Who doesn’t love watermelon? That sweet and juicy fruit not only satisfies your picky taste buds, but it has also been proven to improve your overall well-being and ward off a wide range of diseases as well as protect against various cancers. Watermelon is low in calories and rich in nutrients, which are crucially important to your health. If you aren’t a watermelon junkie yet, I promise you will become after you learn about the most fabulous health benefits watermelon boasts.
The History of Watermelon
Watermelon has a long and rich history dating back to 5,000 years ago. The first watermelons are believed to be grown in South Africa, though some evidences show that they were also grown in Western Africa as well. If you visit South Africa, you can still find some wild variants of watermelons, which have totally unusual and even weird taste.
The Egyptians began growing watermelons approximately 4,000 years ago and they were an everyday food. Watermelon is mentioned in the Bible as an essential food of ancient Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt. The remains of watermelon were also found in the kings’ tombs.
Watermelons were cultivated in India in the 7th century, and in Europe and China in the 10th century. Americas saw their first watermelons in the 16th century thanks to European colonists and African slaves. The first watermelons were harvested in Florida in the 16th-17th centuries. Today, watermelon is one of the most popular fruits all over the world, and no wonder why.
The Nutrition Facts of Watermelon
Mark Twain said, “To taste a watermelon is to know “what the angels eat.” Maybe it was a hyperbole, but the fact is watermelon is chock full of vitamins, minerals, amino acid and antioxidants. Here are the most critical nutrition facts of watermelon everyone should know to keep track of their daily nutrient intake:
- Watermelon is overflowing with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B5, vitamin C, potassium, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, choline, and zinc;
- A cup of watermelon contains around 12 grams of carbs;
- The glycemic index (http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php) of watermelon ranges from 72 to 80, albeit eating watermelon in moderation doesn’t affect the blood sugar levels at all.
- Watermelon contains about 92 percent water per volume;
- It doesn’t contain protein and fat;
- There are only 30 calories in 100 grams of watermelon;
- Watermelon is a very poor source of fiber – there’s 0.4 gram in 100 grams of watermelon;
- Watermelon is high in the amino acid citrulline that plays a vital role in the synthesis of nitric oxide, helping to reduce high blood pressure, and offers many other health benefits;
- Watermelon is a rich source of phenolic antioxidants;
- Lycopene found in watermelon prevents the aging of the skin, improves mood and aids in weight loss.
12 Most Important Health Benefits of Watermelon
Just like any fruit, watermelon offers tons of health benefits, and here are the most crucial reasons to incorporate it into your diet, and not only in summer.
Reduce the risk of kidney disorder
Due to its high water and potassium contents, watermelon is good for your kidney health. It helps to flush out the harmful toxins from the kidneys (http://sciencepub.net/academia/aa0503/005_16957aa0503_36_41.pdf) by inducing frequent urination. Calcium found in watermelon lowers the amount of uric acid in the blood, which in turn wards off a serious disease called hyperuricemia. Eating watermelon daily has been shown to help the kidneys function optimally.
Watermelon is fortified with an amino acid, citrulline, which is converted to arginine. Both arginine and citrulline (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21968645) stimulate the nitric oxide production, which helps to dilate the blood vessels, reducing high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, including cardiac infarctions and stroke. Watermelon is also rich in carotenoids that stop the hardening of veins and arteries, preventing atherosclerosis and blood clots. A study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24572702) also showed that watermelon supplements can also lower the aortic blood pressure.
Relieve muscle soreness
A study conducted by Spain’s university (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23862566) found that watermelon juice helps to combat muscle soreness after a workout. Eating watermelon can also help to boost your workout performance.
Keep your heart healthy
The high density (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) ratios play an important role in your heart health. LDL cholesterol has been shown (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10712410) to lead to coronary heart disease, especially if you suffer from diabetes. Watermelon is jam-packed with lycopene that is highly effective in reducing both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.
Inflammation is the major contributor to most serious diseases, including cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, celiac, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and many others. Choline found in watermelon has been found (http://www.livescience.com/46019-watermelon-nutrition.html) to suppress excessive inflammation and boost immunity. Lycopene is another phytochemical that makes watermelon an excellent anti-inflammatory fruit.
Keep your body hydrated
Watermelon contains about 92 percent water and is a good source of electrolytes, which can help keep you hydrated. Dehydration isn’t a joke, as it can lead to death, if ignored. Drinking water is vital, but if you have trouble drinking those 8 glasses each day, consider incorporating water-rich foods like watermelon into your diet.
Improve bone health
When it comes to bone health the first thing that comes to our minds is dairy products. However, they aren’t the only foods that are good for your bone health. Lycopene in watermelon has been shown (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24996525) to prevent bone loss. It helps to fight oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals and may help to suppress bone resorption. Watermelon contains a small amount of calcium as well.
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal issues that is usually caused by poor diet, medicines, fiber deficiency, and dehydration. Drinking enough water and consuming foods rich in fiber can improve your digestion thus prevent constipation. Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, watermelon helps to improve overall digestive health and avoid pesky cramps.
Keep your eyes healthy
Eating watermelon regularly can prevent premature eye degeneration and improve your eye health thanks to its high content of vitamins and carotenoids. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016378270300064X) The vitamin A deficiency causes many eye diseases, including xerophthalmia, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. 100 grams of watermelon contains 11 percent of recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A, helping you avoid the deficiency of this essential vitamin.
