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Health Benefits of Watermelon + Recipes

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Benefits of watermelon - Dr. Axe

Watermelon is often considered a summertime staple, popping up at pool parties and summer barbecues all season long. But while it’s well-known for its ability to keep you cool and hydrated, there are tons of other benefits of watermelon that are not as well-known. In fact, this tasty fruit has been linked to everything from reduced muscle pain to improved vision, enhanced immunity and beyond.

So, is watermelon good for you? And can you enjoy this tasty fruit on a weight loss diet, or is watermelon fattening? Keep reading to find out the answers to all your burning questions about watermelon — plus, some new ways to enjoy all the health benefits it has to offer.


What Is Watermelon? Watermelon Nutrition Facts

The watermelon plant, also known by its scientific name Citrullus lanatus, is a member of the flowering plant family known as Cucurbitaceae. The spiky, low-to-the-ground plant originates from southern Africa and produces the popular edible fruit we now commonly consume. It’s believed that wild watermelon were more bitter than the type we eat today (thanks to the presence of a compound called cucurbitacin) and that many varieties, with different colors and tastes, were actually grown wildly across Africa.

Today, it’s estimated that there are actually more than 1,200 different cultivars of watermelon species grown around the world, including the lanatus watermelon, crimson sweet watermelon and jubilee watermelon. Watermelons of all species are loaded with antioxidants and have been associated with a wide range of health benefits, such as better heart health, enhanced immunity and increased weight loss.

Take a look at the watermelon nutrition facts and it’s easy to see why this tasty fruit is packed with so many benefits. It’s an incredibly nutrient-dense food, meaning it’s low in watermelon calories but rich in many important vitamins and minerals your body needs.

One cup of diced watermelon contains approximately: (1)

  • 46 calories
  • 11.5 grams carbohydrates
  • 1 gram protein
  • 0.2 grams fat
  • 0.6 grams dietary fiber
  • 12.3 milligrams vitamin C (21 percent DV)
  • 865 IUs vitamin A (17 percent DV)
  • 170 milligrams potassium (5 percent DV)
  • 15.2 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams thiamine (3 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (3 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligrams pantothenic acid (3 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams copper (3 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams manganese (3 percent DV)

 

Benefits of watermelon - Dr. Axe

 

In addition to the nutrients listed above, watermelons also contain some riboflavin, iron and phosphorus.


Top 10 Health Benefits of Watermelon

1. Boosts Immunity

Studies show eating watermelon can increase levels of arginine, an important amino acid that’s used for the synthesis of nitric oxide. (2) Not only does nitric oxide help dilate your vessels to keep blood flowing efficiently and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, but it’s also involved in regulating the immune system. (3)

Watermelon is also a great source of vitamin C, a key micronutrient that does double duty, acting as both an antioxidant and immune enhancer to keep your body healthy and ward off chronic disease. (4) Antioxidants can also help fight free radicals and relieve inflammation to protect the cells against oxidative damage and stress. (5)

2. Improves Heart Health

Watermelon contains a good amount of both potassium and magnesium, two important nutrients used to help remedy high blood pressure naturally. Consuming proper amounts of potassium and magnesium from a nutritious diet may be associated with improved heart health and a decreased risk of death from heart disease. (6)

A review published in the journal Advances in Nutrition showed that eating plenty of potassium-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can positively impact blood pressure levels, which may be useful in reducing the risk of conditions such as stroke and heart disease. (7)

Lycopene, one of the carotenoids found in abundance in watermelon, can also help keep your heart healthy and strong. Lycopene benefits heart health by reducing inflammation and improving blood lipid levels. (8) Studies have also shown that watermelon can help to relieve arterial stiffness, balance cholesterol and improve systolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension. (9)

3. Relieves Pain and Muscle Soreness

One of the top 10 benefits of watermelon is its ability to promote muscle recovery and alleviate aches and pains in athletes. Interestingly enough, one study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked at the effects of watermelon juice as a functional drink for athletes. After 24 hours of supplementation, athletes experienced improved heart rates that were more beneficial for muscle recovery in addition to less overall soreness and muscle aches. (10)

In addition to the potential benefits of watermelon juice, watermelon also packs a good amount of vitamin C into each serving, which has been shown to protect cartilage and bones, aid in the repair of tendons and ligaments and help speed up wound healing. (11)

Potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are also found in watermelons, are important for muscle recovery and pain relief. Potassium, in particular, aids in the prevention of muscle cramps following exercise and helps you heal from injury more quickly. (12)

 

Benefits of watermelon - Dr. Axe

 

4. May Prevent Kidney Stones

Studies have shown that the potassium found in fruits and vegetables like watermelon is very helpful in cleaning toxins and washing out waste from the blood, helping to prevent kidney stones. (13) Watermelon benefits also include being a natural diuretic, meaning it helps to increase urine production to transport waste and toxins out of the body to protect against kidney stones.

