Whether you know it as mush melon, muskmelon, rock melon, or Persian melon, chances are, you don’t think of cantaloupe as a superfood. Perhaps the fact that this melon has served as a standby in fruit salads across the nation since long before we all learned how to pronounce “açaí” has prevented us from fully appreciating the ways cantaloupe benefits our health and well-being. Let’s fix that. Here are six key cantaloupe nutrition facts and health benefits everyone should know.
Brush Up on Cantaloupe Nutrition Facts
If you love cucumbers, honeydew melons, and watermelons, you're probably a fan of the cantaloupe too, since they all belong to the Cucurbitaceae family.
Not only does cantaloupe’s soft, juicy flesh make a wonderful healthy dessert option, but it’s also brimming with nutrients. And the calories in cantaloupe are quite low: 1 cup totals up to a mere 54 calories!
What about fat, you ask? Total fat comes out to just 0.3 grams in 1 cup, and if you're watching your saturated fat load you have nothing to worry about!
If you’re wondering “is cantaloupe low-carb,” the answer is yes! A cup of cantaloupe contains 14.1 total carbohydrates and 1.4 grams of fiber, which means it contains just 12.7 grams of net carbs.
Cantaloupe is a low-calorie fruit, a low-carb fruit, and a total beauty fruit since it’s crammed full of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that benefit your skin and overall well-being. Plus, cantaloupe is 90% water (no wonder it’s so low-calorie!), and as such helps to ensure you stay optimally hydrated.
We can also celebrate the cantaloupe for providing about 100% of our recommended daily value of vitamins A and C in a 1-cup serving size. Here are some cantaloupe nutrition highlights for 1 cup of cantaloupe cubes, along with the percent daily values:
- Calories: 54.4
- Carbohydrates: 14.1 grams
- Dietary fiber: 1.4 grams
- Net carbohydrates: 12.7 grams
- Sugar: 12.6 grams
- Water: 144 grams
- Vitamin A: 5,412 IU, 108% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA)
- Vitamin C: 58.7 milligrams, 98% of the RDA
- Potassium: 427 milligrams, 12% of the RDA
- Folate: 33.6 micrograms, 8% of the RDA
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 1.3 milligrams, 6% of the RDA
- Vitamin B6: 0.1 milligrams, 6% of the RDA
- Vitamin K: 4.4 micrograms, 6% of the RDA
The Health Benefits of Cantaloupe
The nutrients found in cantaloupe benefit your health in a number of ways. Here are six of the most exciting and significant facts about how cantaloupe enhances your well-being.
1. Protects and Promotes the Health of Your Skin
Cantaloupe’s succulent orange flesh contains tons of beta-carotene, an orange-red plant pigment that your body converts to vitamin A. While cantaloupe’s color is softer than that of some other orange fruits, the cantaloupe outperforms most when it comes to beta-carotene content: it’s got more of this vital nutrient than oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, nectarines, mangoes, peaches, and apricots do! According to one study, cantaloupe is an excellent and highly bioavailable source of beta-carotene, equivalent to famously beta-carotene-rich carrots.
Vitamin A functions as a potent antioxidant, fighting off free radicals that can cause serious damage to your cells. Studies show that it plays an especially crucial role when it comes to skin health. Vitamin A keeps your skin looking fresh and clear by encouraging skin cell turnover so you shed dead skin cells that cause your skin to look dull and clog your pores, which can lead to breakouts. It also protects your skin from damage caused by UV rays and pollution. Providing your body with plenty of beta-carotene by eating cantaloupe, for example, may even prevent wrinkles by promoting skin elasticity and staving off unwanted signs of aging.
2. Boosts Your Immune System
Our bodies need vitamin C for many reasons. It’s involved in the production of collagen, the main structural tissue forming our bones, cartilage, muscles, blood vessels, and more. Scientists have studied vitamin C as a potential means of preventing cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. But perhaps the best-known benefit of increasing your vitamin C intake is ramping up your immune system.
