Nothing tastes like summer more than a crisp, juicy, refreshing bite of watermelon. It’s a staple of backyard barbecues and well-stocked at your local farmers’ markets this time of year. And if you can’t wait to slice into this summertime staple, pat yourself on the back for partaking in a super nutritious seasonal tradition — new research says that watermelon eaters tend to have a higher quality diet featuring more fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and other antioxidants, plus lower in added sugars and saturated fat than watermelon non-connoisseurs, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN.
Watermelon is technically available year-round, but don’t miss out on its summery moment in the sun because that’s when it’s at its peak. “During the summer months, you’re more likely to find melons grown in the U.S.,which means it has less travel time and is fresher once it arrives in stores or at the farmers market, plus it’s often less expensive and tastes even better,” Blatner adds.
Not to mention, it’s fun to eat! “Eating watermelon makes me feel carefree, like a kid again at a summer picnic enjoying the outdoors with the people I care most about,” says Kris Sollid, MS, RD, senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council.
Here’s an overview of some of the best health benefits of watermelon, according to nutritionists.
Watermelon nutrition facts
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of watermelon (152 g) contains:
What are the health benefits of watermelon?
“Watermelon contributes key antioxidant nutrients that support disease prevention and overall wellness,” says Christina Meyer-Jax, RDN, LDN, Standard Process nutrition chair and assistant professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University. It’s also a good way to pad your water intake, something that’s important all the time but even more so during the hot, humid days of summer.
Here are some other benefits:
1) It can help you reach an array of daily nutrient needs
Watermelon packs a punch when it comes to essential nutrients. It contains about 15% of your daily vitamin C, along with a wealth of other vitamins and minerals your body needs to optimal functioning, such as potassium and vitamins A and B6, Sollid says.
Vitamin C strengthens your immune system and helps the body absorb iron, Derocha says, while vitamin A is crucial for skin and eye health. Watermelon is also rich in potassium, which works to lower blood pressure and supports nerve functioning, and vitamin B6, which helps the body break down the proteins that you eat and also boosts the immune system and nerve function.
2) It offers a big hit of disease-fighting power
Lycopene is a natural compound found in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables that has antioxidant properties. The substance is what gives watermelon its red color, but Meyer-Jax says it has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease, too. Lycopene works to protect your cells from damage, Sollid says, and research suggests that it may have blood pressure-lowering effects. Lycopene may also reduce inflammation, and that’s good news since chronic inflammation is a known driver of disease risk. Specifically, increasing your lycopene intake may reduce your risk for cancers of the digestive tract and prostate cancer.
3) Watermelon helps keeps you hydrated
Watermelon is composed of more than 90% water. “As the name implies, watermelon can keep you hydrated,” Derocha explains. “We get 80% of hydration from what we drink and 20% from what we eat; watermelon can definitely help with this balanced intake.”
Most adults don’t drink enough water, and hydration is particularly important in the summertime, when temperatures rise and you may lose fluids from sweating.
Meyer-Jax recommends eating watermelon sprinkled with a little salt after a workout or when you’ve been sweating for a long period of time. “The combination of carbohydrates and salt is ideal for replenishing lost electrolytes and carbohydrate stores,” she says.
4) It adds to healthy digestion
Watermelon contains a high water content and a small amount of fiber. “Both are key to keeping digestion moving smoothly,” Meyer-Jax says. Fiber adds bulk to your stool and keeps you regular, while water helps move waste through your digestive system.
5) It’s good for your eyes
Watermelon is also brimming with nutrients that support our overall eye health and may help prevent age-related vision disorders. Specifically, it’s a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as lycopene and lutein+zeaxanthin, several of the big eye game players.
6) It may improve heart health
Research shows that consuming foods with lycopene may reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension suggested a link between the fruit and heart disease, as research suggested watermelon extract may reduce blood pressure over a sustained period of time. “The authors suggested that L-citrulline and L-arginine — two of the antioxidants in watermelon — may improve the function of the arteries,” Derocha suggests.
7) It helps with immunity
Getting a variety of essential vitamins and minerals is one key to a strong immune system, and watermelon fits the bill. But it’s also a good source of several nutrients that are especially crucial to this mission, including vitamins A and C and the amino acid L-citrulline, Blatner says.
