Watermelon is a low-calorie, hydrating fruit that is a natural high antioxidant food, plus a source of vitamins and minerals that can help fight inflammation, free radical damage and prevent a number of serious illnesses.
The benefits of watermelon include containing a high amount of lycopene, a certain type of carotenoid that is currently of great interest to researchers because of its known antioxidant capacity and various potential health benefits. Lycopene is responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables, including watermelon, their deep red or pink color. While researchers have always known that tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, recently watermelon has also moved into the spotlight as another wise food choice for supplying this critical nutrient for fighting free radical damage.
Lycopene found in watermelon is a powerful antioxidant, meaning it has the ability to fight free radicals in the body that can damage cells. Additionally, benefits of watermelon include providing vitamin A (beta carotene) and vitamin C, both known for having remarkable antioxidant and anti-aging properties that can ward off diseases. Excessive free radical damage has been linked to the onset of serious diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and many others. In fact, the buildup of free radicals in the body is largely to blame for the aging process and the toll is takes on the body.
Adding antioxidant, nutrient-rich and anti-inflammatory foods like watermelon to your diet is one way to limit bodily stress, keeping DNA damage to a minimum and slowing the aging process. Even if you are young and healthy, watermelon benefits include helping to relieve pain, improve exercise recovery, keep skin healthy and youthful, and help with detoxification.
10 Health Benefits of Watermelon
1. Boosts Immunity
Research from the journal Nutrition has concluded that watermelon can help the immune system stay strong and defend against cardiovascular disease — and potentially a natural cancer treatment, too — due to its effects on nitric oxide levels. (1) Studies have shown that watermelon is a rich source of citrulline, a certain type of amino acid that is metabolized to turn into arginine in the body. Arginine is an essential amino acid — meaning we must get it from food sources — and is used in the synthesis of nitric oxide, which is important for maintaining an effective immune system.
As a prominent vitamin C food, the benefits of watermelon including helping to improve immune function, shorten the duration of sickness and improve symptoms, and help the body defend against heart disease and cancer. (2) Studies also show that the vitamin C found in watermelon is especially beneficial to individuals whose immune system has been weakened due to stress, which is one of the biggest reasons for ongoing inflammation that we commonly see in today’s modern society.
Indeed, watermelon is a healing food because of its ability to protect the body from sickness and reboot the digestive tract, where much of the immune system is actually located.
2. Helps Manage High Blood Pressure and Improves Heart Health
Watermelon helps prevent both low potassium and magnesium deficiency, and these are two critical nutrients used to help remedy high blood pressure naturally. Consuming proper amounts of potassium and magnesium from a healthy diet is correlated with overall reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease mortality. (3)
Studies published in the journal Advances in Nutrition have indicated that intaking potassium-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can positively impact blood pressure reduction in adults, which is useful in lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. (4)
Lypocene, a carotenoid found in abundance in watermelon, also improves cardiac function. Studies have shown that watermelon can help to reduce inflammation, relieve arterial stiffness, balance cholesterol and improve systolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension. (5)
3. Relieves Pain and Muscle Soreness
Studies have shown that watermelon’s supply of the amino acid l-citrulline is effective at reducing muscle soreness. (6) One particular Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study looked at watermelon juice as a functional drink for athletes and observed that after 24 hours of supplementing with watermelon juice, athletes experienced improved heart rates that were more beneficial for muscle recovery in addition to less overall soreness and muscle aches.
Additionally, benefits of watermelon include providing vitamin C, which has been shown to protect cartilage and bones, be used in repairing tendons and ligaments, and help speed wound healing and scar tissue. (7) Obtaining proper amounts of potassium and magnesium from whole food sources is also important for muscle recovery and reduced pain. Potassium assists in the prevention of muscle cramping following exercise and helps you to heal from injury more quickly. Instead of having a high-sugar energy drinks that has synthetic vitamins and minerals, try having watermelon juice instead.
4. Prevents Kidney Stones
Studies have shown that 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. (8) When the blood is contaminated with too many toxins, deposition builds up in the vulnerable kidneys. This can lead to a high concentration of uric acid in the blood and can potentially cause kidney stones, gout and other painful conditions.
Watermelon benefits also include being a natural diuretic, meaning it helps to increase urine production that takes waste out of the body with it. While caffeinated drinks and alcohol also act as diuretics, they put stress on the kidneys to do so, while watermelon does not.
5. Detoxifies the Body
Watermelon is made up of mostly water, with about 91 percent of the fruit being H2O. While it may seem counter-intuitive, eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content actually helps the body to detox and rid itself 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, helps to manage blow flow and hydration levels within the body, and allows oxygen to reach your cells. At the same time, potassium facilitates in balancing water retention in the gut and keeping you from becoming dehydrated. Filled with water and easy on digestion, it can work as a natural cure for diarrhea, another one of the benefits of watermelon.
Watermelon is also considered an alkaline food, meaning it helps to bring the pH level (key to good health) of the body back to its natural level. It’s believed that disease has a much harder time developing in an alkaline environment inside the body, compared to a more acidic one. Eating many alkaline-forming foods can protect your body from disease by decreasing inflammation.
6. Can Help Fight Cancer
The carotenoid phytonutrient lycopene that is present in watermelon has been linked to fighting breast and prostate cancer. Research has shown 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 stop DNA from harmfully mutating, leading to the formation of cancerous tumors. Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin C can enhance the cancer-fighting effect of certain drugs used in chemotherapy and that it it’s able to target only the harmful cells that are in need of these nutrients, unlike other drugs that usually kill healthy cell,s too.
