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Red to the rescue

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-05-2014 Kavita Devgan

Hypertension is a worldwide epidemic—and the numbers are escalating rapidly in India too. According to a report published last year in the Journal Of Association Of Physicians Of India, the prevalence of hypertension in the past six decades has increased from 2% to 25% among urban residents. What’s more, by 2020 the numbers will be 159.46 per 1,000 population. “These numbers are huge, yet awareness is low. People must be made aware that it is a huge risk factor for cardiac disease and stroke, so it cannot be taken lightly,” says Santosh Kumar Dora, cardiac electrophysiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.

“Hypertension is a condition where arteries persistently have elevated blood pressure; it can be dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and thus leads to hardening of the arteries,” says Ashwani Mehta, senior consultant cardiologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi. “Below 120/80, systolic measurement (peak pressure in the arteries)/diastolic measurement (minimum pressure in the arteries) is considered normal. Blood pressure between 120/80-139/89 is called pre-hypertension, and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered hypertension,” Dr Mehta adds.

There is a tasty solution to arrest and tackle high blood pressure. A study published last month in the American Journal Of Hypertension says watermelon might actually be a perfect antidote to it. It says that consuming watermelon has a positive impact on aortic blood pressure and other vascular parameters, and watermelon can reduce blood pressure in overweight individuals both at rest and when they are under stress.

According to Dr Dora, “Besides being packed with antioxidant lycopene, watermelon is a rich source of vitamins A, B6, C, and potassium. Its biggest plus is that it is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which gets converted into L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide essential to the regulation of healthy blood pressure in the body.”

“Watermelon is a perfect summer fruit; it is 90% water so it helps rehydrate the body effectively and thus provides relief from scorching heat,” says Neelanjana Singh, chief nutritionist, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi. “It is, in fact, a perfect dessert too, as it is low-calorie (100g gives 30 calories), and because of the fibre and water content, it satiates too. Plus it is the richest known source of lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient that’s especially important for our cardiovascular health (and bone health) because of its ability to neutralize free radical molecules. Watermelon is also rich in other potent antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and has a modest amount of potassium,” she adds.

Another study reported in The Journal Of the Federation Of American Societies For Experimental Biology in April claimed that drinking watermelon purée is as effective as a sports drink in supporting performance, with the added advantage of improving antioxidant capacity through increased intake of lycopene and vitamin A. The study demonstrated that watermelon helped further the blood pressure lowering effect of exercise in the study subjects. “Just make sure that when you make a beverage out of watermelon, avoid adding sugar as the fruit is quite sweet in itself,” suggests Singh. Try these recipes below:

Spicy watermelon salsa


Half watermelon, deseeded and chopped to tiny pieces

Half red onion, chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

A handful of coriander leaves, chopped

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

One-fourth tsp salt


In a serving bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

—Vijay David, executive chef, Grand Mercure, Bangalore.

Watermelon, feta and fresh mint salad

Serves 4


1kg watermelon

350g feta cheese

100g fresh mint leaves

30ml Ouzo (Greek liquor)

Tabasco, a few drops

Salt and pepper to taste


Cut the watermelon into triangles, deseed and refrigerate. In a mixing bowl, add the Ouzo, Tabasco and seasoning; add the watermelon and some of the fresh mint. Toss gently and arrange on a plate. Add the feta cheese and the remaining mint leaves and serve immediately.

—Manu Chandra, executive chef, Olive Beach, Bangalore.

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