This benefit of vitamin C has been validated by high-quality research, including a Cochrane Systematic Review that evaluated the findings of 29 trials that enrolled a combined total of 11,306 participants. The review found clear evidence that increasing your intake of vitamin C can reduce the severity of your cold symptoms as well as help you recover from colds more quickly.
3. Balance Your Mood and Improve Your Mental Health
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is necessary for DNA formation, making it particularly essential for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding to get an adequate supply of this nutrient. But everyone else needs folate too, and many of us aren’t getting enough of it.
Research shows that low levels of folate can negatively impact your health in a variety of ways. The effect on your mental health can be especially acute. According to one study, there’s a link between folate deficiencies and depression, dementia, and schizophrenia. The study also found that low levels of folate can intensify psychiatric symptoms. The authors noted that less data currently exists on whether increasing your folate intake can help to treat mental disorders, but results so far have been promising and the risks associated with this strategy are low, so there’s no reason not to try it for yourself.
If you’re already taking medication for depression, there’s some evidence that folate can make those treatments more effective.
Cantaloupe also contains a noteworthy amount of choline, a nutrient that helps enhance cognitive function. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that older participants with higher choline levels demonstrated better brain functioning than did participants with low choline levels.
A more recent study from 2019 showed that when levels of choline, vitamin C, and zinc were low, older men had poorer working memory. Cantaloupe offers up all three of those nutrients!
While researchers continue to explore how folate and choline help to balance your mood and improve your mental health, there’s nothing to stop you from experimenting on your own. Try eating more foods that contain folate and choline, like cantaloupe, and see if you notice a difference.
4. Speed Post-Workout Recovery Time
When it comes to potassium, cantaloupe gives bananas a run for their money. A cup of cantaloupe contains as much potassium as a medium banana—about 12% of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA).
Potassium, which acts as both a mineral and an electrolyte, helps to ensure that your body maintains the right balance of fluids. It’s also important for nerve health and muscle contraction, and plays an important role in heart disease and stroke prevention by helping to lower blood pressure.
Studies show that rapidly restoring your fluid and electrolyte balance after a workout is a vital part of the recovery process. Eating a potassium-rich post-workout snack such as cantaloupe replenishes the electrolytes your body lost and helps you bounce back faster.
5. Helps You Stay Hydrated
One reason cantaloupe is such an ideal post-workout snack is that it not only restores lost electrolytes, but also lost fluids. Snacking on cantaloupe, which is made up of 90% water, ensures you remain optimally hydrated.
While severe dehydration typically occurs only in cases of extreme illness or exertion, even mild dehydration can come with unpleasant symptoms such as:
- Low energy
- Dry skin
- Dry mouth
Drinking enough water is the most important factor when it comes to staying hydrated, but eating a fruit like cantaloupe with a high water content can certainly help.
6. Protects Your Eye Health
We've already gushed about the concentration of beta-carotene in cantaloupe melons, but did you know that these juicy orange super fruits are a rich food source of two other vision-enhancing carotenoids?
Cantaloupe offers up lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant combo that can help protect your peepers from harmful blue light rays, free radicals, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Cut Open a Cantaloupe
If you're jonesing for a cantaloupe (we sure are!) then you've got a few varieties to choose from.
The European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo cantalupensis) is the cantaloupe's namesake, which originated in Cantalupo Italy. Its rind is hard, its skin light green to tan, and it may be totally smooth or carry a slight netting.
The North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo reticultus) is distinct in that it has a softer rind and pale yellow, netted skin.
Both have that delightfully juicy sweet flavor that makes the cantaloupe such a beloved melon.
Asian cantaloupe is a tad less netted than the North American variety, with a milder flavor and a slightly harder flesh.
Then there are other types of cantaloupe, such as the green-skinned Japanese cantaloupe that can sell for $100 a pop, the Israeli Galia cantaloupe that smells like a banana, and the French Charentais cantaloupe that has a grayish-green ribbed skin with the orange juicy flesh we adore.
Whichever variety you can get your hands on, don't hesitate to enjoy fresh cantaloupe any day of the week!