The Surprising Benefits of Mint and Watermelon
I grow spearmint in a large decorative pot on my deck every summer. It’s surprising how one little seedling grows quickly and fills up the pot, so I have plenty all summer long. Spearmint is a delicious addition to both beverages and salads, and like most fresh herbs, has a myriad of beneficial phytochemicals. Spearmint has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, as well as antioxidant and antitumor activity (1,2,3). Spearmint in particular was studied for its effect in the management of osteoarthritis. Individuals with medically diagnosed knee osteoarthritis (OA) participated in a randomized, double-blind study which showed that 16-week daily consumption of spearmint tea significantly improved stiffness and physical disability scores in adults with knee OA (4). Iced Spearmint tea is a delicious way to enjoy its many health benefits during the summer, and its caffeine free!
I try to add fresh herbs to as many meals as I can, and have found that fresh spearmint is a great addition to morning smoothies. My absolute favorite is a Watermelon-Mint smoothie. I love watermelon and I bet you do too, but once you’ve made the first cut, it only lasts a few days and takes up a lot room in the fridge! So here is a great way to use up leftover watermelon, and gives you a reason to keep buying it. Blending it somehow releases extra sweetness, even from the “not so sweet” parts near the rind or the ends. Watermelon, not tomato, is actually the best raw source of lycopene and super high in beta-carotenes, providing over 30% of your daily requirement in 2 cups of diced watermelon. It’s high in potassium and vitamin C, and also offers calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and fiber. In addition, watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is a natural and rich source of the amino acid citrulline, which is used in the nitric oxide system in humans and has potential antioxidant and vasodilatory effects. Nitric oxide helps your arteries relax and work better, which improves blood flow throughout your body. One study concluded that watermelon might help lower blood pressure in people with prehypertension (5). Watermelon is a very nutritious fruit, which deserves a prominent place in your summer meal planning. And you thought it was just a sweet treat! Here’s a very simple way to enjoy the benefits of these summer delights:
4 cups of diced watermelon
1 cup of fresh mint leaves (stripped from the stems)
Place both ingredients into a blender or “bullet” and blend until smooth. Add a little water as needed.
Makes two servings.
Written by Lisa Murray, RDN, LD
(1)Abdullah I. Hussaina, Farooq Anwara, Muhammad Shahida. Chemical Composition, and Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Essential Oil of Spearmint (Mentha spicata L.From Pakistan). Journal of Essential Oil Research, Vol.22, Issue 1, 2010, pages 78-84.
(2)Belanger JT. Perillyl alcohol: applications in oncology. Alternative Medicine Review : a Journal of Clinical Therapeutics [1998, 3(6):448-457]
(3) Y Nakamura, Y Hasegawa, K Shirota, et al. Differentiation-inducing effect of piperitenone oxide, a fragrant ingredient of spearmint (Mentha spicata), but not carvone and menthol, against human colon cancer. Journal of Functional Foods. Volume 8, May 2014, Pages 62–67
(4) Connelly A. Erin, Tucker Amy J., Tulk Hilary et al. High-Rosmarinic Acid Spearmint Tea in the Management of Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms. Journal of Medicinal Food. December 2014, 17(12): 1361-1367. doi:10.1089/jmf.2013.0189.
(5) Arturo Figueroa, Marcos A. Sanchez-Gonzalez, Penelope M. Perkins-Veazie and Bahram H. Arjmandi. Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Blood Pressure and Wave Reflection in Individuals With Prehypertension: A Pilot Study. Am J Hypertens. 2011 Jan;24(1):40-4. doi: 10.1038/ajh.2010.142. Epub 2010 Jul 8.