5. Aids in Detoxification

One of the top benefits of watermelon is its high water content. In fact, watermelon is estimated to be comprised of about 91 percent water, which can aid in detoxification and help rid the body of excess water and fluids, relieving uncomfortable bloating and swelling.

Potassium and magnesium are also important for detoxification. Potassium acts as an electrolyte and promotes circulatory health while also helping to manage blood flow and hydration levels within the body, allowing oxygen to reach your cells. At the same time, magnesium reduces water retention in the gut to beat bloating and help you lose water weight.

6. May Help Fight Cancer Cells

Watermelon acts as a potent cancer-fighting food, squeezing a hearty dose of antioxidants and watermelon health benefits into each serving. Lycopene, one of the main carotenoids found in watermelon, has been linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer in some studies, making its cancer-fighting abilities one of the most important watermelon benefits for men. (14) Research also shows that lycopene plays a part in keeping cell membranes strong so they can protect themselves from toxins that can potentially cause cell death or mutation.

Watermelon is also a great supplier of antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which help to fight free radical damage and prevent DNA mutation to block the formation of cancerous cells. Studies have also shown that high doses of vitamin C can enhance the cancer-fighting effects of certain drugs used in chemotherapy while also reducing adverse side effects of traditional cancer treatments. (15)

7. Protects Skin Health

As one of the top antioxidant foods available, adding watermelon to your diet could have a powerful effect on skin health. Because of its high content of antioxidant vitamins A and C, watermelon benefits for skin include its ability to protect the cells against damage and fight free radical formation to slow aging and keep your skin looking healthy.

Vitamin C is especially important for skin health as it helps boost collagen production while also helping to prevent sun damage. (16) Meanwhile, vitamin A is key to maintaining the health of your cells and protecting against UV damage. (17)

8. Supports Healthy Vision

Important nutrients that play a role in protecting eye health — including beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin — are also housed in this giant fruit and sit among the many benefits of watermelon. Studies have shown that a serious vitamin A deficiency, for example, can lead to macular degeneration, a condition characterized by the thickening of the cornea that could eventually lead to blindness.

Watermelon is a great supplier of beta-carotene, which is the form of vitamin A found in plants. Getting enough beta-carotene in your diet can aid in the prevention of macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness.

9. Helps With Weight Loss

So, how many calories are in watermelon? Despite being rich in a multitude of important vitamins and minerals, there are a low amount of calories in watermelon, making it a great addition to a nutritious weight loss diet. In fact, a single cup of diced watermelon contains just 46 calories. For this reason, watermelon benefits weight loss by promoting satiety and curbing cravings to keep you on track towards your health goals.

Plus, pairing a nutritious watermelon diet with your healthy weight loss workout routine can be beneficial. Watermelon has been linked to enhanced muscle recovery in athletes, helping you hit the gym more effectively to reach your weight loss goals. (10)

10. Relieves Acid Reflux

One of the benefits of watermelon and muskmelon (along with other types of melons, as well) is that they are often used to reduce acid reflux symptoms. Melons are a part of the GAPS Diet, which is designed to help heal digestive diseases and reduce inflammation. Melon is believed to soothe the gastrointestinal tract and regulate pH levels while also lessening inflammation and acid production throughout the body.


Watermelon Uses in Traditional Medicine

Watermelon is used in many forms of traditional medicine for its powerful healing effects and health-promoting properties.

In fact, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, all forms of the watermelon are used, including the watermelon leaves, rind and seeds. When combined with other herbs or boiled into tea form, the benefits of watermelon seeds include relief from urinary tract infections and increased urination. Meanwhile, the flesh of the watermelon is believed to improve the health of the heart, bladder and kidneys while also clearing heat and promoting calmness.

Meanwhile, on an Ayurvedic diet, watermelon is used for its cooling properties and ability to act as an aphrodisiac, strengthen the blood and promote liver health. According to Ayurveda, however, it’s important to eat foods like watermelon alone rather than pairing them with heavy foods to allow proper digestion in the body.


Watermelon vs. Melon vs. Pineapple

These three fruits are all popular summertime treats that are favored for their sweet flavor and cooling properties. However, there are a few key differences that set the three apart.

By definition, melon is any plant belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes watermelon. The term “melon,” though, is often used to describe specific fruits like cantaloupe, honeydew and muskmelon. One of the main differences between these types of melons and watermelons is their seeds; while watermelons have small seeds dispersed throughout the fruit, melons contain a central seed cavity. Both are known for their high water content, delicious flavor and the low amount of calories in watermelon and melon alike.

