Diet and Nutrition: The Health Benefits of Watermelon

The cheery red color comes from lycopene, an antioxidant.

Loaded With Lycopene

The cheery red color comes from lycopene, an antioxidant. Studies show it may help curb your risk of cancer and diabetes as part of a healthy lifestyle. Watermelon has more of this nutrient than any other fruit or veggie -- even tomatoes. To load up on lycopene, choose a melon with bright red flesh rather than yellow or orange. And the riper, the better. Also, seedless melon tends to have more lycopene than those with seeds.

Some pigments help protect plants from the sun.

Sun Benefit?

Some pigments help protect plants from the sun. Oddly enough, just eating them may shield your skin, too -- at least a little. The lycopene in watermelon may make it less likely that you get sunburned. But that's not for sure, so keep using your broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher every day.

Watermelon is rich in an amino acid called citrulline that may help move blood through your body and can lower your blood pressure.

Healthier Heart

Watermelon is rich in an amino acid called citrulline that may help move blood through your body and can lower your blood pressure. Your heart also enjoys the perks of all the lycopene watermelon contains. Studies show that it may lower your risk of heart attacks. Of course, your whole lifestyle affects your heart health. So make sure you also work out, don't smoke, limit saturated fat, and keep up with your doctor's advice.

Watermelon has a natural pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin that may protect your joints from inflammation.

Protects Your Joints

Watermelon has a natural pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin that may protect your joints from inflammation. Some studies show that over time, it could make you less likely to get rheumatoid arthritis.

Just one serving of watermelon gives you more than 30 percent of the vitamin A you need each day.

Easy on Your Eyes

Just one serving of watermelon gives you more than 30% of the vitamin A you need each day. This nutrient is one of the keys to keeping your eyes healthy. Foods are the best ways to get all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

Juicy watermelon is 92 percent water, so it's a simple way to help stay hydrated.

Naturally Sweet Hydration

Juicy watermelon is 92% water, so it's a simple way to help stay hydrated. Every cell in your body needs water. Even a small shortage can make you feel sluggish. If you get really dehydrated, it can become serious enough that you need to get fluids by IV.

Vitamins A, B6, and C in watermelon help your skin stay soft, smooth, and supple.

Soothes Your Skin

Vitamins A, B6, and C in watermelon help your skin stay soft, smooth, and supple. Because it's loaded with water, melon also makes a great face mask. Mix 1 tablespoon of watermelon juice with the same amount of Greek yogurt. Spread over your face and leave on for 10 minutes to slough off any dry, dull skin. Rinse and pat dry.

A cup of ice cream will set you back around 300 calories.

Satisfies Your Sweet Tooth

A cup of ice cream will set you back around 300 calories. You can enjoy the same amount of watermelon for just 40 calories. And unlike many other desserts, it's fat-free, low in cholesterol, and has no sodium. Plus, the water in it will help you stay fuller longer. To make an easy sorbet, puree some watermelon in your blender, add a squeeze of lime, and pop in the freezer until it hardens.

Watermelon's high water content, antioxidants, and amino acids may make for a better workout.

Boosts Your Workout

Watermelon's high water content, antioxidants, and amino acids may make for a better workout. It's also high in potassium, a mineral that could cut down on cramps at the gym. You can sip watermelon juice after you sweat, too. Doing so could help prevent muscle soreness, as long as you don't push yourself too hard.

Trying to keep your blood glucose levels steady? You're in luck.

Won't Spike Your Blood Sugar

Trying to keep your blood glucose levels steady? You're in luck. Watermelon has a glycemic index (GI) value of 80, about the same as a bowl of cornflakes. But it's got few carbs. That means its glycemic load (how quickly it enters your bloodstream and how much glucose it can produce) is a mere 5. Enjoy a slice without guilt!

If you have a digestive condition like Crohn's or colitis, the list of what not to eat during a flare can be long.

Easy to Digest

If you have a digestive condition like Crohn's or colitis, the list of what not to eat during a flare can be long. You can put watermelon on your "yes" list. Its soft, fleshy fruit is easy for even an inflamed gut to digest. (Just don't eat the rind or the seeds if you need to limit fiber.)

You may have been told as a kid that if you swallow watermelon seeds, they'll grow in your belly.

What If I Eat a Seed by Accident?

You may have been told as a kid that if you swallow watermelon seeds, they'll grow in your belly. Not true! After all, your stomach has no sunlight or soil, and a lot of gastric acid. Many melons are seedless these days, but don't worry if you do swallow a seed. They're actually full of nutrients!

Pick a melon that's free of dents, nicks, and bruises.

Choose a Good One

Pick a melon that's free of dents, nicks, and bruises. Look for a yellow, not white, spot on the bottom. This signals that it's ripe. A juicy, ready-to-eat watermelon will feel heavy for its size. When you thump it, it should sound hollow.

Wash the outside of your melon before you slice into it.

Safely Cut and Store Your Melon

Wash the outside of your melon before you slice into it. You don't want your knife to transfer any germs to the inside. While melon tastes best right after it's cut, you can store it in your fridge for up to 5 days. Freezing is an option, too. While the watermelon won't stay crisp, you can thaw it to use in smoothies.

A slice of fresh watermelon tastes great, but you can do more with it.

Don't Stop With a Slice

A slice of fresh watermelon tastes great, but you can do more with it. Top a salad with cubed melon and crumbled feta cheese. Make a watermelon pizza by topping wedges with yogurt, mint, slivered almonds, and berries. And save the seeds! Tossed with olive oil and sea salt, they can be roasted for a tasty (and healthy) snack.

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REFERENCES:

  • National Watermelon Promotion Board, "Watermelon in Lycopene Leader," "Watermelon Benefits," Cancer Risk," "Health 101," "The Myth About Swallowing Watermelon Seeds," "Frequently Asked Questions," "Sweet Watermelon Pizza," "Use Watermelon to Reinvigorate Winter Skin."
  • Journal of Fruit Science: "Change of lycopene contents during fruit development of different ploidy watermelon."
  • Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: "Lycopene content differs among red-fleshed watermelon cultivars."
  • EXCLI Journal: "Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims."
  • Annual Review of Food Science and Technology: "An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene."
  • Molecular Biotechnology: "Carotenoids and Flavonoids Contribute to Nutritional Protection against Skin Damage from Sunlight."
  • Arthritis Foundation: "Choosing the Freshest Fruit to Fight Inflammation," "Best Fruits for Arthritis."
  • Mayo Clinic: "Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?"
  • Produce for Better Health Foundation: "Insider's Viewpoint: Watermelon: The Secret to Finding the Ripest Melon on the Shelf."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Antioxidant-Rich Watermelon," "Choose a Perfectly Ripe Watermelon - Here's How."
  • FDA: "Read the Label on Snacks."
  • International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences: "Phytochemicals in Obesity Control."
  • Harvard Health Publishing/Harvard Medical School: "The lowdown on glycemic index and glycemic load," Glycemic index for 60+ foods."
  • American Chemical Society: "Watermelon juice relives post-exercise muscle soreness."
  • Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Consumption of Watermelon Juice Enriched in l-Citrulline and Pomegranate Ellagitannins Enhanced Metabolism during Physical Exercise."
  • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary β-cryptoxanthin and inflammatory polyarthritis: results from a population-based prospective study."
  • International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences: "Medicinal Values on Citrullus lanatus (Watermelon): Pharmacological Review."
  • Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America: "Diet, Nutrition and Inflammatory Bowel Disease."
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center: "Beat the heat with heart-healthy cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon."
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