markets offering a variety of watermelons this time of year.

I love to eat watermelon, and the more I find out about it the more I love it.

Ever hear of lycopene? It’s a powerful antioxidant that is found in tomatoes, and people who get a lot of it are shown to have a lower instance of heart disease. Lycopene has also has been proven to prevent many types of cancer and skin damage. The reason watermelon is red is because of the high lycopene content and, guess what, watermelon has a higher lycopene content than raw tomatoes.

Watermelon also has high amounts of a thing called citrulline. Citrulline has been shown to improve blood flow and relaxes blood vessels, which helps control blood pressure — always a good thing. Watermelon is also supposed to be an aphrodisiac, but we won’t go into that.

Make sure you buy a very ripe watermelon or at least let it ripen on your counter before you eat it as the nutrients increase as the melon ripens. There are lots of compounds called triterpenoids that fight inflammation in a red ripe melon.

There’s a good amount of vitamin C as well as beta-carotene in watermelon, and even some B vitamins, potassium and magnesium. If you put watermelon and the seeds in a blender and juice it, the seeds will add some good iron and zinc. I haven’t tried that yet but may. I’m not anxious to see little flecks of black in a watermelon smoothie.

Since watermelon is 91.5% water, eating lots of it helps your kidneys and prevents dehydration. It’s recommended that you eat watermelon before a workout as it will relieve muscle soreness and help lower your heart rate the next day.

Watermelon should be a recommended food this time of year for high school athletes before their sports practices.

Watermelon is known to be really sweet but it actually has only 46 calories per cup and it’s loaded with fiber, so I would say the high-carb content balances out with the health benefits.

It’s watermelon season, and Norfolk is famous for its sweet melons. Pull up to a roadside stand and support your local farmers when you get your health promoting Nebraska raised watermelon.

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