What Are The Health Benefits Of Cantaloupe?

With its naturally sweet flavor, the humble cantaloupe is a summertime favorite for children and grownups alike. Plus, it's just as healthy as it is delicious. One cup contains roughly 55 calories and 12 grams of carbs and offers nearly 65% of the recommended daily vitamin C intake (per MyFoodData). Cantaloupe melons also boast large amounts of vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, folate, copper, potassium, and beta-carotene. On top of that, they're made up of about 90% water, so they keep you hydrated during the hot summer days.

Like honeydews and other muskmelons, cantaloupes belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, according to Defeat Diabetes Foundation. The most popular varieties come from Europe and North America and can be distinguished by their orange flash. Most melons, including the cantaloupe, have a high glycemic index, but they also contain a lot of water, which helps reduce their impact on blood sugar levels. Therefore, these fruits can be a good choice for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

What's more, cantaloupe melons are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and other key nutrients with analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic effects. Some of these compounds support digestive health, fight oxidative stress, and regulate immune function (via the International Research Journal of Pharmacy). Others may protect against cancer, liver disease, thyroid disorders, and cardiovascular problems. If it's not yet obvious, here's why you should eat more cantaloupe. 

Fill up on cantaloupe for a stronger immune system

Loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, cantaloupes can strengthen your body's natural defense and reduce oxidative damage. A 2019 study suggests that ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, supports neutrophil function and neutralizes free radicals. Neutrophils are white blood cells that regulate the immune response, helping your body fight bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Vitamin C also supports the production of several enzymes, hormones, and genes that may protect against infections, increase antibody levels, and trigger cancer cell death (via Nutrients).

Vitamin A, another essential nutrient in cantaloupes, has similar benefits on immune function. This naturally occurring compound aids in the production of epithelial and mucous tissues, which act as a barrier against pathogens, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. As scientists note, vitamin A also regulates the differentiation and function of our immune cells, including lymphocytes, dendritic cells, and T cells. Moreover, studies indicate that it stimulates the production of antibodies and may ease the symptoms of acute pneumonia.

Cantaloupe melons promote eye health

Cantaloupe is an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation and cataracts, notes WebMD. A diet rich in these compounds may also prevent or delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a primary cause of vision loss (per Nutrients). Vitamin A, one of the most abundant nutrients in cantaloupe, may lower the risk of blindness in children, says the American Optometric Association (AOA). While there's insufficient evidence to confirm that vitamin A may prevent myopia (as it was once thought), its role in eye health cannot be overstated.

Vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids are just as beneficial for eye health, according to the AOA. Cantaloupe contains all of these nutrients in varying amounts (per MyFoodData). Vitamins C and E help reduce oxidative damage, a risk factor for cataracts and macular degeneration. Zinc, on the other hand, works synergistically with vitamin A, helping your body produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to your eyes. A diet low in this mineral can affect night vision, explains the AOA. Last but not least, omega-3s keep the retina healthy and may relieve dry eyes, suggests the Mayo Clinic.

The best part is, cantaloupe makes a great addition to smoothies, salads, salsa, and raw desserts. If you're not a fan of fruits, mix it with veggies or serve it with meat, fish, or poultry for a sweet-and-spicy dish that will delight your taste buds.