Watermelon today is the most consumed melon in the United States (followed by cantaloupe and honeydew). It is a cousin of cucumbers, pumpkins, and zucchini, and is believed to have originated in Egypt about 5,000 years ago.
Today, more than 300 varieties of watermelon are grown in the United States and Mexico (though only about 50 are popular). Maybe you think you already know everything about this fruit, but give me a chance to surprise you… watermelon is more than just delicious… it’s a super healthy addition to your diet (obviously in moderation).
Just be careful when eating any melon, including watermelon. Eat melon alone or else don’t eat, as it will cause growls in your stomach. So, ideally, don’t eat food 30 minutes before or after eating melons.
6 Watermelon Facts That Might Surprise You
1. Has More Lycopene Than Raw Tomatoes
Lycopene is a powerful carotenoid antioxidant that provides a pink or red color to fruits and vegetables. And it’s often associated with tomatoes, but watermelon is actually a more concentrated source.
Compared to a large fresh tomato, a cup of watermelon has 1.5 times more lycopene (6 milligrams (mg) of watermelon compared to 4 mg in a tomato).
2. Juice Can Relieve Muscle Pain
If you have an extractor, try extracting the juice from a third of a fresh watermelon and take it before your next workout. It contains a little more than a gram of citrulline, an amino acid that appears to protect against muscle pain.
One study found that men who drank unpasteurized watermelon juice before their training reduced muscle pain 24 hours later compared to those who took a placebo.
However, be very careful about drinking watermelon juice, as it contains a significant amount of fructose. It may be better to eat the whole fruit or opt for these other tips to prevent muscle pain.
3. Watermelon Is a Fruit and Vegetable
Do you remember how watermelon relates to cucumbers, pumpkin, and zucchini? This is because it is both a vegetable and a fruit (after all it is a plant that produces seeds and sweetness).
4. You Can Eat Seeds and Bark
Most people throw away the rind of watermelon but try to put it in a blender with a little lemon juice and it will make a refreshing healthy drink. The rind not only contains a large amount of chlorophyll that promotes blood health and quality but also contains more of the amino acid citrulline than pink meat.
Citrulline becomes arginine in the kidneys, and this amino acid is not only important for heart health and the maintenance of your immune system but has also been shown to have incredible therapeutic value in over 100 health conditions.
While a lot of people prefer seedless varieties of watermelon, black watermelon seeds are edible and actually quite healthy. They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber.
5. It’s Primarily Water
This may not be so surprising, but it’s still fun information; watermelon is more than 91 percent water. This means that consuming watermelon on a hot summer day is a delicious way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration (however, it’s not a substitute for cool water).
6. Some Watermelons Are Yellow
Crimson yellow watermelon has yellow flesh with a delicious sweet taste than the more popular pink Crimson varieties. Yellow watermelon is likely to offer its own unique set of nutritional benefits, but the most research to date has focused on pink flesh varieties.
Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, with more than 6,500 micrograms (6.5 mg) in less than half a cup (red flesh varieties contain significantly more lycopene than yellow flesh watermelon).
Also noteworthy, lycopene in watermelon appears to be fairly stable, showing that it hardly deteriorates even after it has been cut and stored in the refrigerator for more than two days. In one study, it took about seven days of storage for the lycopene to deteriorate and then only decompose by 6 to 11 percent.
So why is lycopene so important? It has long been suggested that the antioxidant activity of lycopene is more powerful than that of other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. In one study, after controlling for other stroke risk factors, such as advanced age and diabetes, they found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with lower levels.
Watermelon Extract May Significantly Reduce Blood Pressure
The new research also highlights the role of watermelon nutrients in preventing heart attacks through a significant reduction in blood pressure. Obese study participants who received citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract had significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress while resting and undergoing a stressful cold water test. According to the researchers:
“Watermelon supplements reduced aortic blood pressure and myocardial oxygen demand during the cold test and the magnitude of the cold-induced increase in wave reflection in obese adults with hypertension. Watermelon can provide cardioprotection by attenuating aortic hemodynamic responses caused by cold.
Remember, in your body citrulline in watermelon becomes L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. An adequate nitric oxide is required to allow the blood vessels to relax and open up blood flow, which could be one of the reasons blood pressure drops.
Watermelon Is Good for Inflammation, Sexual Health, and More
L-arginine can also help with erectile dysfunction by helping to relax blood vessels, including those that supply blood to your penis – and that’s why watermelon is sometimes referred to as the “Viagra of Nature. In fact, citrulline supplements have been found to improve erection in men with mild erectile dysfunction.
What else does watermelon do? It is rich in anti-inflammatory substances. For example, watermelon contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant lycopene, as well as cucurbitacin E, or triterpenoids, which reduces pain activity, and the enzyme cyclooxygenase that causes pain-which is the same enzyme blocked by COX-2 inhibitors, which include most NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. While very low in calories (about 46 calories in a cup), watermelon also contains an impressive variety of other important nutrients, which many people lack, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin A
Related: Cucumber Properties And Benefits
Choosing the Best Watermelon
Cutting a watermelon to discover that it lacks flavor is disappointing. There’s a trick you can use to choose a ripe watermelon, either at your farmer’s market or at a store of your choice. Look for a yellowish spot (not white or green) on the bottom. That’s the part where you sit on the ground to ripen and it’s one of the best indicators you can use to detect your maturity (even commercial watermelon pickers use this approach). Other tricks to choosing a ripe watermelon include:
Must be heavy in relation to its size
Smooth shell with an opaque top (the top is the opposite side to the part that sits on the ground)
The hit test (this is controversial, but it is said that the mature watermelon has a hollow sound)
Store your watermelon in a cool place (50 to 60 degrees F) until you cut it. Cut watermelon should be refrigerated (and be sure to wipe your watermelon with a damp cloth before cutting). Remember, try blending the rind with a little lemon juice instead of throwing it in the trash (look for an organic watermelon especially if you are going to eat the rind). Finally, you should consume watermelon in moderation because of its fructose content. One-sixteenth of a watermelon contains 11.3 grams of fructose (I recommend keeping your total fructose intake to less than 25 grams per day if you are in good health and below 15 grams per day if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have diabetes.