Happy Independence Day weekend to all! This all-American holiday always reminds me of picnics and gatherings of family and friends. By association, there are few foods that say SUMMER to me more than watermelon. I have loved the taste and juiciness of it since I was a little child. My grandmother used to make watermelon rind pickles (and I have even made them a few times myself) – nothing wasted. Spitting the seeds out was fun, and I often ate at least a few of them. If my watermelon pieces came in a bowl, I would drink every last drop of juice before surrendering the bowl to the dishpan. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered a decade or so ago that watermelon is actually a health food! In case you haven’t been introduced to all the justifications you can use to eat this delightful fruit, this post should help.
WHICH NUTRIENTS ARE FOUND IN WATERMELON?
One cup (154 grams) of watermelon has many nutrients, including these vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C: 21% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin A: 18% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamins B1, B5 and B6: 3% of the RDI
Watermelon is also high in carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lycopene. And it even contains calcium (about 1% of the RDI). Watermelon juice is especially rich in L-citrulline.
* When you can, eat seedless watermelon. It has more lycopene than seeded varieties!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF WATERMELON:
- Antioxidant support from vitamin C and lycopene. Lycopene has been linked with heart health (reduces cholesterol and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease), bone health, and prostate cancer prevention. It’s also a powerful antioxidant thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Watermelon has among the highest concentrations of lycopene among all fresh fruit: 7.5-10 mg/1 cup serving (about 40% more than the amount in tomatoes). Here is a study for the science-oriented among us.
- Protection against diabetes. When you consume watermelon, your kidneys convert one amino acid, L-citrulline, into another amino acid, L-arginine. While you probably won’t get as much L-arginine from watermelon as you would from good nutritional supplements, any source of these two amino acids is to be treasured.
- L-citrulline helps in recovery. Watermelon is a healthy substitute for recovery drinks after strenuous exercise. The L-citrulline helps to accelerate the removal of lactic acid from your muscles, supporting recovery from soreness and fatigue.
- Reduces the severity and frequency of asthma attacks. One thick slice of watermelon is said to contain up to 40% of the daily adult requirement for vitamin C intake. Higher levels of vitamin C correlate with lower severity and frequency of asthma attacks.
- May help with weight loss. Watermelon is 92% water and very high in fiber. It is very sweet and low in calories, exceptionally filling, and satisfies sweets cravings. It is especially recommended for weight loss for those with type B blood and individuals with Hunter, Gatherer, and Nomad genotypes.
- Protects and regulates nerve function. Watermelon is rich in potassium (about 170 mg in 1 cup). Low levels of potassium can cause numbness, tingling, and even nighttime leg cramps.
- Minimizes inflammation. Inflammation is the basic culprit behind many of our most serious diseases. L-citrulline and L-arginine are powerful anti-inflammatories.
- Helps balance your pH. The body’s perfect pH is around 7.0 on a scale of 0-14. A typical western diet tends to be acidic, so any foods that are alkaline are a great help in bringing the body’s pH to an optimal level. The pH of watermelon is 8.0-9.0.
- Helps to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Watermelon is, as mentioned above, mostly water. It also contains electrolytes. If someone is suffering from the heat, offer a slice of watermelon. Seek medical attention immediately if necessary.
- Reduces the risk of developing periodontal disease. I love this one because we usually think that sweets = danger to teeth and gums. In this case, it’s the vitamin C that helps protect your beautiful smile.
- It serves as a digestive aid. All the water and fiber in watermelon help your body to process food. Many of us live in a state of mild dehydration, especially in the warmer months and with active lifestyles which promote perspiration and the need for additional water intake. Watermelon is a wonderful way to eat your water! Try it with fresh mint or mint essential oil for additional tummy taming.
- Aids kidney health. The calcium and potassium in watermelon are very supportive to good kidney health. Eating watermelon in the morning and as a snack throughout the day can do wonders for kidney support.
