What are the health benefits of watermelon?
Watermelon is a sweet and refreshing low-calorie summer snack. It provides hydration and also essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Along with cantaloupe, honeydew, and cucumber, watermelons are a member of the Cucurbitaceous family.
There are five common types of watermelon: seeded, seedless, mini, yellow, and orange.
In this article, learn more about the possible health benefits and nutritional content of watermelon, some tips for serving it, and who should limit it.
Watermelon is around 90% water, which makes it useful for staying hydrated in the summer. It can also satisfy a sweet tooth with its natural sugars.
Watermelon also contains antioxidants. These substances can help trusted source molecules known as free radicals, or reactive species, from the body. The body produces free radicals during natural processes, such as metabolism. They can also develop through smoking, air pollution, stress, and other environmental pressures.
If too many free radicals stay in the body, oxidative stress can occur. This can result in cell damage and may lead to a range of diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
The body can remove some free radicals naturally, but dietary antioxidants support this process.
Below are some of the ways antioxidants and other nutrients in watermelon may help protect a person’s health.
Some experts believe that free radicals contribute to the development of asthma. The presence of certain antioxidants in the lungs, including vitamin C, may reduce the risk of having asthma.
Studies have not confirmed that taking vitamin C supplements can help prevent asthma, but a diet that is rich in vitamin C may offer some protection.
A cup of watermelon balls weighing around 154 grams (g) provides 12.5 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, or between 14% and 16% of a person’s daily needs.
In a 2012 study, researchers found that watermelon extract reduced blood pressure in and around the ankles of middle-aged people with obesity and early hypertension. The authors suggested that L-citrulline and L-arginine — two of the antioxidants in watermelon — may improve the function of the arteries.
Lycopene — another antioxidant in watermelon — may help protect against heart disease. A 2017 review suggested that it might do this by reducing inflammation linked with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. Phytosterols are plant compounds that may help manage low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. Some guidelines recommend consuming 2 grams (g) of phytosterols each day. 154 g of watermelon balls provide a small amount, at 3.08 mg.
Reducing LDL cholesterol may help prevent high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (CVD), but the precise impact of phytosterols on CVD remains unclear.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) note that free radicals can play a role in the development of some types of cancer. The oxidative stress they cause can result in DNA cell damage.
Dietary antioxidants in watermelon, such as vitamin C, may help prevent cancer by combatting free radicals.
Digestion and Regularity.
Watermelon has high water content and also provides some fibre. These nutrients help promote a healthy gut by preventing constipation and promoting regularity of bowel movements.
Watermelon is around 90% water and also provides electrolytes, such as potassium. This makes it a healthful choice of snack during the hot summer months.
People can eat watermelon fresh, as juice, or frozen in slices for a tasty cold Popsicle-style snack.
Brain and Nervous System
Choline is another antioxidant that occurs in watermelon.
It contributes to the following functions and activities:
- muscle movement
- learning and memory
- maintaining the structure of cell membranes
- the transmission of nerve impulses
- early brain development
One theory suggests that choline may help slow the progression of dementia in Alzheimer's disease, but there is not enough evidence to confirm this.
Watermelon and watermelon juice may reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time following exercise in athletes.
In 2017 athletes drank either half a litre of either a placebo or watermelon juice with added L-citrulline, 2 hours before running a half marathon race. Those who consumed the watermelon drink reported less muscle soreness 24–72 hours after the race.
It is unclear whether consuming watermelon juice without added L-citrulline would have the same effect.
Watermelon contains vitamin C, which the body needs to produce collagen. Collagen is essential for cell structure and immune function. Vitamin C also promotes wound healing.
In 2019, researchers published finding trusted source indicating that watermelon may improve features of metabolic syndrome, including obesity and cardiovascular measures. In the study, 33 people with overweight or obese consumed either 2 cups of watermelon or low-fat cookies each day for 4 weeks.
The people who ate watermelon reported feeling less hungry and more satisfied for longer than those who ate the cookies.
In addition, after 4 weeks, those who ate watermelon had:
- higher levels of antioxidants in their blood
- lower Body Weight and body mass index (BMI)
- lower systolic blood pressure
- improved waist-to-hip ratio
Those who ate the cookies had higher levels of oxidative stress than the watermelon group. Their blood pressure and body fat also increased.
The results suggest that watermelon may be a good choice of snack for people with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Some people use diuretic drugs to help their bodies remove excess water and salt. This can be useful for people with kidney problems, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
A 2014 mouse study concluded that watermelon’s diuretic action might be as effective as that of furosemide, which is a well-known diuretic. This could make it a natural option for people with excess fluid. Never stop taking a prescription diuretic without talking to your healthcare provider.
Moderate amounts of watermelon present no serious health risk for most people, but some may need to take care of.
Diabetes: Watermelon is a fruit with natural sugar content. People with diabetes must account for these carbs in their daily meal plans. It is better to consume watermelon whole rather than as a juice, as juicing removes the fiber, making the sugar easier for the body to absorb. This may increase the risk of a glucose spike. Remember to watch portion sizes as with all fruit and juices.
Allergy: Some may develop symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing after eating watermelon. If this happens, the person needs medical attention, as it can sometimes lead to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition.