Today is National Watermelon Day, and that is definitely a reason to celebrate! Watermelon is among the most popular of summertime fruits. It has long been a staple at barbecues, picnics, and other forms of backyard fun when the weather gets warm. The extremely high water content of watermelon—at a whopping 92 percent—gives it that refreshing taste that can’t be beat when you’re hot.
It used to have a reputation as somewhat of a less healthy type of fruit. Many people believed that it only offered water, sugar, and not much else. But watermelon is way more than just a delicious treat. Now we are much more aware of its true nutritional value, and we know that watermelon contains all kinds of healthy goodness.
A two-cup serving has only 80 calories. And in every serving, you get vitamins, antioxidants, and more. For sure, there is plenty of water in watermelon, which helps you stay hydrated even if you’re outside in the hot weather, and although it is relatively high in sugar, with approximately 20 grams in a two-cup serving, this natural sugar can effectively replace electrolytes lost when you sweat much more healthfully than any sports drink.
Watermelon is a rich source of lycopene, an antioxidant and phytonutrient that successfully reduces inflammation. Perhaps because of its anti-inflammatory capabilities, lycopene has been linked in studies to a lower the risk of heart disease,[fn] Rissanen, T.; et al. “Lycopene, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.” Experimental Biology and Medicine. November 2002. Accessed 17 July 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12424332.[/fn] the promotion of stronger bones,[fn]Sahni, S.; et al. “Protective effect of total carotenoid and lycopene intake on the risk of hip fracture: a 17-year follow-up from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. June 2009. Accessed 17 July 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19138129.[/fn] and the prevention of prostate cancer.[fn]Giovannucci, E.. “A review of epidemiologic studies of tomatoes, lycopene, and prostate cancer.” Experimental Biology and Medicine. November 2002. Accessed 17 July 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12424325.[/fn]
Interestingly, it’s easy to tell when a watermelon offers a greater amount of lycopene. It is this nutrient that is mainly responsible for watermelon’s red hue, so the redder the fruit, the greater its lycopene concentration. So wait until it is fully ripe to eat it, but don’t limit your consumption to only the reddest flesh. Not only is every part of a watermelon completely edible, but other areas offer nutrition as well. In fact, nutritional analyses have found that antioxidants, flavonoids, lycopene, and vitamin C are present not only in the center of the melon, but in its ends and the portion near the rind.
And lycopene is far from the only valuable nutrient present in watermelon. Citrulline, an amino acid found in watermelon that is another type of phytonutrient, is also very beneficial to our bodies. Once ingested, citrulline is converted to arginine, which aids the circulatory system. It has been found to influence aspects of health tied to better blood flow, such as the strengthening the cardiovascular system and improving erectile dysfunction problems. Plus, a 2014 study at Florida State University in Tallahassee found that people who are overweight and have hypertension might be able to improve their blood pressure levels by consuming more watermelon due to the effects of arginine.[fn]Figueroa, Arturo; et al. “Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Hemodynamic Responses to the Cold Pressor Test in Obese Hypertensive Adults.” American Journal of Hypertension. 26 February 2014. Accessed 18 July 2016. http://ajh.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/7/899.[/fn] This, by the way, is the reason Jon Barron includes citrulline malate (the supplement form of citrulline) in his Nutribody Protein formula.
Nor does the good news stop there. Watermelon also contains a high level of vitamin A, which is essential for the skin. Vitamin A contributes to the production of new collagen and elastin cells. The growth of these cells slows considerably as we age, and combatting this process is vital to keeping skin smooth and helping it retain moisture.
Finally, the fiber in watermelon helps fill you up on a relatively low number of calories. This in turn increases the likelihood that you will not overeat and therefore lowers your risk of obesity. Additionally, a high-fiber diet is great for digestion and will help keep your bowel movements regular.
So don’t hesitate to enjoy a few slices of watermelon today on National Watermelon Day—and every other day while it’s in season!