Sadly, watermelons (which, surprise, are technically berries!), have gotten a bad rap with keto-devotees and others because of their natural sweetness. (The eating plan advises only eating fruits low in sugar.) Watermelon has to have tons of sugar, right?
Wrong. Watermelons are actually relatively low in sugar compared to other fruits. A one-cup serving of diced watermelon has nine grams of sugar. That's less than what you'd get from a cup of mango (23 grams), banana (18 grams), or even apples (11 grams). So let's just nip that false rumor in the bud right now.
- Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist
And with that nine grams of sugar, you're also getting a helluva lot of nutrition, too, from antioxidants to fiber and potassium. The fruit also has three different types of antioxidants, all of which are linked to warding off chronic inflammation. So if you ever need receipts for someone hating on your go-to summer treat, just show them this list of all of the health benefits of watermelon. Anyone else feeling vindicated?
3 important antioxidants in watermelon
"Antioxidants are health-supporting compounds that fight inflammation and free radical damage," nutrition expert Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, previously told Well+Good. They're crucial because there's no escaping free radicals. Free radicals come about during exercise and exposure to sunlight and pollution, among other situations, and what makes them so harmful is that they can destabilize the cells in your body. Watermelon has three different types of antioxidants: lycopene, ascorbic acid, and citrulline.
This type of antioxidant is especially good for cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that regular consumption of this antioxidant can help reduce cholesterol levels.
2. Ascorbic acid
Ascorbic acid is another name for vitamin C and it's directly linked to supporting the immune system.
Similar to lycopene, citrulline is good for the heart. This type of antioxidant helps arteries relax, which is good for blood flow.
Wondering what other nutrients watermelon boasts? Check out the full nutritional information below, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
Per serving (280 grams or about 1 1/8 cups):
Calories: 85 g
Sodium: 3 mg
Potassium: 314 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 17 g
Protein: 2 g
Vitamin C: 37%
Vitamin B6: 5%
What are the health benefits of watermelon?
1. It could help protect against certain types of cancer.
Watermelon can credit its gorgeous pink-red hue to the aforementioned antioxidant lycopene. “Lycopene is an antioxidant and anti-cancer nutrient that can be consumed raw and is bioavailable (useable by the body),” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, the founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. Of course, watermelon alone won’t safeguard your health, but the nutrient can play a helpful role as part of an overall healthy diet.
2. It's good for your skin.
You know how watermelon is full of vitamin C? That's not just good for the immune system. Smith says vitamin C plays a key role in helping your body form collagen, the protein that keeps skin healthy. It also plays a role in keeping eyesight sharp. One serving of watermelon has a full 37 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin C for the entire day.
3. Watermelon is great pre-workout snack.
“I like it because it’s a source of hydration and it’s lower in fiber, so it won’t make your tummy ache before exercise,” says Smith, of another one of the health benefits of watermelon. Plus, it is a decent source of potassium (crucial for muscle function); just one watermelon wedge has 320 mg of potassium, about 12 percent of your daily requirements. The fruit also packs an amino acid called L-citrulline—some research suggests that, overtime, regular consumption may boost levels of nitric oxide in the blood to improve exercise performance.
4. Watermelon helps with post-workout recovery, too.
Carbs are getting a lot of hate these days, but after a workout, your muscles need to replenish their glycogen stores as part of proper recovery. “Watermelon has useable carbs, plus magnesium and the amino acid L-citrulline, which is involved in healing and exercise recovery,” says Smith.
5. It could be good for your heart.
It's all thanks to the lycopene—research shows that the phytonutrient can help keep arteries flexible, stymies the accumulation of artery-clogging plaque, and may even help reduce blood pressure. Considering heart disease is the number one killer of women, it's always good to load up on heart-healthy foods.
6. Watermelon is hydrating.
It's called watermelon for a reason. While refilling your S'well bottle is undeniably a good thing, what you eat also counts toward your hydration quota for the day, says Smith. (In fact, food makes up about 20 percent of your water intake.) Considering watermelon is drip-down-your-chin juicy, it should come as no surprise that it’s a great way to “drink” up in addition to your other healthy hydration habits.
7. It's a great healthy dessert (if that's your thing).
Remember: Watermelon is relatively low in sugar compared to other fruits. “Don’t get strung out about the sugar in watermelon,” Smith says. You can have two cups for about 90 calories and 20 grams of natural sugars which, says Smith, is a lot of watermelon. Even a one-cup serving (around nine to 10 grams of sugar, depending on how you slice it) is a generous amount of fruit, she says.
Are there any risks to eating watermelon?
Clearly eating watermelon comes with a lot of benefits. But there are a few caveats to be aware of. If you're sensitive to FODMAPs, it's important to know that watermelon is a high-FODMAP food. That means some people with irritable bowel syndrome may find watermelon makes their symptoms worse.
Also, even though watermelon doesn't have a ton of sugar, it does contain some, so if you have diabetes or other health conditions related to blood sugar, it's important to be mindful of your intake.
The best way to eat watermelon
If you're getting bored with just slicing and dicing your fresh watermelon (which, fair), here are a few other ideas of how to cook and eat watermelon to make the most out of its health benefits:
1. Make a cocktail.
If you’re outside sipping a beverage anyway, why not make it spiked watermelon juice? A half-ounce of vodka, some watermelon juice, and a few muddled fresh mint leaves is an instant refresher that gets the okay from Smith. Or consider a sparkling watermelon sangria like in the below video:
2. Turn it into salsa.
Chop up watermelon and combine with lime juice, salt, and tomatoes for a nice salsa that can go with plantain chips or atop a grilled piece of fish or chicken. (If you're really needing a recipe, this easy version from Gimme Some Oven looks divine.)
3. Or make it into a salad.
Top a bed of arugula with watermelon cubes, feta, pumpkin seeds, and a light vinaigrette. Or try Crossfit exec Billy De La Rosa's go-to salad recipe, which includes watermelon, avocado, nuts, tomato, and cucumber. Yummm.
4. Turn it into an ice-pop.
Because what screams "warm weather" quite like an ice-pop (and a watermelon one at that)? These watermelon-hibiscus ice pops are just the ticket if you're looking for a healthier treat.
As you can see, there's no shortage of ways to incorporate watermelon into your diet. Each time you do so, you'll be benefitting your body in myriad ways—no matter how you slice it!
Watch the video below to learn more about the benefits of watermelon:
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