Watermelon is a summertime must-have. There’s just nothing better than a cold, sweet, juicy slice of watermelon on a hot day.
In fact, the reason watermelon is so refreshing is because it’s 91% water, exactly what your body is craving on a hot, sunny day. With that much water, it may seem like a bit of rehydration is all watermelon has to offer.
It’s not. Watermelons are actually really healthy too.
Watermelons are bright red and have some natural sugars (though not as much as you may think!) - which makes them pretty impossible for kids to resist. But did you know that their rich color is actually a sign of how nutritious they are?
Here's the rundown.
Watermelons are botanically a fruit, much like tomatoes and pumpkins. Because of their smooth exterior rinds and sweet, juicy fruit inside, watermelons are loosely considered to be a type of melon.
1 cup (154g) of watermelon (according to the USDA)
Vitamins: Vitamin A (18% daily intake), Vitamin C (21%), Vitamin B1, B5 and B6 (3%)
Minerals: Potassium (5%), Copper
Other Plant Compounds: Carotenoids alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, amino acid citrulline, antioxidant lycopene, Cucurbitacin E
This fruit is truly one in a melon.
Watermelons are the richest known dietary source of the amino acid citrulline…
Mostly found in the white rind that surrounds the red juicy center, the amino acid citrulline is incredible! Your body takes the citrulline and transforms it into arginine, which synthesizes nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps lower blood pressure by dilating and relaxing your blood vessels. Arginine is also important for many organs, such as lungs, kidneys, liver, and immune and reproductive systems; and it has been shown to facilitate wound healing. It would take a lot of watermelon to reach the daily recommended amount of arginine (15 cups to be exact), but anything to get rid of those boo-boos, right?
They have even more lycopene than tomatoes!
Watermelons are the best-known fresh source of lycopene, which is the powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that gives watermelons their red color. If you remember from our post about tomatoes, lycopene (as well as beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A by your body) has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The National Institute of Health has even studied lycopene as a supplement for lowering LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol. Plus, foods rich in lycopene may help protect your skin against sunburns. Perfect, really, since watermelon is best enjoyed on hot, sunny days.
Lycopene has also been associated with a lower risk of some types of cancer, age-related macular degeneration, brain health and the delay of Alzheimer’s disease, but more research needs to be conducted before we can say for sure.
Watermelons + Insulin = Friends
Sometimes your cells can develop a resistance to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and even diabetes. Watermelon juice and arginine are known for reducing this resistance to insulin and helping to keep your body balanced. Sounds good to us!
Beat the heat and stay hydrated
Eating foods with a high water content can help you stay hydrated. This makes it a great option on a hot day when you’re having trouble getting the kids to slow down enough to drink some water. Combine that high water content with a bit of fiber and not too many calories, and you can see why watermelon is a great snack for the whole family to fill up on!
Other benefits (if you’re eating an entire watermelon at once)
Watermelons contain Vitamin A and C for skin health and immune function, as well as potassium for blood pressure and heart health. Watermelons also have cucurbitacin E, which is a very interesting plant compound that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Cucurbitacin E has been studied for its ability to inhibit tumor growth, thereby reducing the risk of cancer, but more studies still need to be conducted.
Dietary Note: Watermelon is high in FODMAPs
Most of the carbs in watermelon comes from simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. So, individuals with FODMAP sensitivities may want to avoid or limit their watermelon intake.
How to enjoy your watermelon
Of course, you can quickly slice it and chow down, but there are some other fun ways to enjoy watermelon this summer! You can juice watermelon for a delicious drink – and it tastes great blended with strawberries or your other favorite fruit.
For a kid favorite treat, try slicing your watermelon into longer rectangles rather than cubes, and insert popsicle sticks for watermelon lollipops!
We also love this grilled watermelon recipe for the parents – whisk together 1 tbsp lime zest, ¼ cup fresh lime juice, ¼ cup honey, 2 tsp garlic chili sauce, and a pinch of salt. Grill thick wedges of watermelon over high heat for about 2 minutes each side and drizzle with sauce. Yum!
We’re losing our rinds over this amazing fruit!
Please share this post with anyone you know who could use some help adding healthy snacks into their kids' diets (or their own)!