Watermelon is a sweet, refreshing, and low-calorie fruit. It contains essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae (also called cucurbits or gourd) family, along with cantaloupe, honeydew, and cucumber. There are five types of watermelon — seeded, seedless, mini, yellow, and orange. In this article, we will discuss nine health benefits of watermelon.
Health Benefits of Watermelon
1. Contains Nutrients and Beneficial Plant Compounds
One cup of watermelon (154 grams) contains many nutrients, including these vitamins and minerals:
• Vitamin C: 21% of RDI
• Vitamin A: 18% of RDI
• Potassium: 5% of RDI
• Magnesium: 4% of RDI
• Vitamins B1, B5, and B6: 3% of RDI
RDI = Reference Daily Intake
Watermelon is also rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lycopene. It also has citrulline, an important amino acid that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. When it comes to fruits, watermelon is one of the lowest in calories. One cup of watermelon only contains 46 calories. That’s lower when compared to other low-sugar fruits such as berries.
2. Helps You Hydrate
Drinking water is the best way to keep the body hydrated. That said, eating foods with a high water content can also serve the same purpose. Did you know that watermelon is 92% water?
Eating fruits and vegetables with high water content can help you feel full. Also, the combination of water and fiber means you are eating a good volume of food without so much calories.
3. May Improve Heart Health
Lifestyle factors, including diet, may reduce the risk of heart attack by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Some nutrients in watermelon are beneficial for heart health. For example, studies suggest that lycopene may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Studies in obese, post-menopausal women and Finnish men show that lycopene may also reduce the thickness and stiffness of artery walls.
Watermelon also contains citrulline, an amino acid which can increase nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide helps blood vessels expand, which in turn lowers blood pressure. Other vitamins and minerals in watermelon, including vitamins A, B6, C, magnesium, and potassium, are also good for the heart.
4. Can Improve Digestion
Watermelon has lots of water and a small amount of fiber, which are both important for healthy digestion. Eating water-rich and fiber-rich foods such as watermelon can be helpful for promoting normal bowel movements. Fiber provides bulk for the stool, while water helps keep the digestive tract moving efficiently.
5. Good for Skin and Hair
Two vitamins in watermelon – vitamin A and C – are important for skin and hair health. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin because it helps create and repair skin cells. If your body doesn’t have enough vitamin A, your skin may look dry and flaky. Meanwhile, vitamin C helps the body make collagen, a protein that keeps the skin supple and the hair strong.
In addition, the lycopene and beta-carotene in watermelon may also help protect the skin from sunburn.
6. Contains Compounds That May Help Prevent Cancer
Researchers have studied lycopene and other plant compounds in watermelon for their anti-cancer effects. Although lycopene is associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer, study results are mixed. The strongest link so far is between lycopene and cancers of the digestive system.
It appears to reduce the risk of cancer by lowering insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which is a protein involved in cell division. High IGF levels are linked to cancer. Also, cucurbitacin E has been studied for its ability to inhibit tumor growth.
7. May Lower Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Inflammation is a key driver of several chronic diseases. Watermelon can help reduce oxidative damage and inflammation as it is rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin C.
In one study, lab rats were given watermelon powder to supplement their diet. Compared to the control group, the subjects developed less oxidative stress and lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.
In another study, humans were given lycopene rich tomato juice with added vitamin C. Antioxidant levels went up while markers of inflammation went down. Watermelon contains both lycopene and vitamin C.
Lycopene may also be beneficial to brain health. It can help delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
8. May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
Lycopene is found in different parts of the eye, helping protect against inflammation and oxidative damage. It can also prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is an eye problem which can cause blindness in older adults. Lycopene’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent AMD from developing and getting worse.
9. May Help Relieve Muscle Soreness
An amino acid found in watermelon, citrulline, may reduce muscle soreness. It is also available as a supplement. Watermelon juice can enhance the absorption of citrulline.
One study involved giving athletes plain watermelon juice, watermelon juice mixed with citrulline, or a citrulline drink. The watermelon drinks resulted in less muscle soreness and quicker heart rate recovery, when compared to citrulline on its own.
Researchers also studied the absorption of citrulline. The findings suggest that citrulline absorption is most effective when it is consumed as a component of watermelon juice.
Tips for Buying and Serving Watermelon
When buying watermelon, look for one that’s firm, heavy, and symmetrical. It also should have no soft spots or bruising. Tapping the outside can provide a clue to the texture of the fruit inside. Listen for a light and hollow-sounding thud. This indicates that the fruit is intact and has a stable structure.
How to Serve Watermelon
Juice – Place diced watermelon and ice cubes in a blender for a cold and refreshing drink that’s perfect for rehydrating.
Salad – Add watermelon, mint, and mozzarella to spinach leaves for a tasty and healthy salad. Drizzle with balsamic dressing.
Smoothies – Make a watermelon smoothie or mix with orange juice for extra tang. Juicing breaks down fiber, making sugar easier to absorb. Those with diabetes should consider eating fresh watermelon rather than drinking juice.
Watermelon is a delicious and refreshing fruit that’s good for you. It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and contains several healthy plant compounds. After knowing the health benefits of watermelon, consider adding this fruit to your diet.
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