Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

NEWS: Watermelon is a Better Source of Lycopene Than Tomatoes

USDA Photo

One of the things that is so dismaying about not liking tomatoes is this whole lycopene thing. Everywhere I look, I see "Yay, lycopene! Tomatoes have lycopene!"

Well ... so? So ... lycopene is an anti-oxidant that scavenges for those nasty free radicals that like to hang out in your body and cause cancer and also helps prevent heart disease. Some studies also suggest that lycopene may help resist sunburn, which is helpful for us ghostly types. It may also prevent early blindness in children, if you've got some of those running around. For you dudes out there, lycopene is especially good at preventing and even slowing the spread of prostate cancer.

And while everyone seems to know that tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, not too many people seem to know that watermelon is an even better source of lycopene. The red part of a watermelon can have about 40 % more lycopene than an equivalent weight of raw tomatoes. Which is excellent news for me, since I can eat a watermelon with pleasure. I'd rather not eat a tomato.

Plus, what you may not know is that while lycopene may be absorbed by the body from a raw watermelon, a tomato must be cooked in order for its lycopene to be available to your body in any appreciable amount. Absorption into the body is similar when drinking watermelon juice, or heat-treated tomato juice.

Besides tomatoes and watermelon, lycopene is also found in guava, red peppers, apricots, persimmons, red-fleshed papaya, and grapefruit. But watermelon seems to have the most lycopene, ounce for ounce. Watermelon also contains vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as potassium. As for nutritition, watermelon has no fat or cholesterol and has only 90 calories in a two-cup serving. And since it's 92% water, it's a good source of fluids if you're having a hard time getting your 6-8 glasses of H2O down every day.

So now you want to get on the watermelon bandwagon, which watermelon should you purchase? First, look for a firm melon that is as symmetrical as you can find, and that is relatively free of bruises, cuts, and dents. Then, once you've found your aesthetically pleasing melon, lift it up. It should be heavier than you'd think, which will mean it's very juicy. Once you've hefted it and found it to be weighty enough, turn it over. There should be a sweet spot on the bottom that is yellow from where the melon sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Yes, I know peak season for these bad boys has just ended, but you can usually find watermelons at the store year round. Or maybe you can find some watermelon juice. Or maybe you can wait until next April.

Not only is the lycopene content of watermelons good news for consumers, it is good news for watermelon farmers now that a USDA chemist has found a way to extract the lycopene in its most natural form from the watermelon. This means that growers can sell the 25% of their crop that is bruised, misshapen, or discolored to companies wanting to extract lycopene from the watermelons, since the melon's outward appearance has no effect on nutrient content.


United States Department of Agriculture
National Watermelon Promotion Board


Step one: Procure fresh watermelon. Chill.

Step two: Remove rind.

Step three: Cut into large chunks and place in large mixing bowl.

Step four: Eat while watching South Park.

This is why I'm a *chubby* panda. But, at least I got me lots of lycopene.

- Chubbypanda

said by Chubbypanda at 9:52 PM Delete

Well, since watermelon is 92% water, think of it this way: you got a lot of your water intake for the day in one sitting!

said by KT at 10:04 PM Delete

I think those "nasty free radicals" just made major advancements in the recent election...

Absolute proof to the rumor re: "lycopenes" falling down on the job.

A major melon wake up call.

sources...Jon Stewart and the New York Times

said by Anonymous at 10:46 PM Delete

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