Watermelon: Nutrition Facts And Health Benefits

Watermelon, the refreshing summer fruit, is low in calories but high in vitamins and other compounds. So, why not bring home this powerhouse of goodness and help your family stay healthy.

By Subhechha Chatterjee

Watermelon: Nutrition Facts And Health Benefits

For most of us, the sweltering summer afternoons are synonymous with delicious bites of juicy watermelons. But, have you ever wondered about where the first watermelon grew, how it spread worldwide, and its many health benefits? 

A 5,000-year-old history

Based on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Hebrew texts, the origin of the watermelon plant can be traced back to about 5,000 years ago to Africa’s dry and hot Kalahari desert.

Scientifically, the watermelon is called Citrullus lanatus. However, the debate about the name is still going on. Lanatus means ‘hairy’ in Latin. As a result, the modern watermelon is often confused with its probable ancestor, the hairy citron melon, which earlier shared the same name.

With time, the varieties of watermelon also increased. They are now available in different shapes and sizes ranging from small round ones to square to large oblong varieties. Moreover, even pink and yellow watermelons are available in many parts of the world. However, the commonly available ones have a dark green rind or outer covering and a red, fleshy, sweet pulp inside.

But, no matter what shape or size or colour it comes in, the benefits of watermelon are many and this makes it a must-eat fruit. Let's look at the nutritional value of this fruit and how it helps you to stay healthy.

Health benefits of watermelon

Some of the benefits that accrue from consuming watermelons include a healthy heart, hydration of the body, regulation of blood pressure, elimination of free radicals and good eye health. These benefits are a result of the nutrients present in the different parts of the watermelon.

Watermelon nutrition facts

Watermelon rind

The rind or outer peel of the watermelon is often tossed into the bin, without a second thought. Most of us don't even know that the rind is not only edible but also a great source of the amino acid, citrulline, which has the following health benefits:-

  • improves heart function
  • lowers blood pressure
  • boosts the immune system
  • has anti-cancer effects
  • increases endurance and combats fatigue

Now that you know about the multiple benefits of watermelon rind, the next time you get one, try eating the slightly bitter and subtly tangy peel. You can use it as a substitute for cucumber in your salad, turn it into a pickle, blend it into a smoothie or simply eat it with a seasoning of salt and pepper.

Watermelon seeds

While we enjoy eating the red, fleshy pulp, most of us do not like having the black and soft watermelon seeds. However, the seeds are a great source of several nutrients, including:

  • Magnesium, which serves to improve muscle, nerve and bone function in both children and adults
  • Iron, which is an essential component of haemoglobin; adequate levels of iron in the body also prevents anaemia, improves functioning of the immune system and ensures good metabolism
  • Folate or folic acid, which is important for a well-functioning nervous system and brain; for expectant mothers, folate supplements are prescribed to ensure that the foetus does not suffer from any neural defects at birth
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, often referred to as good fats and present in reasonable quantities in watermelon seeds; they help prevent strokes and chronic heart conditions, and serve to lower bad cholesterol levels

Watermelon pulp

The luscious red pulp contains over 92 per cent water and moderate amounts of vitamins A, B6 and C along with lycopene and amino acids.

  • Lycopene gives watermelons the bright ruby hue. This compound is also an antioxidant. It boosts the immune response and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Like other red and orange-coloured fruits and vegetables, the red pulp contains beta carotene. This improves eyesight, protects the skin and is anti-cancerous.
  • The fibre in the pulp is extremely beneficial for improving digestion and bowel movement.
  • Potassium available in the watermelon pulp serves to reduce high blood pressure, maintain electrolyte and water balance, and improve muscle and kidney functioning.
  • Consuming watermelons during pregnancy helps in keeping oneself hydrated, maintaining glucose levels and meeting vitamin requirements.

Watermelon juice recipe

Watermelon juice made from its pulp is a great coolant for the body and a perfect substitute for artificially sweetened aerated colas. Also, it is very easy to make fresh watermelon juice to soothe yourself on a hot summer day. So, try out the recipe.

Serves: 2

Preparation time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

  1. 4 cups of peeled, de-seeded, cubed watermelon
  2. Juice from 1 lemon
  3. 8–10 mint leaves
  4. Ice cubes

Method:

  1. Put the watermelon cubes, and lemon juice in a blender and make a purée.
  2. To get a smooth texture, you can strain the pulp using a mesh.
  3. Garnish with a dash of mint leaves and ice cubes, as per your choice. Voila! Your healthy and tasty watermelon juice is ready.

Calories in watermelon: How much is too much?

On an average, 200gm of watermelon contains about 60 calories. While eating watermelon confers many benefits, we should also remember that 'excess of anything is bad'. So, only the required quantity of watermelon should be consumed. But, what is the required quantity? Do you have any idea?

As there are 60 calories in 200 gram of watermelon juice,  that means if you consume 500gm of watermelon, you end up consuming 150 calories. But, what is important to note is that every 100gm serving contains nearly 5–6gm of sugar. So, those who suffer from diabetes should take note of the amount of watermelon they consume. 

Also, those having elevated potassium levels shouldn't consume large quantities of watermelon as this may adversely affect cardiovascular function.

Due to its high water content, consuming too much watermelon may cause water intoxication, leading to sodium loss, poorly functioning kidneys and swelling of legs. Flatulence, diarrhoea, and digestive tract discomfort are some of the other side-effects of watermelon over-consumption.

Selecting the best watermelon

A good watermelon must be luscious, juicy and ripe. To select the best watermelon, keep in mind the following points:

  1. A good, ripe watermelon would have a pale yellowish spot on the part that rests on the ground. A light cream or white spot usually suggests an unripe watermelon.
  2. Do not buy a watermelon based on its large size. It is better to go for a medium-sized one which feels heavy when you hold it.
  3. The tail of the watermelon gives you a clue about the degree of ripeness. Thus, a brownish, dried tail is a sign of a more ripe and juicy watermelon.
  4. Thump a watermelon. If you hear a hollow sound, you can be sure that it is ripe and ready to be consumed.

With all its goodness and health benefits, your family shouldn't miss out on such an amazing, easily available and affordable summer fruit. Whether you eat the pulp, the rind or the seeds, you can be sure that you would get some essential nutrients. You can come up with your own watermelon recipes to enjoy this wonder fruit with a twist.

About the author:

Written by Subhechha Chatterjee on 11 April 2019.

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