- Supports proper blood pressure levels. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for chronic disease and premature death: Study A. The L-citrulline and L-arginine in watermelon combine to assist in nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that causes the tiny muscles around your blood vessels to relax and dilate. This leads to a reduction in blood pressure: Study B. Supplementing with watermelon or its juice may reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness in people with high blood pressure: Study C, Study D, Study E, Study F.
- Reduces insulin resistance. Insulin is a vital hormone in your body and is involved in blood sugar control. Insulin resistance is the condition in which your cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. This can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and is linked to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Watermelon juice and arginine intake are associated with reduced insulin resistance in some studies: Study A, Study B, Study C.
- Acts as a diuretic and a metabolism balancer. Watermelon seeds (these can be taken in supplement form) are especially helpful for this health effect in persons with blood type B – see #5 above.
- May act as a natural solution for erectile dysfunction. Read this article for more information on this topic. Lycopene is also tremendously supportive of prostate health.
- May protect against sunburn. The lycopene in watermelon may protect your skin from sunburn. I have seen this possibility mentioned but have not found any studies yet.
WHO BENEFITS MOST FROM EATING WATERMELON?
Watermelon fruit is beneficial for blood type B and AB secretors; A, B, and AB non-secretors; and Hunter, Gather, Explorer, and Nomad Genotypes. In addition, consumption of watermelon should help B secretors and Hunter, Gatherer, and Nomad Genotypes to experience weight loss if they are over their optimal weight. It is neutral for A and O secretors, O non-secretors, and Warrior Genotype. It is avoid for Teacher Genotype.
Watermelon juice is beneficial for blood type B and AB secretors; A, B, and AB non-secretors; and Gatherer and Nomad Genotypes. Weight loss benefits are available to Nomad Genotype. It is neutral for A and O secretors, O non-secretors, and Hunter and Explorer Genotypes. It is avoid for Teacher and Warrior Genotypes.
Watermelon seeds are beneficial all Genotypes except Explorer. They are neutral for all blood types (unknown for B non-secretors), and avoid for Explorer Genotype.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF EATING WATERMELON:
Watermelon is well tolerated by most people. However, it may cause allergic reactions or digestive problems in some individuals.
Allergy to watermelon is rare and usually associated with oral-allergy syndrome in individuals who are sensitive to pollen: Study A, Study B. Symptoms include itchy mouth and throat, as well as swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat, and/or ears: Study C.
Watermelon contains relatively high amounts of fructose, a type of FODMAP that some people do not fully digest. FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”. FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. FODMAPs like fructose may cause unpleasant digestive symptoms, such as bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation. Individuals who are sensitive to FODMAPs, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), should consider avoiding watermelons.
Genotype restrictions. All blood types – including both secretors and non-secretors – should be able to eat watermelon as a beneficial or neutral food. However, as I mentioned earlier, individuals who are genotyped as Teachers many need to avoid watermelon (flesh). In addition, both Teachers and Warriors should avoid the juice, and Explorers should avoid the seeds. If you are following the Blood Type Diet and are having a challenge with watermelon, it could be that your genotype is influencing your ability to digest it.
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/watermelon-health-benefits#section1 (flesh, seeds, juice, how to cut, lots of links)
https://www.wikihow.com/Select-a-Watermelon (how to select a good watermelon, how to cut it, store it, and use it in recipes).
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4464475/ (watermelon lycopene and allied health claims)
https://academic.oup.com/jn/article-abstract/150/3/434/5621517?redirectedFrom=fulltext (effect of watermelon intake on blood pressure regulation and other health effects on those fed a western diet)
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342232819_Performance_Study_of_Watermelon_Rind_as_Coagulants_for_the_Wastewater_Treatment (watermelon rinds for wastewater treatment)
Has this post helped you to think about food as medicine (or an avoid for some of you)? You take it multiple times a day EVERY day! If you would like to explore which foods are best for your blood type and lifestyle, let’s chat. Every day offers a new opportunity to make a healthy difference for ourselves and for those in our circles of love.
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