Lower the cancer risk
You’ve probably noticed that almost very fruit or vegetable has the ability to ward off different types of cancers. The science says that eating the right foods can truly keep you away from cancer. Watermelon is one of those foods, and again it all thanks to the high lycopene content. Even though tomatoes are considered to be one of the best sources of lycopene, watermelon contains cis-isomeric lycopene that has been shown (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4464475/) to reduce the risk of various cancer types.
Promote gum health
Vitamin C found in watermelon may help to prevent periodontitis (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC193894/), which leads to shrinkage of the gums, gingival bleeding, and even loosening of the teeth. Vitamin C deficiency doesn’t cause periodontitis itself, but it affects your immunity, increasing your disease risk. 100 grams of watermelon contains 13 percent of recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C, making it one of the best foods to fight infectious diseases, which often affect your dental health.
Prevent mental fogginess
Although brain fog isn’t a disease, it causes a lot of discomfort in life. The feelings of confusion, a lack of focus and frequent forgetfulness are all the symptoms of mental fogginess. Consuming potassium-rich foods, like watermelon, may help you fight brain fog and boost your focus. Doesn’t it sound like a healthy reason to have a watermelon smoothie during your lunch break?
How to Incorporate More Watermelon into Your Diet
There are literally thousands of healthy and delicious ways to add watermelon to your everyday diet that are affordable and simple. Check out some of them below:
1. Watermelon pudding – from gluten-free to vegan versions
2. Watermelon snacks – halloumi and watermelon bites, watermelon custard, prosciutto-wrapped watermelon, grilled watermelon, etc.
3. Watermelon popsicles.
5. Watermelon sorbet.
6. Watermelon salads –fruit salads, grilled watermelon salad and pickled radishes, cucumber watermelon summer salad, watermelon quinoa salad, watermelon, grapefruit, and blackberry salad, tomato and watermelon salad, and many more.
7. Watermelon soups – gazpacho, stewed watermelon curry, watermelon and basil soup, chilly watermelon soup, etc.
8. Watermelon sandwiches.
9. Homemade watermelon ice creams.
10. Watermelon water and lemonade.
11. Watermelon cakes and cookies.
Two Amazingly Healthy and Tasty Watermelon Recipes
Jazz up your boring salsa with refreshing and juicy watermelon. This watermelon salsa recipe is easy and quick to make, and it will satisfy anyone’s taste buds.
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
- 3 cups seedless watermelon, finely diced
- 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, minced
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, place jalapenos, watermelon, cilantro, onion and lime juice and stir well to mix together. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Stir and serve chilled with whole-grain chips or crackers.
Watermelon and Ricotta Salad
With a perfect combination of salty and sweet flavors, this watermelon and ricotta salad is excellent for a lunch, Sunday brunch, parties, and the times when you can’t decide whether you want something sweet or savory. It’s easy to make and it’s super healthy.
- 750 grams watermelon, scooped or cubed
- 70-80 grams soft ricotta
- 1 small red onion, peeled, and cut into half-circle strips
- 2 bunches of salad leaves of your choice, cleaned and thick stems removed
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin (or any you have) olive oil
- 4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Black pitted olives, to your taste
- Black pepper and salt, to taste.
In a medium bowl, dress the onion with 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice and set aside. Grab another bowl and combine the remaining lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, pepper and salt together, and stir well to make the dressing.
Add salad leaves of your choice to the onion. Add pepper and salt to taste and mix well. Add cubed or scooped watermelon, black pitted olives and a salad dressing to it. Mix well and add in crumbled ricotta to it. Stir and serve. Bon appétit!
The Side Effects of Eating Too Much Watermelon
Eating too much watermelon may lead to a number of health issues, such as:
- Intestinal problems, like diarrhea and vomiting.
- Low blood pressure.
- Allergy – in very rare cases.
- Worse diabetic condition.
- Cardiovascular issues, like cardiac arrest, and weak or irregular pulse.
- Kidney problem.
- Problems related to muscles and nerves.
7 Fun Watermelon Facts
Here are a few fun and interesting facts you probably didn’t know about watermelon:
- There are over 1200 watermelon varieties that come in various sizes, shapes, weights, and red, yellow orange, and white colors.
- 200 to 300 watermelon varieties are grown in Mexico and the United States, but we mostly consume only around 50 varieties of them.
- Watermelon is often called fregetable because it has a sweet refreshing flavor and grows from a seed, making it a fruit, but is a member of the same family as the squash, pumpkin and cucumber and is harvested from the fields, making it a vegetable.
- It’s Oklahoma’s official state vegetable.
- China is the largest watermelon producer in the world, with Turkey being the second one.
- The rind is edible and can be used in stewed, pickled and stir-fried meals.
- According to the Guinness World Records (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/heaviest-watermelon), the heaviest watermelon in the world weighed 121.93 kg and was grown by Lloyd Bright in Arkansas in 2015.
Watermelon isn’t a super-food, but eating a little bit each day can significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of serious diseases. Just choose your favorite ways to enjoy this fantastic “fregetable” and don’t forget about moderation. By the way, what’s your most delicious way to eat watermelon?
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