The humble cantaloupe may not get as much respect as other fruits, but it should.

This tasty, although odd-looking, melon is packed with nutrients. If you don’t think about nabbing a cantaloupe each time you hit your grocery store’s produce section, read on to learn why you may want to think again.

Adding fruit of any kind to your diet is beneficial. Cantaloupe, a variety of musk melon, is a particularly good choice.

When it comes to beta-carotene, cantaloupe knocks other yellow-orange fruits out of the park.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cantaloupe has more beta- carotene than:

  • apricots
  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • peaches
  • tangerines
  • nectarines
  • mangoes

An early study determined that orange-flesh melons like cantaloupe have the same amount of beta-carotene as carrots.

Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid. Carotenoids are pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. Once eaten, beta-carotene is either converted into vitamin A or acts as a powerful antioxidant to help fight free radicals that attack cells in your body.

Vitamin A is important to:

  • eye health
  • healthy red blood cells
  • a healthy immune system

According to the USDA, 1 cup of balled cantaloupe contains over 100 percent of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin C. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin C is involved in the production of:

  • blood vessels
  • cartilage
  • muscle
  • collagen in bones

More research is needed on vitamin C to prove its effectiveness against diseases like:

  • asthma
  • cancer
  • diabetes

However, eating vitamin C-rich foods may help reduce how long your symptoms last the next time you have the common cold.

A Cochrane Library review found vitamin C reduced the length of the common cold in adults by 8 percent. In children, the time span of having a cold was reduced by 14 percent.

Folate is also known as vitamin B-9. Folate is the term used when it’s naturally present in foods. Folic acid is the term used for supplements and fortified foods.

Folate is well-known for preventing neural-tube birth defects like spinal bifida.

It may also help:

  • reduce the risk of some cancers
  • address memory loss due to aging, although more research is needed

When it comes to cancer, folate may be a double-edged sword.

According to a closer look at studies on the vitamin published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, folate may offer protection in early cancers and in people with a folate deficiency. However, vitamin B-9 in high doses, such as excessive supplementation, may stimulate or worsen later-stage cancers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women and women of childbearing age need to consume 400-600 micrograms of folate daily.

Males over age 13 should consume 400 micrograms. Two cups of balled cantaloupe have 74 micrograms of folate, or around 19 percent of the daily value.

Like most fruits, cantaloupe has high water content, at almost 90 percent. Eating cantaloupe helps you stay hydrated throughout the day, which is important for heart health.

When you’re hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood. Good hydration also supports:

  • digestion
  • healthy kidneys
  • a healthy blood pressure

Mild dehydration may cause:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • less urination
  • dry skin
  • dry mouth
  • constipation

Severe cases may be serious and lead to:

  • rapid heart rate
  • confusion
  • low blood pressure
  • shriveled skin
  • unconsciousness

Dehydration is also a risk factor for developing kidney stones.

Plain water is your best bet for staying hydrated. Eating water-rich fruits like cantaloupe can also help.

The health benefits of fiber go beyond preventing constipation. A high-fiber diet may:

  • reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • help you lose weight by making you feel fuller longer

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015–2020, the recommended intake of fiber is the following:

Men under 50Men over 50Women under 50Women over 50
34 grams28 grams28 grams22 grams

One wedge of a medium-sized cantaloupe provides 4 percent of your potassium daily value. Potassium is an essential electrolyte mineral.

According to the American Heart Association, potassium helps keep the right water balance between cells and body fluids.

Potassium is also vital to nerve health and proper muscle contraction. Eating a potassium-rich snack like cantaloupe after exercise helps replenish depleted electrolytes.

7. Other vitamins and minerals | Other vitamins and minerals

One cup of cantaloupe contains 1.5 grams of protein. It also has small amounts of many other vitamins and minerals, including:

  • vitamin K
  • niacin
  • choline
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorous
  • zinc
  • copper
  • manganese
  • selenium

These healthy benefits make cantaloupe a well-rounded, nutritious fruit choice.

Cantaloupes are available year-round, but this melon shines during the summer when it’s at its freshest and sweetest.

When choosing a ripe cantaloupe, look for one that’s symmetrical and feels slightly heavy. The color should be a creamy, light yellow-orange with little to no green. Ripe cantaloupe should smell sweet and a little musky.

For the freshest taste, use cantaloupe within 3 days of purchase.

Cantaloupes are delicious on their own or in fruit salad, but there are other surprising ways to use them. Here are a few examples:

  • Cantaloupe smoothie. This nutritious drink is made from cantaloupe, Greek yogurt, and natural sweetener. It makes a great breakfast or snack. View the recipe.
  • Cantaloupe salad. Combining cantaloupe with basil, mozzarella, onions, red wine vinegar, and olives gives it a savory kick. View the recipe.
  • Cantaloupe sorbet. You only need four ingredients to make this frosty treat: cantaloupe, lemon, honey, and water. View the recipe.
  • Roasted cantaloupe. Most people wouldn’t dream of roasting cantaloupe, but it brings out the melon’s natural sweetness. View the recipe.

When it comes to melons, you can’t do much better than cantaloupe. It’s nutritious, delicious, and versatile.

If you typically buy watermelon or honeydew melon and shy away from cantaloupe, you’re missing out. At 60 calories and no fat per 1-cup serving, adding cantaloupe to your diet arsenal is a smart way to get potent nutrients and sweetness into your healthy eating plan.