Wonderfully delicious and unique musky-flavored cantaloupe or “muskmelon” is a member in the large Cucurbitaceae family. Some of the popular fruits and vegetables in the cucurbita family include squash, pumpkin, cucumber, gourd,…etc., and like its relatives, melons grow on the ground surface as a trailing vine.
Muskmelons thought to have originated either from India or ancient Persia or Africa. They grow best on well-draining sandy soil with good irrigation facility, and require honeybees for effective pollination. Melons, just as mangoes, watermelon…etc., are actually summer season fruits. Their season runs from April through August, when they are at their best.
Several varieties of cantaloupes grow all over the planet; however, two common varieties that are named after their place of origin have become popular in the western world. The European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo cantalupensis) derives its name from the Italian papal village of “Cantalup” and features lightly-ribbed, pale green skin that looks quite different from the North American cantaloupe. Galia melon and charentais belong to this category. North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo reticulatus), popular in the United States and in some parts of Canada, is namedreticulatus due to its net-like (or reticulated) skin covering. Honeydew melons have sweet, characteristic pale green succulent flesh.
In general, melons feature round or oblong shape, measure 4.5- 6.5 inches in diameter and weigh 450 – 850 gm, oftentimes more than a kilo. Internally, its flesh color ranges from orange-yellow to salmon, has soft consistency and juicy texture with a sweet, musky aroma that emanates best in the completely ripe fruits. At its center, there is a hollow cavity filled with small off-white color seeds encased in a web of mucilaginous netting.
Health benefits of Cantaloupe
- Wonderfully delicious with rich flavor, muskmelons are very low in calories (100 g fruit has just 34 calories) and fats. Nonetheless, the fruit is rich in numerous health promoting poly-phenolic plant derived compounds, vitamins, and minerals that are absolute for optimum health.
- The fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin A, (100 g provides 3382 IU or about 112% of recommended daily levels) one of the highest among cucurbita fruits. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and is essential for healthy vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A has been known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- It is also rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen-free radicals and hence; offer protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
- Total antioxidant strength measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of cantaloupe melons is 315 µmol TE/100 g. The value for honeydew melon is 241 µmol TE/100 g.
- Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eye where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light-filtering functions. It, thus, offers protection of eyes from “Age-related macular degeneration” (ARMD) disease in the elderly.
- It is a moderate source of electrolyte, potassium. 100 g fruit provides 267 mg of this electrolyte. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It thus offers protection against stroke, and coronary heart diseases.
- The fruit also contains moderate levels of B-complex vitamins, such as niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamin C, and minerals like manganese. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Commercially, muskmelons are being used to extract an enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which plays a vital role as strong first-line antioxidant defenses inside the human body.
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