Â Â Â Â by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health
As though anyone needs an excuse to indulge in a cool, juicy slice of melon on a hot summer day, these popular fruits — including watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and casaba melons — are a rich source of potassium and a host of other nutrients as well. Refreshing and delicious, they also are a healthy, natural way to help lower your blood pressure, notes Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD, an assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (http://www.eatright.org).
Shake Off Blood Pressure Worries
If you have salt-sensitive high blood pressure, you probably know already that you should watch your sodium intake. Too much salt — both from the salt shaker and from processed foods — causes fluid retention and blood vessel contraction that contribute to hypertension. What you may not know is that potassium also plays an important role in this equation. A study published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine noted that people with a low sodium-to-potassium ratio — that is, those who made a point of both consuming less salt and eating more potassium-rich fresh produce than is typical for the American diet — were less likely to experience high blood pressure. Because it is a vasodilator and helps get rid of sodium and water, potassium helps curb fluid retention and blood vessel contraction.
According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily intake of potassium for adults is 4,700 milligrams. Many people donât normally consume this much potassium, but melons provide a tasty solution. Two cups of cubed melon contain more than 1,000 mg of potassium, or nearly one-fourth of your daily requirement.
Other rich dietary sources of this mineral include apricots, artichokes, avocados, bananas, beans, kiwis, oranges, peas, potatoes, prunes, raisins, tomatoes, spinach, Swiss chard and other green leafy vegetables.
Melon at Every Meal?
Melons are much more versatile than most people realize, and you can easily incorporate them into a wide variety of dishes. Instead of reserving them for breakfast or a snack, take advantage of the seasonâs bounty and put melons on your familyâs summer menu of soups, salads and salsas…
Â Â Â Â Â Â Melon soup: Puree chunks of ripe honeydew and cantaloupe with orange juice and chill.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Luscious melon salad: Combine small chunks of your favorite melon with raspberries, strawberries or orange sections and drizzle with honey and lime or lemon juice.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Fish or chicken with melon: Serve the grilled or broiled meats on a bed of diced ripe melon. Or make a melon salsa to accompany the main dish — combine finely diced honeydew and cantaloupe, diced tomatoes, minced red onion, orange juice, lime juice, cilantro and salt.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Grilled melon: Cube honeydew, and toss in lemon juice, brown sugar and ginger. Thread onto skewers and grill for three to four minutes or until slightly soft and beginning to brown.
Note: Potassium affects the balance of fluids in the body, so too much can be a problem for older people and those with heart or kidney disease. If you take a diuretic drug or have issues with fluid retention, talk to your doctor before adding significant amounts of melon to your diet.
Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD, assistant professor, department of clinical nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas. Sandon is a National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. www.eatright.org.