Is It Good to Add Watermelons to Your Diet?

by Marixie Ann Obsioma
Published on August 4, 2021 and last updated for accuracy on September 4, 2021

Summer is here! – And if you are looking for the best summer fruit to combat those stubborn fats, try the delicious watermelon fruit.

As per the World Health Organization, consuming at least five 80-gram servings of various fruits and vegetables daily lowers your risk for serious health problems. In addition, there are certain fruits that help with weight loss – one of six includes watermelons (1).

Taking from its name, watermelon is made up mostly of water, specifically around 92 percent. In addition, this fruit is packed with nutrients, which includes lycopene, antioxidants, and amino acids, as well as high levels of vitamins A, B6, and C (2)(3).

Watermelons belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes honeydew, cucumber, and cantaloupe. Basically, the five types of watermelon include seedless, seeded, orange, yellow, and mini watermelons (3).

If you’re looking into its weight loss effects, watermelons are fat-free, significantly low in sodium, and only contain at least 40 calories per cup (2). This refreshingly tasty, healthy, and inexpensive summer fruit hydrates you while keeping you full, making it a great option for people aiming to lose some extra pounds. Given its high water content, watermelons are able to flush out toxins and curb your appetite as the chewing and swallowing it helps you feel like you’re taking in more calories than you actually are (4).

Now, the question remains: “Can watermelons aid in weight loss?” – In this article, we are going to present the common health and weight loss benefits of watermelons that will help prove it as a great choice for your overall health and fitness goals.

Can’t wait to try this delectable treat while you work towards your dream body? Look into these awesome weight-loss benefits of watermelon.

#1 It has low calories and low fat.

Consuming less calories is key to losing weight and having a flat stomach. If you’re looking for one of the best foods that does the job, watermelon is a great fruit to include in your diet. Despite being sweet, this summer fruit only contains 86 calories per wedge. In addition, the same serving contains less than a gram of fat and is cholesterol-free (5)(6).

Compared to other common fruits, watermelon has fewer calories. In fact, here’s how this fruit differs in its watermelon content (7):

  • A large apple contains 130 calories (7).
  • A large banana contains 110 calories (7).
  • A medium pear contains 100 calories (7).
  • A cup of watermelon contains 46 calories (8)

So, if you’re fond of eating energy bars and sweets, which contain more sugar than you should intake, watermelon contains fructose sugar that serves as a great alternative (6).

In fact, you can shed hundreds of calories off your daily intake by snacking on watermelon rather than junk foods like potato chips, which usually have 275 calories and more than 17 grams of fat in 2 ounces. As per Harvard Health Publications, cutting 500 calories from your daily diet can lead to a pound less per week (5). With watermelons, you’ll be packing more impressive benefits while saving yourself hundreds of health benefits (6).

#2 It is hydrating.

One of the main weight loss benefits of watermelon is its high water content (2). Water is essential to our diet (3). According to a registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson, Angela Lemond, people on diet can get 20 to 30 percent of their fluid needs through their diet alone and foods like watermelon can definitely help (2).

In addition, their fruit juice is full of electrolytes, such as potassium, which can help prevent heat stroke (2)(3). People can eat watermelon in a lot of cool ways, such as by juicing it or eating its slices frozen as a tasty Popsicle-like snack. This makes it a healthful snack for the warm summer months (3).

A person can get dehydrated easily, and this often leads to fluid retention. Although it doesn’t necessarily translate to fat gain, fluid retention causes bloating and causes you to have a bigger belly. It is made up of more than 90 percent water, which helps you stay hydrated to combat fluid retention (5).

Note that when you are dehydrated, you will most likely reach out for food more often. This is because you’ll do anything to give yourself a boost from the sluggish and drained feelings. On one hand, watermelon is a great hydrating food (6). Eating watermelon keeps you hydrated and allows your body to function optimally. Thus, you won’t be confusing thirst for hunger then overeat, which is another way to lose weight (4).

