cut cantaloupe

The Cantaloupe:
Low Calorie, High Sweetness

| published February 17, 2017 |

By Maggie Nichols
Thursday Review contributor

Here at Thursday Review we write a lot the benefits of Vitamin C. In fact, we seem to be downright obsessed with its value, and hardly a single fruit or veggie article misses the chance to sing the praises of Vitamin C. Vitamin C has been widely known for decades to be a valuable tool in the human immune system—warding off common ailments like colds, flus and allergies, and bolstering the body’s resistance to infections. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which means that it has the ability—especially when consumed naturally—to resist aging by slowing down cellular breakdown.

This all sounds great, but it gets even better. Doctors now believe that the antioxidant quality found in Vitamin C may also help you defend against certain types of cancer. Furthermore, recent studies have also shown that Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron more efficiently, and it has also been linked to faster recovery from tissue damage and the healing of wounds.

One way to make sure you get enough Vitamin C in your diet is to add the modest cantaloupe to your meals and snacks. A single serving of cantaloupe (and this gets tricky because some people eat a lot of it in one sitting) packs a wallop when it comes to vitamins and minerals. A single medium-sized cantaloupe can contain more than 250% of the recommended intake of Vitamin C, though for most people eating a half or even as little as a quarter of a single melon will do the trick.

The cantaloupe is also rich in potassium (at 30% of your daily requirement, cantaloupes are second only to bananas) and Vitamin K—another valuable tool when it comes to healing and tissue repair. Cantaloupes also contain loads of copper, zinc and magnesium. Cantaloupes are also high in Vitamins B6 and B12, and they are packed with folate (folic acid).

Cantaloupes are reasonably high in fiber, especially for something that is neither green nor grainy. It may be one of the sweetest ways to get the recommended intake of soluble fiber.

Looking to lose a few pounds? Here’s the sweetest part: cantaloupes—in spite of all the incredible tanginess and rich taste—are low in calories. One large or medium cantaloupe contains about 275 calories—in total. This makes the average cantaloupe one of the most effective ways to get fiber and vitamins while also reducing wasted calorie intake. In that regard, the cantaloupe is an efficiency machine, which diet specialists and doctors say is something that many Americans—especially—need more of in their diets.

Many Americans could easily skip that doughnut or bowl of sweetened cereal for breakfast and replace it instead with a half or whole cantaloupe. The result would be a far more nutritional breakfast combined with a much smarted form of calorie intake.

For fun, check at your grocery store’s produce section for some of the various hybrids out there—including one which is a cross-breed of honeydew and cantaloupe. This hybrid will add a couple of calories, but the flavor will give you some break from the bright sweetness of traditional cantaloupe without sacrificing any of the health benefits we’ve already mentioned.

One important note: the cantaloupe is at the upper end of the high-value range on the food spectrum.

At the opposite end (the bottom end) you would find foods “empty” in value—lots of blank content, lots of intake, lots of eating…but very little nutritional benefit. The human body is preprogrammed—at birth and well into adulthood—to eat until it reaches nutritional satisfaction. When we consume junk food, our bodies are tricked briefly into feeling fleeting satisfaction, but we have to go back for more and more of these empty calories in order to remain satisfied. This is why a bag of potato chips never fills us up, and why we end up eating the entire package of Oreo Cookies or the entire bag of Cheetos instead of just a handful. It is why after a large meal of enchiladas, rice and beans, we can still keep eating those salty nachos. Thus, we gain weight continuously without ever feeling full, and it becomes a never-ending cycle.

Like other high-value foods (squash, broccoli, zucchini, kiwifruit), the cantaloupe works the opposite way, pumping us up with high nutritional value and leaving us with a satisfied feeling. Which is how our hunger and our nutritional mechanisms should work in tandem.  The fact that it is naturally sweet makes it that much more desirable, and proves that foods that are good for us can taste good too.

Holiday aside: planning a party for the Fourth of July? Consider replacing those big bowls of Chex Mix, Cheetos and Doritos with cubed cantaloupe. Fill other glass or metal bowls with grapes, cubed honeydew, cubed watermelon, chopped strawberries, baby carrots, diced apples, and celery stalks—and if possible, place them on ice in large baking pans or plastic trays. You’ll create just as much color as the junk food, and I bet your party guests will never miss the salt or those empty calories.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Zucchini’s Magical Qualities; Maggie Nichols; Thursday Review; June 19, 2014.

The Skinny on the Kiwi; Maggie Nichols; Thursday Review; April 21, 2014.