Watermelon 101: Scientists explain why the fruit is so healthy for you

BATON ROUGE, La. — Next time you’re at the store, be sure to pick up a watermelon or two. Science has finally caught up to what watermelon lovers have known for years: the big green melon is not only delicious but chock-full of nutrients.

A new study finds that children and adults who regularly ate watermelon had a higher-quality diet. This included having higher levels of fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, lycopene, and other carotenoids — compounds that give the fruit its color. Watermelon snackers also ate less processed sugars and had lower levels of saturated fatty acids. The data comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

A separate study published in the journal Nutrients supports the health benefits of watermelon. In their trial, 18 men and women drank watermelon juice for two weeks. Researchers studied how L-citrulline and L-arginine — two compounds found in watermelon — affected a person’s heart rate and the production of nitric oxide in the body. The watermelon juice supplements helped protect a person’s vascular function when having high blood sugar levels.

“We acknowledge that while the sample size was small and more research is needed, this study adds to the current body of evidence supporting regular intake of watermelon for cardio-metabolic health. In addition to L-citrulline and L-arginine, watermelon is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C and lycopene—all of which can help reduce oxidative stress and play a role in heart disease prevention,” says Jack Losso, a professor at the Louisiana State University’s School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, in a media release.

watermelon made into popsicles
Watermelon popsicles (Photo by Laårk Boshoff on Unsplash)

The Dietary Guidelines for America recommend 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit every day. While it might not sound like a lot, many American adults and children are not meeting this goal. Most get only half of the recommended fruit serving a day.

Eating watermelon, whether after playing sports or during a barbecue, can be the boost you need to get your recommended servings. Watermelon is high in vitamin C and vitamin B6, with the nutrients making up 25 percent and eight percent of the giant melon, respectively. It’s also a refreshing and hydrating snack that consists of 92 percent water. What’s more, watermelon is diet-friendly with only 80 calories for every two-cup serving.

Both studies received funding from the National Watermelon Promotion Board. The first study is also published in the journal Nutrients.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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