These watermelons may look normal, but they have about half the sugar
Leave it to modern-day technology in research labs to come up with some creative ways to make the foods we eat even healthier. We saw an attempt earlier this year at this concept when scientists figured out a way to produce natural low-fat milk straight from the cow (although that wasn't very healthy, IMHO!). But now there's something low-carbers and diabetics alike should cheer: a low-sugar watermelon (my low-carb blogging friend Robin from "Limenade And Watermelon" will be thrilled)!
Yep, have you heard about this yet? This Science News story details what researchers have come up with as the perfect replacement for this higher-sugar member of the melon family. You'll recall I addressed this in Episode 2 of my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb on YouTube" video when my wife asked if watermelon was appropriate for someone on low-carb.
While it's not too terribly high in carbs, watermelon is a little higher than you would prefer for those in the early stages of the Atkins low-carb diet where you restrict your intake to around 20g daily. At about 11g net carbs for a cup of watermelon, that usually makes this fruit off limits for people trying to lose weight the low-carb way.
But now a research geneticist named Angela R. Davis from the USDA's Lane, Oklahoma-based Agricultural Research Service gives hope that this plump, juicy summertime favorite can be back on the menu again for those of us leading a lower-sugar, low-carb lifestyle! They have been working on this for years and wanted it to be perfect before releasing the technology to seed companies to replicate the results for consumer production.
Early experiments resulted in white and even yellow flesh for the watermelon--not exactly the most appetizing way to eat watermelon (kinda like the green ketchup from Heinz was for me a few years back--EWWWW!).
"The project took a lot longer than we expected," Davis remarked. "Because there's a correlation between color and sugar content."
Finally they found a way to make the flesh turn pink while virtually cutting the sugar in half! So, instead of 11g net carbs for a cup of watermelon, how about 5g instead? WOO HOO! The lighter the red in the watermelon, the lower the sugar content. And thus is born a low-carb, reduced-sugar watermelon thanks to science.
Details about these new genetically altered low-sugar watermelons will be published in the journal HortScience before the end of the year.
I bet you're wondering how they taste (yeah, me too!). Well, Davis says that will be the primary issue for people who switch from regular watermelon to this one. But for those of us who already eschew sugar in our diet to manage our weight and/or diabetes, it'll probably taste pretty good. I liken it to switching from regular soda to diet soda. The transition takes some getting used to, but it happens.
Just as the soda companies use artificial sweeteners to replace the sugar in their products, so too will those sweeteners come in handy for people choosing to eat this lower-sugar watermelon. I, of course, would recommend either Splenda or stevia if you feel like you need to use a sweetener at all.
Davis said they ran taste tests among teenagers and adults with diabetes and the low-sugar, artificially-sweetened (with Splenda!) watermelons actually BEAT the regular watermelon among those surveyed. WOW! There may be hope for us yet with those kind of results!
"Overall, there was a significant preference for the artificially sweetened watermelons compared with the conventional watermelons," the researchers concluded.
What's so healthy about eating watermelon, you ask? In a word--LYCOPENE! Yes, you can find this awesome nutrient in tomatoes (which gives it that rich, red color!) and it is a powerful antioxidant responsible for destroying free radicals which can wreak havoc on your health. You'll be pleased to know that these reduced-sugar watermelons retain their high lycopene content!
"A low-sugar watermelon is a palatable fruit choice to individuals who must restrict sugar or total carbohydrate intake--with the added benefits of lycopene," the researchers added.
These new reduced-sugar watermelons will look like a typical 10-12 pound watermelon when they do become available in stores--no specific date as of yet. We'll let you know when they're available and will try to blog about how they taste when we get our hands on them. I would think an ice-cold low-sugar watermelon should be ready for consumption by the time the dog days of summer hit in 2008. I can't wait!
You can e-mail Angela Davis to thank her for her research into making watermelons lower in sugar for those of us on carb-restricted diets for weight and diabetes control at firstname.lastname@example.org.