#3 It keeps you feeling full.

Consuming less foods on a weight loss diet is not easy, especially if you are always hungry. As a matter of fact, it’s not about eating less, it’s about eating the right kinds of food in moderation. To help improve the results, consider eating foods that keep you full longer (5).

A 2019 study published by Nutrients explored how eating watermelon affects satiety response and cardiometabolic risk factors in adults who are overweight and obese. The study compared test subjects who consumed 2 cups of watermelon daily for 4 weeks with test subjects who instead ate low-fat cookies. The results showed that watermelons increased feelings of satiety (7).

A wedge of watermelon contains five percent of the daily recommended intake for fiber, which is responsible for slowing digestion and improving feelings of satiety (5). Moreover, it is known that the high-water content of watermelons contributes to the feeling of fullness. Combining fiber with water results in a moderate volume of food without the unnecessary calorie intake (8).

Moreover, foods that are high in water – like our watermelon – also promote feelings of fullness. Water from these fruits usually leaves your body slower compared to regular drinking water, thereby prolonging your satisfaction from a meal (5).

Snacking on watermelon does not only help keep you full, but it also prevents you from having cravings in between meals (1). This is all thanks to its 11-gram fiber content (4).

Having mentioned the importance of moderate food consumption, it’s important to take note not to go to the extremes when it comes to taking in water-dense foods like watermelon. Although eating watermelons do help you lose weight, it will be mostly muscle, as per Lemond (2).

She says, “Eating more fruits and vegetables of any kind naturally helps decrease overall calories (energy) of the diet. We know that people that eat higher quantities of fruits and vegetables typically have healthier body weights. However, I do not recommend eating only watermelon … You will lose weight, but that weight will be mostly muscle (2).”

#4 It is a great source of antioxidants and amino acids.

Watermelon is a great source of an amino acid known as L-arginine, which aids in quick fat burning (1). In addition, L-arginine also helps to improve blood flow and reduce excess fat (2).

Arginine is also considered important for many organs, including your kidney, lungs, liver, as well as your reproductive and immune systems. It has been shown to facilitate wound healing (8).

On one hand, watermelons – specifically the white rind that surrounds the flesh – are also known to be rich in the amino acid citrulline. In essence, citrulline is transformed into the essential amino acid arginine in your body. Both of these amino acids play a significant role in the synthesis of nitric oxide, which aids in lowering blood pressure by relaxing and dilating your blood vessels. (8).

Studies have proved watermelon juice as a great source of citrulline, and it can also improve blood levels of both citrulline and arginine considerably. Still, despite having good sources of citrulline, you need to consume around 15 cups (or 2.3 kg) of watermelons at once to meet the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for arginine (8).

Researchers from a 2012 study found that watermelon extract decreased blood pressure in the ankles and its surrounding areas in middle-aged people with early hypertension and obesity. The authors attributed the anti-oxidants L-citrulline and L-arginine to have improved the function in arteries (3).

Because of these benefits of L-citrulline and L-arginine, watermelon may be an essential fruit especially for older women. A study published in Menopause found that women in the postmenopausal stage (who were also known to have increased aortic stiffness) who took watermelon extract for six weeks had a decreased blood pressure and arterial stiffness compare to those who did not take watermelon extract (2).

#5 It contains heart-healthy lycopene.

Watermelon is a good source of lycopene – specifically having about 15 to 20 milligrams per 2-cup serving (6). Interestingly, fresh watermelon is a better source of lycopene than tomatoes (8).

Lycopene is a phytonutrient, a naturally occurring compound in vegetables and fruit that triggers healthy reactions. Moreover, it is responsible for the red pigment that makes watermelons, red grapefruits, tomatoes, and guavas their color (2). The redder your watermelon, the higher the concentration of lycopene (2).

Lycopene has also been linked to an outstanding number of health benefits that includes heart health, protection from sunburn, bone health, and cancer prevention. As an antioxidant. Lycopene can also benefit from brain health (6).

