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What’s so special about lycopene? Lycopene gives watermelon its red color and does something more. It may help protect against cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. Although lycopene is more commonly associated with tomatoes, there is more lycopene in watermelon than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. But hold off on enjoying it icy cold. To get more lycopene from your watermelon, serve it at room temperature.
Whole watermelon stored and served at room temperature can have up to 40 percent more lycopene than refrigerated watermelon. At room temperature, watermelon continues to ripen, producing additional lycopene. Just make sure to refrigerate the watermelon within two hours after cutting it to avoid food-borne illness. If you prefer a cold taste, chill it right before serving.
Of course, watermelons aren’t the only melons packed with nutrients. Cantaloupes are a good source of potassium, along with vitamins A and C. When slicing and dicing any of your melon favorites, be sure to keep it clean — melon rinds can host harmful bacteria.
When fruit is cut, bacteria on the surface can be transferred to the flesh. Here are some tips to reduce your chance from food-borne illness from melons:
From their sugary centers to their sweet juice, melons can attract all kinds of bio bugs -- which can bring disease with them. When you consider everything melons touch after being picked during, packing, storage and shipping surfaces, melons can have all kinds of bacteria growing on them. When you jab a knife into a melon, you can push all the bacteria into its fruity center if you haven’t washed it first.
As with any food preparation, utensils, knives and cutting boards should be cleaned in hot, soapy water before and after use. And they should not be cross-contaminated with other foods, particularly uncooked meat products.
Remember: wash, wash, wash your fruit before you eat it! And as the CDC suggests: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
These steps can help to prevent food-borne illness from bacteria. Should you suffer with a bout of food poisoning occur and need to see a doctor, remember, where you go matters! Make sure to do your research about ERs versus urgent care now, and know when it's time to be seen in case of emergency.
Originally published 7/11/2016; Revised 2021
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