healthy produceThere has been a boom in farmers’ markets in recent years. The USDA produces a farmers’ market directory that lists more than 8,000 markets, and an increase of 76 percent since 2008! If you’re a market enthusiast, you know the local market delivers a bounty of good things to eat; the catch is to get to the market early and benefit from the best selection.

Seasonal fruits, melons, berries and other produce are nutrient dense. In other words these are foods that are high in nutrients, yet low in calories. Though you’ll find several items to choose from at your local market, today’s post will focus on my favorites—melons.

Watermelon

This melon is one of the season’s most popular fruits. It is high in vitamins A, B6, and C. Vitamin A is important in eye health, and helps boost the immune system. Vitamin B6 helps in the production of antibodies to fight disease, maintain healthy nerves and break down protein in the body. Vitamin C also aids the immune system in helping to fight infection and viruses. This melon is also high in lycopene which is the pigment that gives the melon and other produce the red color. Lycopene is an antioxidant which studies show helps prevent hardening of the arteries and may be beneficial in preventing and treating prostate cancer. A 2-cup serving of watermelon also contains potassium which helps the body maintain water balance, and aids weekend warriors in replenishing fluids and avoiding muscle cramps. Bonus—2 cups contain just 80 calories!

In choosing the perfect watermelon, take a good look at it. The melon should be symmetrical without any dents, bruises or cuts. It should be heavy for its size and have a creamy yellow spot on it where it rested on the ground and ripened.

Cantaloupe

The surface is not as smooth as some of the other melons; it is slightly rough with a beige webbed skin. Cantaloupe is a good source of vitamins A, C and the B vitamins. It’s also a good source of potassium and fiber, high in water content, low in fat, sodium and calories. Two cups of cubed cantaloupe contain approximately 110 calories.

In selecting a melon, look for one that feels heavier and fuller for its size, has a fragrant aroma and is slightly soft, giving in to gentle pressure when you press your finger against the stem end. The rind should be cream, yellow or golden colored when the cantaloupe is ripe.

Honeydew Melon

Now we’ve all heard about ”honey do” but in this case it is about something good to eat and not a task that needs attention. These melons are most flavorful when vine-ripened. They are good sources of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, B, E and K. Minerals found in the melons are iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. This melon is low in sodium and fat free–two cups of honeydew melon contain approximately 120 calories.

Choose a melon that is pale green with a smooth blemish free surface. The melon should be heavy for its size, firm to the touch, without any spongy areas or mold. As is the case with cantaloupe, the stem end of the melon should be slightly soft, giving in to gentle pressure with your fingertip. Smell the melon, the stem end should be fragrant and slightly sweet.

Take Away: Choose local, fresh produce. The path from farm to table will give you a menu of foods with maximum flavor and help shorten your trek to good health and fitness.

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There has been a boom in farmers’ markets in recent years. The USDA produces a farmers’ market directory that lists more than 8,000 markets, and an increase of 76 percent since 2008! If you’re a market enthusiast, you know the local market delivers a bounty of good things to...