What is not very well known is that watermelon is rich in lycopene and it helps lower ldl cholesterol. Lycopene, a carotenoid, has been a household word since its association with reduced cancer incidence. Since then, more research has associated it with lowered cholesterol levels and even helping clear arteries of plaque deposits, though more research is needed to understand the correlation. Mostly you hear about tomatoes being rich in lycopene, which has many manufacturers putting this on the label of their products containing tomotoes.
Other foods containing lycopene include guavas, pink and red grapefruit. Both guavas and watermelon have more lycopene gram for gram than tomatoes. All lycopene containing foods also contain other nutrients and carotenoids. Simply taking a lycopene supplement doesn’t do as much good because of those other synergistic ingredients. It isn’t yet clear from research which nutrient alone or in conjuction are needed to produce the improvement in health.
Amongst the research articles on lycopene, some show very strong correlations with improved cardiovascular health and lycopene such as that from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2003
Higher plasma lycopene concentrations are associated with a lower risk of CVD in women.
For CVD, exclusive of angina, women in the upper 3 quartiles had a significant multivariate 50% risk reduction compared with those in the lowest quartile.
And some others do not show the trend quite so clearly, citing that further work is needed, such as that in 2006 in the same journal:
Although it is clear that a higher intake of fuirt and vegetables can preent the morbidity and mortality associated with heart diseases, more information is needed to ascertain he association between the intake of single nutrients such as carotenoids, and the risk of CVD. Currently the consumption of carotenoids in parmaceutical forms for the treatment or prevention of heart diseases cannot be recommended.
There is a very strong correlation of overall health to consumption of fruits and vegetables because produce is very complex chemically and offers the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie than any other food. For example, broccoli and red bell peppers pack the highest nutrient punch on a calorie basis, including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients such as carotenoids.
A great proportion of us barely get in 3 servings of produce a day while 6 or more servings promote optimal health. It’s best eaten, not taken as juice, as the flesh does us a lot of good and slows the ingestion of sugars to help keep our blood sugar regulated, which is extremely important for both cholesterol and triglyceride control.
The disadvantage to watermelon and guava compared to tomatoes is that they are seasonal. BUT fortunately, Summer is around the corner and watermelon season is nearly upon us. We can enjoy the great taste and know how great it is for us, since watermelon is rich in lycopene, which helps lower LDL cholesterol levels.