7 Health Benefits of Cantaloupe You Didn’t Know About (and a Word of Caution)
Colorful and sweet, cantaloupe is fat-free and low in calories yet packed with essential nutrients that help lower your risk for certain diseases and help to keep you looking and feeling great.
Use your melon
Yes, the humble cantaloupe tends to make up what seems like 90 percent of most fruit salads—but don’t scoff at it, and definitely don’t pass it up: It’s loaded with nutrients that are beneficial for your health.
Cantaloupe is good for your hair
Cantaloupe’s most potent vitamins—A and C—are essential to helping us maintain strong, healthy hair and just one serving (about one-quarter of a melon) contain 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowances of both. Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is required for sebum production, a compound that keeps our scalp and hair moisturized and healthy, while vitamin C is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair, explains Melissa Majumdar, RD, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Vitamin C also helps with the absorption of iron,” she explains. Iron deficiency is linked to hair loss, but you should always have your iron status checked before supplementing—too much iron can be toxic to the body, she says. If you’ve got lackluster locks, you may be missing the essential foods you need for healthy hair.
Cantaloupe helps keep your skin healthy
Read the fine print on your favorite facial moisturizer and you’re likely to find “stabilized retinol,” also knows as vitamin A, among the ingredients. Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology suggests that applying the antioxidant to your skin can slow down the aging process. While using skincare products high in vitamins A and C, which also contributes to photoprotection, are important, isolating the nutrients is not as beneficial as eating a whole food, according to Majumdar. “Finding a food high in vitamin A, C, and fluid such as cantaloupe is the hat trick,” she says. To boost the health benefits of eating foods rich in vitamin A, she suggests combining them with healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, or almonds. Eating cantaloupe with these foods can help with the absorption of vitamin A because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, she explains. “Think about having cantaloupe in a salad drizzled with olive oil, as a snack with a handful of almonds, or combined with a piece of salmon.”
Cantaloupe helps keep you hydrated
Eating cantaloupe is not only a refreshing, low-calorie dessert, but its high-water content also helps keep you hydrated, especially on hot summer days or after an intense workout. “Cantaloupe is high in potassium, an electrolyte that we lose when we sweat,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating cantaloupe or other foods high in potassium as a post-workout snack helps your body recover and lessens the chance for muscle cramps and fatigue.
Cantaloupe may ward off the effects of age-related macular degeneration
A mounting body of research shows that eating the right foods can help ward off age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of legal blindness in people over age 60, according to the American Optometric Association. Studies show that the development of the disease is linked to depleted macular pigment, the retinal layer that filters out harmful blue light waves and reduces the number of free radicals in the macular area. “Antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein found in cantaloupe have been shown to protect the eye and scavenge free radicals in the retina,” says Hultin. Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that eating more fruits and vegetables could protect a person from developing age-related macular degeneration. As an added boost, vitamin C, also found in cantaloupe, has been shown to slow the progression of cataracts. If eye conditions run in your family, see the types of foods that prevent macular degeneration.
Cantaloupe is good for your heart
Cantaloupe contains several ingredients—fiber, potassium, and vitamin C—that contribute to keeping your heart healthy. “Foods high in fiber help control blood pressure and lower LDL, the bad cholesterol,” says Majumdar. Just one cup of cubed cantaloupe contains 1.5 grams of fiber or five percent of the daily requirement, explains Hultin. “If you have it for breakfast or a snack, you are on your way to meeting the national fiber recommendations.” Consuming foods that are high in potassium help to lower blood pressure and may reduce the risk of stroke, the formation of kidney stones, and protect against loss of muscle mass and bone mineral density. “Potassium helps lower blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium,” says Majumdar. Cantaloupe and other fruits are part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which helps to lower blood pressure.
Cantaloupe helps with digestion
Cantaloupe contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which work together for bowel health, helping to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract. “Cantaloupe, as well as other foods with fiber, act as food for gut bacteria,” says Majumdar. Having a healthy digestive tract helps ward off conditions such as diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome, and eating a high-fiber diet has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 21 to 38 grams of fiber daily (depending on calorie needs, age, and sex), and cantaloupe offers about 1.5 grams of fiber in one cup of melon balls. “Eating foods that contain fiber rather than taking a fiber supplement helps us get different types of fiber,” says Majumdar.
Cantaloupe satiates the appetite and helps control hunger
Foods high in fiber such as cantaloupe are filling, says Mujamdar, and filling foods help us feel satisfied, control hunger, and aid with weight control. Cantaloupe is naturally low in calories (about 60 calories in one-quarter of a melon) and contains no fat or cholesterol. The sweetness of the cantaloupe, which contains 14 grams of sugar per serving, can help satisfy cravings for something sweet, especially after a meal. “The bright color of the food also helps us eat with our eyes and enjoy our food,” says Majumdar. But don’t stop at melon—start loading your plate with the most filling fruits and veggies.
Be sure to wash before you cut
More than 75 percent of the nation’s cantaloupes are grown in California. While the tough-skinned fruits are known for being sweet and delicious on the inside, they are grown in direct contact with soil, which makes them prone to becoming contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. When bacteria contaminates the rind of the melon, and it is not washed properly, the bacteria can be transferred to the melon flesh when it is cut open. It’s tough outer surface also makes it more difficult to wash, says Hultin. She recommends following food safety guidelines, like using a gentle veggie brush to wash the fruit thoroughly before cutting it open. “Cantaloupe is a food that can trigger foodborne illness if not properly handled,” says Majumdar. “Also, because the melon is high in water and low in acid, it is a breeding zone for bacteria.” Keep cut cantaloupe in the refrigerator and wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after cutting the outside of the melon, she says. If you’re a little vague about protecting yourself from food-borne illnesses, review these 10 food safety rules.
- Melissa Majumdar, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Atlanta, Georgia
- Ginger Hultin, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Seattle, Washington
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: “A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin”
- Ophthalmology: “Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract”
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Associations between fruits, vegetables, vitamin A, β-carotene and flavonol dietary intake, and age-related macular degeneration in elderly women in Korea: the Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey”
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial”