Watermelons stored at room temperature deliver more nutrients than refrigerated or freshly picked melons, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say.
Penelope Perkins-Veazie and Julie Collins of the USDA's South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, Okla., looked at carotenoids -- antioxidants that can counter the damage caused by sun, chemicals and day-to-day living.
They tested several popular varieties of watermelon stored for 14 days at 70 degrees, 55 degrees and 41 degrees, finding that whole watermelons stored at 70 degrees had substantially more nutrients.
Furthermore, compared with freshly picked fruit, watermelon stored at 70 degrees gained as much as 40% more lycopene and 50% to 139% extra beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
The researchers said watermelons continue to produce these nutrients after they are picked and that chilling slows this process. The research was reported this month in an online version of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.