Lemond explained, “Beta carotene is an antioxidant found in red-orange fruits and vegetables. It helps with immunity, skin, eye and the prevention of cancer (2).”

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can protect you against cancer and heart disease (3)(7)(8). A study in Purdue University supports this fact, revealing that, with its high levels of the carotenoid, it is effective in protecting cells from damage and lowering your risk for heart disease (2). According to the National Cancer Institute, lycopene is specifically linked to reducing prostate cancer cell proliferation (2)(3).

In addition, a nutritionist in the Fitness Institute of Texas at The University of Texas in Austin, Victoria Jarzabkowski, shared that the lycopene content in watermelon also makes it an anti-inflammatory fruit. Lycopene acts as an inhibitor for various inflammatory processes as well as an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals (2).

A 2017 review explained that the watermelon’s benefits against heart disease is attributed to lycopene’s ability to reduce inflammation that is specifically linked with high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or what is known as the “good” cholesterol (3).

Moreover, your body also uses lycopene to some extent in order to produce carotene, which is then converted into vitamin A. Human studies suggest watermelon juice is the most effective way to increase both levels of lycopene and lycopene when consuming watermelon (8). Another way to maximize your lycopene intake is by letting your watermelon fully ripen, as beta-carotene and phenolic antioxidant content increases as it does so (2).

Enriched with vitamins and minerals found in watermelon, one of the ways lycopene also helps with your weight loss goals by lowering your calorie intake without feeling deprived (4). However, you have to keep watch of your intake, as too much lycopene can cause your health problems (6). For instance, consuming more than 30 mg of lycopene everyday can lead to nausea, indigestion, bloating, and diarrhea (2).

#6 It aids in digestion and regularity.

The fiber content of watermelons encourages a healthy digestive tract and keeps you regular (2). Along with fiber, the high water content in watermelon promotes a healthy gut by preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements (3).

Fiber contributes to the bulk of your stool, while water keeps your digestive tract moving efficiently. That said, consuming water-rich and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon can be helpful for promoting normal bowel movements (8).

#7 It promotes healthy skin and hair.

Watermelon contains two vitamins that are specifically important for skin and hair health – vitamin A and vitamin C (8).

One cup of watermelon contains about one-quarter of the daily recommended intake (2). This nutrient keeps your skin and hair moisturized, and it also helps keep your skin healthy by creating and repairing skin cells. As per Cleveland Clinic, vitamin A encourages the healthy growth of collagen and elastin cells; thus, without enough nutrients, your skin can look flaky and dry (2)(8).

More importantly, vitamin C helps your body make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple and your hair strong (8). Collagen is also necessary for cell structure and immune function. Overall, it promotes healthy skin, which includes reducing the risk of age-related damage and promoting wound healing (3).

#8 It helps relieve muscle soreness.

Athletes who love watermelon are surely aware of how this summer fruit helps boost athletic performance. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that drinking watermelon juice before an intense workout helps to reduce next-day muscle soreness and heart rate. This is because of the fruit’s amino acids citrulline and arginine, which both help improve muscle circulation (2).

Apart from watermelon extract supplementation contributing to lower ankle blood pressure and brachial blood pressure readings, a study conducted by the American Journal of Hypertension also found that watermelon juice helped reduce muscle soreness (5)

In another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, it is suggested that watermelon’s citrulline levels may also help improve athletic performance. Participants who took citrulline supplements in the said study observed boosted performance with more power produced in high-intensity exercises like sprinting and cycling (2).

In a study in 2017, athletes drank either half a liter of placebo or watermelon juice with added L-citrulline two hours before running a half marathon race. The results showed that those who consumed the watermelon drink had less muscle soreness 24 to 72 hours after the race (3).

Watermelon and watermelon juice can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time of athletes following exercise. However, it is not yet proven whether consuming watermelon juice without the added L-citrulline will have the same effect as those with the amino acid (3).

