Cantaloupe and honeydew are two types of muskmelon that originated in what is now Iran. Musk is a Persian word for perfume, and the fruit was named for its fragrant flesh. Galen, the second-century Greek physician, wrote of the muskmelon's medicinal qualities and third-century Romans wrote about growing and seasoning it. Muskmelon is grown worldwide, with California's Imperial Valley hosting the majority of the United States' cantaloupe production.
Honeydew and cantaloupe are excellent snacks for people trying to lose or maintain weight. A 2-cup bowl of honeydew has 122 calories, 2.7 grams of fiber and nearly 2 grams of protein, with 27 grams of natural sugar. Cantaloupe is a little lighter, with 109 calories, 2.9 grams of fiber, 2.7 grams of protein and 25 grams of sugar. Because they are packed with vitamins and minerals, they can help keep you energized between meals, reducing your urge to snack on fattening foods.
Vitamins A, C and Folate
Cantaloupe is richer in vitamins than honeydew. A 2-cup bowl of cantaloupe contains 117 milligrams, while the same amount of honeydew has 61. Cantaloupe also has 541 micrograms of vitamin A, exceeding your recommended daily intake of 500 micrograms per day, while the honeydew offers only 10 micrograms of vitamin A. The two types of melon are similar in folate content. Cantaloupe provides 67 of the 320 micrograms of folate you need each day, while honeydew provides 65 micrograms. If you are pregnant or nursing, an adequate folate intake can help protect your baby from birth defects such as spina bifida.
Cantaloupe and honeydew are both rich in potassium, a mineral your body needs to counter your sodium intake, maintain a healthy balance of water and keep your blood pressure at a safe level. It also helps your body convert amino acids to protein, metabolize carbohydrates and build muscle. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 3,500 milligrams of potassium per day. A 2-cup serving of cantaloupe gives you 854 milligrams and the same amount of honeydew has 775, so either fruit is a good choice to help you meet your body's potassium needs.
Honeydew may help improve your circulation. Two cups of cubed cantaloupe have .230 milligram of vitamin B-6, 2.35 milligrams of niacin and 38 milligrams of magnesium, giving you 5 to 10 percent of your daily value for each of those nutrients. Two cups of honeydew have about the same amount of magnesium but 1.4 milligrams of niacin and .3 milligram of vitamin B-6. If you are trying to increase your intake of vitamin B-6, which helps your body make hemoglobin -- the substance that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body -- honeydew is a better choice than cantaloupe.
Choosing a melon that is just ripe enough can be challenging. According to the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, you can get an idea of a melon's ripeness by knocking on it. if it makes a dull thud sound, the melon is ripe or possibly overripe. If it makes a ringing sound, the melon is not ripe enough and may be hard and lacking in flavor. Look at the color of the rind beneath the netted appearance. If it has a generally golden color, the melon is ripe.
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet -- Vitamin B6
- Texas A&M University: Muskmelons Originated in Persia
- U.C. Davis Vegetable Research and Information Center: Cantaloupe and Honeydew
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for 09184, Melons, Honeydew, Raw
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for 09181, Melons, Cantaloupe, Raw
- New Mexico State University: When Is That Melon Ripe?
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.