Pineapple, on the other hand, is a tropical plant produced by a herbaceous perennial tree that typically grows up to five feet tall. It’s higher in calories and natural sugar than melons and is known for its distinct sweet flavor. It also contains a special enzyme known as bromelain, which is believed to possess anticancer properties and has been shown to treat conditions like diarrhea, osteoarthritis and bronchitis. (18)


Where to Find & How to Use Watermelon

Today, most states in the United States grow watermelon commercially, with Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona being the largest watermelon producers. Watermelons are tropical or subtropical plants and need temperatures higher than 77 degrees Fahrenheit to grow, so they are most commonly available in the northern regions of the U.S. in the summer months, where they have become a summer BBQ staple. In other parts of the world like Africa, the Middle East, India and Asia, watermelon are popular for their ability to grow in hot temperatures and provide hydration in dry climates.

A ripe fruit has smooth, hard watermelon rinds that are usually green with dark green or yellow spots or stripes. The inside of the watermelon, the edible flesh, is usually bright pink with big black seeds, but can also come in hues of deep red, orange, yellow or even white.

To know when it’s ready to cut open and eat — and to unlock the many health benefits of watermelon — look for a yellow or cream color on the bottom of the melon as opposed to bright white. Also, try knocking on the melon and picking it up to find one that is heavy and dense for its size, which typically means that all of its juices have been produced and it’s ready to crack open.

Certain watermelon plants have been genetically modified to produce watermelon with no seeds, or small white seeds. A lot of research has actually been put into breeding disease-resistant varieties of watermelon and into developing seedless strains that keep all of its nutrients intact. It’s believed that seedless types offer similar health benefits to the kind with seeds.

However, it’s always best to purchase organic varieties of commonly modified crops whenever possible. Because watermelon seeds are often treated with synthetic growth simulators in the production of non-organic watermelon, in order to reduce your risk of contamination with all chemical synthetic additives, look for naturally-grown, organic watermelon.

Once you’ve got your hands on a delicious watermelon and are ready to enjoy, there are plenty of ways to add this tasty fruit into your diet. Because it’s low in watermelon calories, you can try adding it to drinks or smoothies for a weight loss-friendly punch of flavor. You can also use it to make refreshing watermelon water or try freezing it for a cool summer treat. Another popular way to enjoy is by sprinkling salt on watermelon or adding it to salads, fruit cups and desserts. You can also munch on a watermelon slice or two as is for a satisfying no-fuss snack.

Many people also wonder: can you eat watermelon seeds? Although watermelon seeds are perfectly safe to eat, they should actually be sprouted and shelled to maximize the potential health benefits. This process can bump up the protein content of the super seed and make it easier for your body to access and absorb the incredible nutrients held inside.


Watermelon Recipes

Looking for a few new ways to add this tasty fruit to your diet? There are plenty of online recipes and tutorials out there, for everything from how to make watermelon juice to how to enjoy it in your favorite snack or smoothie. Here are a few simple yet delicious watermelon recipes to get you started:


History/Facts

Watermelon has a long history that stretches back centuries and has been enjoyed since the ancient times. The watermelon plant has been cultivated in Egypt since at least the second millennium B.C. In fact, there is some evidence that watermelon was eaten in the Nile Valley region during the second millennium B.C.

Watermelon seeds have also been found at Twelfth Dynasty sites and even in the tomb of Pharaoh “King Tut.” Watermelon was even mentioned in the Bible and described as a Bible food eaten by the ancient Israelites while they were being held captive in Egypt.

By the 10th century A.D., the popularity of eating watermelon spread to parts of India and China. It later spread into southern Europe and made its way over to the Americas with explorers.


Precautions

Watermelon are not known to be a common allergen or produce any common medication interactions. However, these tasty fruits are best enjoyed by all in moderation due to their relatively high watermelon sugar content.

Because there is a relatively high amount of carbohydrates and sugar in watermelon with little to no protein or healthy fats, eating large amounts can quickly spike blood sugar levels. For those who have a form of known insulin resistance, including those who are pre-diabetic or who have diabetes, opting for lower sugar fruits that also have more fiber, like berries, may be beneficial.

If you are someone who is otherwise healthy and does not need to lose weight, watermelon is a safe and nutrient-dense food choice as long as you enjoy in moderation and keep your portion size in check. Try pairing watermelon with other foods that have healthy sources of protein, fiber and fats, too, in order to slow down the effect of watermelon’s sugar on your blood sugar levels.


Final Thoughts

  • The watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, a group of plants with many different species grown all around the world.
  • Is watermelon healthy? Watermelon is low in calories but high in important micronutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A.
  • Thanks to the nutritional value of watermelon, it’s been associated with a wide range of health benefits, including better vision, improved immunity, enhanced heart and skin health, increased weight loss and more.
  • There are plenty of ways to add watermelon to your diet, ranging from refreshing desserts to sorbets, smoothies and salads.
  • Because of the high amount of sugar and carbs in watermelon, going overboard is not recommended if you have diabetes or high blood sugar.
  • Pair a few servings with other fruits such as pears, peaches, apples and oranges as well as veggies and nutrient-rich whole foods to take advantage of the unique health benefits that this fruit has to offer.

Read Next: Homemade Detox Drinks: 5 Major Health Benefits, Including Weight Loss


From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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