summer One reason to snack on watermelon instead of chips is that heart health begins with fruits and vegetables. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower the heart disease risk. Watermelon, in particular, is an excellent source of lycopene, a red pigment that lowers heart disease and heart attack risk.  In fact, watermelon has more lycopene than do tomatoes – up to 20 milligrams in each two-cup serving.  Watermelon also is low or free of cholesterol, fat, and sodium, and is a good source of arginine and citrulline, amino acids that maintain the blood vessels.

Like other colorful fruits and vegetables, watermelon is one of the best defense against cancer. The lycopene in watermelon helps lower risk for prostate cancer in men, while researchers estimate that more than a third of cancer deaths could be avoided by diet alone, with vegetables and fruits like watermelon leading the pack in cancer prevention. In a study from the University of Kuopio in Finland, men with the highest blood levels of lycopene had significantly lower risk for overall cancer incidence. Vitamins A and C in watermelon also show promise in lowering risk for cancers of the  esophagus, stomach, lungs, liver, cervix, colon, and pancreas.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Heaping the plate with produce helps side-step stroke, reduces symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prevents urinary tract infections and cataracts, lowers the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, and boosts the immune system. A study from Tufts University found that lycopene-rich diets lowered bone fracture risk, while diets rich in produce also are a must for weight control.  Then there’s the longevity factor. According to a study from the University of Naples in Italy, people who live more than a century also live the healthiest. Their secret? You guessed it, they eat the most fruits and vegetables. Carrie Barbash via Compfight