7. Protects Skin Health
Studies have shown that watermelon is one of the high antioxidant foods — with plenty of vitamin C and vitamin A — and both play an important part in maintaining the health of skin, especially as someone ages. Antioxidants like these protect skin from damaging free radicals that are produced when skin is exposed to harmful ultraviolet light or allowed to age naturally.
Researchers have concluded that vitamin C foods like watermelon can help promote collagen synthesis, offer protection from ultraviolet A and B light damage, lighten skin hyperpigmentation, and improve inflammation that is visible within the skin (9) And benefits of watermelon including providing a healthy supply of vitamin A that’s helpful for wound healing and skin re-growth. Vitamin A is needed to support the formation of epithelial (skin) cells and is a powerful aid in fighting skin cancer.
Additionally, watermelon provides manganese, which has been shown to benefit the health and appearance of your skin by contributing to the production of collagen, an important structural component in skin’s elasticity. Manganese also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, reducing swelling and infection in the skin.
8. Boosts Eye Health
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 or a thickening of the cornea and eventually even to blindness.
Watermelon is a great supplier of beta carotene, the form of vitamin A found in plants, which plays a role in preventing macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness.
9. Can Help with Weight Loss
Should you stop eating watermelon if you want to lose weight? Well, no! Watermelon is very low in calories due to its high water content, yet offers important nutrients. At only 46 calories per cup, watermelon makes a great healthy snack idea or addition to a healthy smoothie.
If you are exercising to help with weight loss, watermelon can also help your performance and recovery time. It’s also great for those who are physically active since it’s a good source of potassium and magnesium, key benefits of watermelon. Potassium is considered a vasodilator because it releases the tension of blood vessels and helps increase blood flow. This allows for quicker muscle recovery and reduced stress on the body as you build muscle, strength and endurance.
Research has shown that consuming vitamin C can improve oxygen intake during exercises and is important in maintaining proper function of your lungs and airways.
10. Helps Relieve Acid Reflux
All types of melon verities are usually effective as an acid reflux natural cure. Melons are a part of the GAPS Diet, designed to help heal digestive diseases and reduce inflammation. Melon helps to soothe the gastrointestinal tract and regulate pH levels, while also lessening inflammation and acid production throughout the body.
Each one-cup serving of watermelon provides (in recommended daily allowances):
- 46 calories
- 0 grams of fat or protein
- 5 grams of sugar
- 21 percent vitamin C
- 18 percent vitamin A
- 5 percent potassium
- 4 percent magnesium
- 3 percent copper
- 3 percent manganese
- 3 percent pantothenic acid
- 3 percent vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- 3 percent vitamin B6
History of Watermelon
Watermelon 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 edible fruit that we now commonly consume. It’s believed that wild indigenous watermelon were more bitter than the type we eat today and that many varieties, with different colors and tastes, were actually grown wildly across Africa. It’s estimates that there are actually more than 1200 different kinds of watermelon species growing today.
The watermelon plant has been cultivated in Egypt since at least the 2nd millennium B.C. There is 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 also 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.
Today 44 states in the United States grow watermelon commercially, with Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona being the United States’ 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, when 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 watermelon has a smooth hard rind that is 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 deep red, orange, yellow or white varieties.
To know when it’s ready to cut open and eat — and to unlock the health benefits of watermelon — look for a yellow or cream color on the bottom of the melon as opposed to bright white. Also knock on the melon and pick up, feeling for it to be very heavy for its size and dense. The heavier a watermelon feels, the better. This means 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 watermelon’s 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.
Using Watermelon in Recipes
You can add watermelon to any healthy smoothie recipe to boost the nutrient content and add plenty of hydrating water. Or try using diced watermelon in salsa to add a surprising sweetness. Additionally, watermelon makes a great salad topper along with goat cheese, nuts and red onion. Many people around the world love eating watermelon as a raw food, too, of course, simply on its own as a refreshing snack.
Unlike many other delegate antioxidants and nutrients that may diminish or degrade when heated, the bioavailability of watermelon’s lycopene actually increases when it is cooked. This is the same reason many researchers encourage people to eat tomato sauce regularly, because it makes lycopene more absorbable. If you can find a way to add watermelon to a cooked sauce or baked recipe, you will be getting even more benefits out of this special compound.
Try some of these recipes below to start including watermelon in your diet more often.
Total Time: 10 minutes
- 3 cups watermelon
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon chopped mint
- Take watermelon off rind and cut into large pieces.
- Combine vinegar, honey and chopped mint in small bowl. Whisk until blended.
- Pour over watermelon pieces and refrigerate
Total Time: 5 minutes
- 8 cups watermelon, cut into pieces
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 cup Pellegrino
- Blend watermelon, water, honey and lime juice in a blender.
- Stir in Pellegrino just prior to serving.
- Garnish with lime slices and mint leaves if desired.
Concerns with Watermelon
Watermelon are not known to be a common allergen or produce any common medication interactions. However, watermelon are best enjoyed by all in moderation due to their relatively high sugar content.
Because watermelon contain a high amount of sugar and carbohydrates, but practically no protein or healthy fats, so 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, it’s a better idea to go with lower sugar fruits that also have more fiber, like berries.
If you are someone who is otherwise healthy and does not need to lose weight, watermelon is a safe and nutrient-dense food choice. Just be sure to keep an eye on portion sizes since it can be easy to consume two or more servings at once. 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.
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