Sweet and juicy watermelon is a symbol of summer. At a glance, you might assume it’s mostly sugar and water. But once you dig in and discover its vast array of nutrients, you’ll be surprised how many potential health benefits it has.
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“We think of watermelon as a fun, seasonal food for barbeques and the beach, but it’s also really good for you,” says registered dietitian Lara Whitson, RD, LD. “It’s low in calories, keeps you hydrated and provides many other nutrients that can help you maintain good health.”
Is watermelon good for you?
Though it lacks protein and iron, the nutritional value of watermelon shouldn’t be underestimated. It also lacks fat, sodium and cholesterol and is American Heart Association Heart-Check Certified. Even watermelon seeds have benefits, with magnesium, iron, healthy fats and zinc.
One cup of diced watermelon has only 46 calories and:
- 0 g of fat.
- 1 mg of sodium.
- 9 g of sugar.
- 10 mg of calcium.
- 12 mg of vitamin C.
- 15 mg of magnesium.
- 139 g of water.
Even more impressive, it has 170 milligrams of potassium, an essential mineral that supports nerve and muscle function, and the fluid balance in your body. And in addition to vitamin C, it contains good amounts of vitamin A.
Disease-fighting antioxidants in watermelon like lycopene and cucurbitacin E, may help protect you from diseases such as cancer or diabetes. Lycopene also gives watermelon its red color.
Are watermelon seeds or rinds good for you?
Before you toss the rinds in the trash, next time, take a second to consider the health benefits of watermelon rinds and seeds.
Watermelon rinds have less sugar and more fiber than their flesh and also contain citrulline. Watermelon seeds — dried or raw — are rich in magnesium and folate, which help your body work well and avoid disease. Seeds also have the types of fatty acids that lower bad cholesterol in your blood and help you avoid heart attack and stroke.
“You can stir-fry the rinds with other vegetables and add spices to the seeds, like you might do with pumpkin seeds, for an easy and healthful snack,” suggests Whitson.
Research shows melons, in general, are good for you, but we need more studies to understand how watermelon specifically affects your body. Whitson shares nine potential health benefits of watermelon:
1. Helps you stay hydrated
Even a little dehydration can take a toll, causing fatigue, muscle cramps and headaches. Watermelon is 92% water, so it’s an easy way to hydrate and support your body.
Try eating a little watermelon sprinkled with salt after physical activity or a strenuous workout to replenish your body’s electrolytes and carbohydrates. “It’s amazing what it can do to restore your energy and quench your thirst,” says Whitson.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Watermelon can be a great option if you are trying to maintain or achieve a healthy weight, and resist the temptation of higher-calorie sweet snacks. Because it contains so much water, watermelon has few calories and can make you feel full for longer.
A 2019 study of 33 people who were considered overweight or had obesity showed that those who ate watermelon instead of low-fat cookies daily for four weeks reported lower hunger and less desire to eat. Eating watermelon was associated with lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio, and reduced blood pressure.
3. Protects against disease
Early evidence suggests that regularly eating watermelon promotes good health and may reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is likely thanks, in part, to its antioxidants, which help protect your body from stress and prevent or slow cell damage.
In fact, watermelon has more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable — including tomatoes. It’s also the highest source of the amino acid citrulline, which produces a molecule called nitric oxide that helps relax blood vessels.
The nutritional benefits of watermelon may help you combat blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation that can lead to disease. In one small study, researchers found watermelon extract lowered ankle blood pressure in middle-aged adults with early hypertension (high blood pressure) and obesity.
“We know that people who eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet can have better health outcomes, in combination with lifestyle choices and other factors,” notes Whitson. “Watermelon could be a part of that equation, keeping you healthier, longer.”
4. Supports eye health
The nutrients in watermelon serve an especially useful purpose when it comes to your eyes. Antioxidants may help prevent or delay the formation of cataracts. They might even reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness.
The vitamin A in watermelon also supports the health of your corneas. And it doesn’t take much: Just one medium slice of watermelon contains up to 11% of the vitamin A you need each day.
5. Boosts your immune system
Watermelon’s generous dose of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supports your immune system, which fights germs and infection. It may also help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
6. Relieves muscle soreness
A benefit of watermelon and watermelon juice may be helping your body recover and feel better after exercise. This may be thanks to citrulline, which helps produce nitric oxide to improve blood flow and muscle function. Citrulline also removes ammonia from your body. This reduces the amount of a substance called lactate that builds up in your body during exercise and can lead to muscle soreness.
7. Aids skin health
Vitamin C in watermelon helps your body produce collagen, which supports your immune system, the health of your cells and your ability to heal from injuries. Collagen gives strength and elasticity to your skin and helps replace dead skin cells. This means eating watermelon could improve your skin and slow age-related effects.
Vitamin A produced by the beta-carotene in watermelon helps repair skin cells, preventing dry skin and flaking. Its vitamin B6 may help prevent acne. You aren’t off the mark if you’re thinking watermelon might even be a good ingredient for a face mask — it is.
8. Improves digestion
Plant compounds (polyphenols) in watermelon fuel good bacteria in your gut. This not only eases digestion, but may also boost your immune system and your gut’s production of essential nutrients.
9. Manages blood sugar
Watermelon provides a great alternative if you’re trying to keep your blood glucose levels steady or reduce your risk of diabetes. It has few carbs and a low glycemic load. That means watermelon enters your bloodstream and produces less glucose than other foods, so you can have a slice without a large spike in blood sugar.
What are the side effects of eating watermelon?
Most of the time, you can eat watermelon without experiencing any side effects. But you may want to avoid watermelon if you:
- Are prone to migraine headaches: Watermelon contains a high level of tyramine, an amino acid that could trigger migraines.
- Have an allergy to certain pollens, including grass or ragweed: Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, hives or swelling.
- Have diabetes: People with diabetes may want to moderate how much watermelon they eat due to its natural sugars.
- Have digestive issues: Watermelon is also considered a high FODMAP, which means it contains sugars that can be difficult for some people with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to digest. Symptoms may include bloating, constipation or diarrhea.
Is it safe to go on a ‘watermelon diet’?
“You can safely eat two servings of watermelon each day, but it’s never a good idea to go on a diet that features only one type of food,” cautions Whitson. “A watermelon cleanse is a fad, like any other, and it will deprive your body of other nutrients it needs to function properly.”
Nor do you need a watermelon diet to get rid of toxins. Your body can do that all by itself, with the help of your liver and kidneys.
Enjoy the healthy benefits of watermelon
Watermelon is affordable and easy to prepare. Use it in smoothies or a summer slushie, in a salad or even on the grill. You can also freeze it in popsicles, or add it to gazpacho or nonalcoholic drinks and colorful cocktails. With its refreshing flavor and healthy array of nutrients, watermelon is never out of season.