8) Watermelon may help reduce inflammation
A specific combination of antioxidants, including lycopene and vitamin C, found in watermelon may help lower inflammation and oxidative damage over time, Derocha explains. Inflammation can cause swelling, pain, or flushed skin for those experiencing it. And chronic inflammation can lead to serious conditions, including cancer, asthma, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
9) It’s great for your skin
“The water and vitamins A, B6, and C in watermelon help your skin stay soft, smooth, and supple,” Derocha says. Vitamin C boosts collagen production, which improves skin elasticity and blood flow to the skin. And vitamin A helps repair skin cells, preventing dry, flaky skin, while vitamin B6 helps with skin breakouts.
Lycopene can play a role in protecting your skin from the sun, Derocha adds, making it less likely you’ll get a sunburn. But it definitely doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen, she emphasizes; it’s always crucial to apply your choice of SPF regularly.
10) It may relieve achy muscles
A small study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that athletes who drank watermelon juice saw reduced muscle soreness for up to 24 hours. The juice also helped lower their recovery heart rate. Researchers linked watermelon juice’s ability to relieve achy muscles to its L-citrulline content, which is an amino acid that helps to reduce muscle damage. Although scientists need more concrete evidence to confirm the extent of this benefit, this link might push you to consider adding watermelon juice to your post-workout routine.
11) It could improve your gym session
The L-citrulline in watermelon doesn’t just hold the potential to help with sore muscles — studies also suggest that it may boost exercise performance by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles you’re working out, Blatner says, as well as possibly make you feel less exerted during and after exercise.
12) It could help with weight management
Choosing watermelon over another sweet snack can help you feel full longer, Meyer-Jax explains. Limited research published in the journal Nutrients in 2019 found that subjects who were considered overweight or clinically obese and ate watermelon instead of low-fat cookies experienced greater satiety, as an example. Eating watermelon daily was associated with a decrease in subjects’ body weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and waist circumference.
13) It’s good for both the planet and you
Watermelon is a zero waste food — because get this — you can eat the flesh, the rind, and even the seeds! Most people stick to the sweet and juicy red or pink flesh, but the rind and seeds are edible, too, and they offer their own health benefits, Blatner says.
Rinds are lower in sugar and higher in fiber than the flesh of a watermelon, Meyer-Jax says, “When eaten with the rest of the melon, it helps slow down sugar absorption in the gut and mellows the rise in blood sugar.” They’re technically edible raw, but since rinds can be a bit tough, consider enjoying them cooked in a stir fry or curry, pickled, or even juiced.
Watermelon seeds, which can be eaten raw or dried, contain 8g plant protein in just one ounce, says Blatner, and they’re also rich in magnesium, which plays a key role in energy production, nerve function, and blood pressure regulation. The seeds are also a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which guard against heart attack and stroke and lower levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
Is it okay to eat watermelon every day?
Only about 10% of Americans eat the recommended two cups of fruit each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so if watermelon is your jam, go ahead and eat multiple servings of watermelon every day. Sollid says it’s still ideal for your overall dietary health to try to vary the types of fruit you eat — different fruits contain different nutrients, so eating a variety will ensure your body gets everything it needs.
And even though watermelon is a healthy choice, it’s still smart to avoid overloading on any type of food, including watermelon, adds Grace Derocha, RDN, CDCES, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While it may be tempting to work your way through an entire watermelon on a hot summer afternoon, try to stick to around a cup at a time, rather than an entire fruit outright; watermelon is considered a high FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) fruit, which means it contains short-chain sugars that some people have trouble digesting, Derocha says, so it “may cause bloating or discomfort when consumed in large amounts.”
People with diabetes or who may need to count their carbohydrate servings should also pay attention to their watermelon intake. Eating too much fruit could introduce too much sugar to your diet, leading to blood sugar fluctuations, which can be risky for people with diabetes.
Bottom line: No matter when you dig in, watermelon is a nutritious fruit pick that’s super hydrating and chock-full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Just be sure to enjoy it in moderation.
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