The Watermelon Diet

By Janet Ford, DietPower Senior Editor

Key ingredient of the Watermelon Diet
Could this be the ultimate diet food?

Ever wondered why obesity is so rare in Asia and Africa? Poverty may not be the only answer. Some have suggested that it's partly because people on these continents eat surprisingly large amounts of watermelon. (Watermelon is native to Africa, by the way.)

Besides filling you up with water (a well proven weight-loss strategy), watermelon is so rich in vitamins and minerals that some say it should be stored in your medicine chest. (It won't fit, of course—but that is changing.) Hence, eating watermelon while you're on a low-calorie diet will help you make sure you get enough of certain key nutrients.

What Is the Watermelon Diet?

There is no official Watermelon Diet, but any diet that includes a lot of watermelon will qualify. And any particular watermelon diet will help you lose weight for the same reason any other watermelon diet will: because it replaces part of the volume of your food with water, which contains no calories and yet makes you feel full. (There's a whole new science devoted to this principle; it's called volumetrics.)

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How much watermelon is "a lot?" That depends on how fast you want to lose weight. The average American diet contains 150 calories per ounce. Replace three ounces with watermelon at 8 calories per ounce and you save about 426 calories a day—enough to lose 3.7 pounds a month or 44 pounds a year. Double that to six ounces and you'll lose weight at twice the speed.

(For help with the Watermelon Diet, you might try DietPower's award-winning weight-loss and nutrition software. It turns your PC into a "coach" that can guarantee reaching your goal weight on your target date. It also gives you real-time knowledge of your intake of 33 nutrients in 21,000 foods including watermelon. You can download a free no-strings trial of the complete program by clicking here.)

The Watermelon Diet sounds amazingly simple and effective, doesn't it? But wait—it gets even better.

A Super Food

Besides being a wonderful choice for dieters, watermelon is unusually nutritious. Its delectable flesh has no cholesterol and virtually no fat (almost none of which is saturated)—a stellar accomplishment for a food often served as a dessert at picnics.

Your watermelon diet will also give you a lot of potassium and vitamins A, C, and B6. And because watermelon is 92-percent water, it goes a long way toward satisfying your daily H2O requirement.

Move Over, Tomatoes!

Recent research shows yet another marvelous characteristic: Watermelon contains more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Lycopene, besides being the red pigment that gives the flesh its color, is an antioxidant known to prevent cancer. Studies have shown that people who get lots of lycopene have a lower risk of prostate, uterine, and esophageal tumors.

Download DietPower and lose pounds Tomatoes have received the lion's share of attention when it comes to lycopene, even though a one-cup serving contains far less (4 milligrams vs. 9) than a one-cup serving of watermelon does.

Watermelon is also listed by the American Heart Association as a top food for cardiovascular health.

"Watermelon is practically a multivitamin unto itself," says Samantha Winters, a spokeswoman for the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

For all of these reasons—and because it's a rare individual who doesn't love a ripe, red, juicy wedge of watermelon—DietPower long ago declared this miracle fruit one of "The 10 Best Foods."

But Wait, There's More!

This just in: A researcher at Texas A&M University reports that watermelon may have a Viagra-like effect on men.

Watermelon contains citrulline, an amino acid that dilates blood vessels in the same way as drugs for treating erectile dysfunction. Scientists have known about the citrulline for years, but until recently they thought most of it was in the rind. Now they've discovered that the flesh contains more than previously thought.

This doesn't mean that eating watermelon will produce an erection, since the amount of citrulline is still relatively low. But it probably can't hurt. And if you eat the rind, too.... (Watermelon pickles, anyone?)

For deeper insight into this potential benefit, click here.

A Work in Progress

Watermelon isn't perfect. One big problem if you're on a watermelon diet is the fruit's bulkiness. Another is telling when a watermelon is ripe.

Download DietPower and lose pounds If you've ever had a watermelon roll off the kitchen counter when you weren't watching, you'll appreciate this news: the Japanese have created a cube-shaped watermelon. (Click here to see it.)

Meanwhile, American growers are making watermelons smaller and smaller. In part, this stems (no pun intended) from the craze to make watermelons seedless. Melons without seeds are smaller and rounder than their seedy cousins.

The technology for growing seedless melons has been around for half a century, but popular for only the last 20 years or so, says Warren Roberts, a watermelon expert and an associate professor of horticulture at Oklahoma State University. Today, one-third to one-half of all watermelons sold in the United States are seedless, and in California the rate is seven in eight.

The melon miniaturist movement continues. In California, one of the leading producers of watermelons (Florida is the biggest), stores are stocked with melons the size of cantaloupes. "As family size decreases, consumers want something smaller," says Dana Abercrombie, director of the California-Arizona Watermelon Association.

Today's "personal" watermelon weighs only two or three pounds. It should be perfect for folks on a watermelon diet. "It's just a one-meal melon," Abercrombie says "—something you can cut in half and say, 'Here, Honey, you eat this.'"

Is That Melon Ripe?

Large or small, how do you tell when a watermelon is ripe?

Most experts advise starting with the color of the rind. It should be a dull green, depending on the variety—but more importantly, the side that has lain on the ground during ripening should be creamy yellow. If it's white or green, the melon isn't ripe.

Another major clue is the small ring where the stem attaches to the fruit. The ring should be at least partially brown. If it's totally green, put the melon back.

What about the stem itself? Contrary to popular opinion, a brown stem does not prove ripeness. "It means only that the melon was picked several days or weeks ago and is not fresh," says Dale Mootz, whose family has raised watermelons for the local market in Lawrence County, Ohio, for 30 years. "We are often asked why our melons taste so good. It is because they are fresh—as indicated by their green stems."

A melon's density should also give it away. "You should pick it up and say, 'Oh, that's heavier than I thought it should be,'" says Abercrombie. Heaviness means the melon has absorbed a goodly amount of water.

Kicking the Tires

There is no consensus about the "thump" test. Abercrombie recommends slapping with the palm of your hand, not your knuckle. "You should hear a hollow, reverberating sound, like in a basketball." If the melon pings, it's not ripe, she says.

Download DietPower and lose pounds Many people swear by the acoustic method, but others say it's like kicking the tires on a car. "It makes you feel good when you do it, but you don't know what it will accomplish," says Roberts, the Oklahoma State expert. Only an experienced ear can tell the difference, he says.

"A lot of people talk about that, but they can't really tell you what they're listening for," says Winters of the national board. If you're not sure, you can always ask the grocer to cut it for you.

Once you have the melon home, it will keep at room temperature for two to three weeks. (Even a big one won't have to last that long if you're on a watermelon diet, however.) After you've cut into a melon, of course, it needs to go in the fridge. Or you can take care of it the way Roberts does. "I like to cut it open, eat the heart out, and then go on to another melon."

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