Citrulline is also available as a supplement. Interestingly, watermelon juice seems to boost the absorption of the amino acid. In a small study, athletes were given either plain watermelon juice, citrulline drink, or watermelon juice with citrulline. The results showed that watermelon drinks led to muscle soreness and quicker heart rate recovery, compared to citrulline on its own (8).

The researchers also conducted a test-tube experiment to investigate citrulline absorption. The findings suggest that the absorption of citrulline is most effective when it is consumed as part of watermelon juice (8).

While other research tried to look at citruilline’s potential to boost exercise performance and endurance, citrulline does not seem to improve exercise performance in the amounts studied. Still, it is an area of research interest. (8).

Nutrition Facts

In a cup of melon balls weighing around 154 g, you’ll be getting (3):

  • Energy: 45.2 kcal (3)
  • Carbohydrate: 11.6 g (9.6 g of which comes from sugar) (3)
  • Fiber: 0.6 grams (3)
  • Calcium: 10.8 mg (3)
  • Phosphorus: 16.9 mg (3)
  • Magnesium: 15.4 mg (3)
  • Potassium: 172 mg (3)
  • Vitamin C: 12.5 mg (3)
  • Folate: 4.6 mcg, DFE (3)
  • Choline: 6.3 milligrams (3)
  • Vitamin A, RAE: 43.1 mcg (3)
  • Beta carotene: 467 mcg (3)
  • Lutein & zeaxanthin: 12.3 mcg (3)
  • Lycopene: 6,980 mcg (3)
  • Phytosterols: 3.08 mg (3)

In addition, watermelon also contains some amounts of:

  • B vitamins, such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin (3)
  • Zinc, manganese, fluoride, selenium, and other essential minerals (3)
  • Leucine, tryptophan, arginine, lysine, and other antioxidants (3)

Sugar Content

Watermelon possesses a lot of sugar, specifically 20 grams of sugar for every 2 cups served. But, you don’t need to worry, as the sugars found in watermelon are natural sugars. Natural sugars help to satisfy your body’s cravings for sweets, which helps you lose weight (7).

It’s important to know that your body needs sugar. On that note, Mayo Clinic describes what is known as “net carbs” as the number of carbohydrates that remains after your subtract fiber from the total carbohydrates (7).

Sugar contributes to all net carbs in watermelon, since it has no starch. On one hand, watermelon only contains one gram of fiber per serving. Unlike fiber, net carbs are broken down into glucose to be utilized for energy (7).

Plus, your body will function better if fed with natural sugar from fruits and vegetables rather than added sugar from processed foods. As per the American Academy of Family Physicians, it is recommended to eat fruits to satisfy sugar cravings, and even considering fruits as desserts for kids to cut back on unwanted sugars (7).

Takeaway

Watermelon is a deliciously nutritious fruit. As a sweet and healthy dessert, it is the perfect low-calorie (8) summer fruit to satisfy your sweets craving and quench your thirst.

Remember, eating watermelons will not be fattening so long as you eat it in moderate quantities, depending on your body type and diet (6). If you’re looking to eat healthy without sacrificing your weight loss goals, take a bite of the refreshing watermelon!

References:

  1. https://www.keckmedicine.org/7-fruits-that-can-help-you-lose-or-maintain-your-weight/
  2. https://www.livescience.com/46019-watermelon-nutrition.html
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886#benefits
  4. https://www.healthywomen.org/your-wellness/watermelon-diet-whats-deal
  5. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-eating-watermelon-lose-belly-fat-11353.html
  6. https://easyhealthysmoothie.com/watermelon-fattening-good-weight-loss/
  7. https://www.livestrong.com/article/469981-can-watermelon-stop-you-from-losing-weight/
  8. https://www.healthline.com/health/diet-weight-loss/watermelon-diet-fact-or-fiction#benefits-of-watermelon
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