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Cantaloupe is a melon known in the United States as a cantaloupe or muskmelon. The cantaloupe is a member of the gourd family that also includes honeydew, crenshaw, casaba, Persian melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, watermelons and chayote. Cantaloupe has rind netting over a yellow-skinned background, orange flesh and a musky aroma. Cantaloupes originate from Africa and they were brought to North America sometime in the 16th century. Most cantaloupes available on the US market are grown primarily in the United States, Central America and Mexico. Cantaloupes range in size from 0.5 kg to 5.0 kg. Cantaloupe is frequently consumed as a fresh fruit, in a salad or as a dessert with ice cream or custard. Besides being delicious, cantaloupe has various health benefits and a nutrient rich profile.

Nutritional information on cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. It is also a very good source of potassium and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 and folate. One cup of cantaloupe, sliced in cubes, weighs approximately 160 grams. In such a portion there are around 56 calories and enough vitamin A to satisfy as much as 103% of recommended daily allowance (RDA). A cup of sliced cantaloupe will also provide 112% of RDA for vitamin C, 4.6% of RDA for niacin, 9% of RDA for vitamin B6 and 6.8% of RDA for folate.

Health benefits of cantaloupe

As an extremely good source of vitamin A, cantaloupe is good for prevention of cataracts. One scientific research shows that people who ate diets that included cantaloupe had half the risk of cataract surgery, while those who ate the highest amounts of butter, salt and total fat had higher risks for cataract surgery. While beta-carotene and vitamin A are fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin C operates as an antioxidant in the water-soluble areas of the body. Eating the cantaloupe is the best possible way to protect the whole body from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C is also important for the immune system as it stimulates white cells to fight infections, directly kills many bacteria and viruses and regenerates Vitamin E after it has been deactivated by disarming free radicals.

People who smoke or who are exposed to second hand smoke should also include cantaloupe in their daily diet. The reason behind this recommendation is that a common carcinogen in cigarette smoke, benzopyrene, induces vitamin A deficiency. Furthermore, vitamin A's protective effects may help explain why some smokers do not develop emphysema.

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