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Watermelon: From dessert to functional food

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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

Watermelon in the US traditionally has been viewed as a sweet but non-nutritional fruit. Over the last ten years, we have delved into the world of watermelon to find the horticultural, genetic, and environmental linkages of compounds with demonstrated bioactivity in animal models and clinical trials. Watermelon contains large amounts of lycopene and citrulline in addition to ascorbic acid, potassium, flavonoids, and beta carotene. Germplasm greatly influences lycopene content (<1 to 120 mg/kg fresh weight) while environmental effects can enhance pigment content by 10 to 20%. In contrast, the influences of germplasm and environment on citrulline content are less clear, with amounts reported from 0.9 to 4.3 mg/kg fresh weight. Watermelon is now recognized as a horticultural crop providing important nutritional and bioactive benefits.

Affiliations: 1: Plants for Human Health Institute, North Carolina Research Campus, Department of Horticultural Sciences, North Carolina State University ; 2: Harris-Moran Seeds, Woodland ; 3: Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton


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