Watermelon is undoubtedly one of the most refreshing, thirst-quenching fruit available year-round, I’d gladly tell you that it ranks up there on my favourite fruit list, right after pineapples, apples, bananas, pears, cashews… (OK, pardon me. I admit I have a lot of favourites!).
It is not only delicious but also very nutritious. Studies have shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced the tomato as the lycopene king.
According to medicine.net, lycopene is a red pigment found predominantly in tomatoes (and also in some other fruits like watermelons) that gives them their colour. Lycopene has antioxidant properties and has been claimed to “promote a healthy heart” and to reduce the risk of cancer.
Lycopene, however, is fat-soluble, this means it needs certain fats in the blood for better absorption by the body or rather it is better absorbed into the blood if eaten in a meal with healthy levels of good fats (unsaturated fatty acids, for instance, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids found in majorly found in fish). Watermelon consists of 92% water and 8% sugar.
Alongside tomatoes, watermelon has moved up to the front of the line in recent research studies on high-lycopene foods. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that’s especially important for our cardiovascular health, and an increasing number of scientists now believe that lycopene is important for bone health as well.
Health scientists are becoming more and more interested in the citrulline content of watermelon. Citrulline is an amino acid that is commonly converted by our kidneys and other organ systems into arginine (another amino acid). The flesh of a watermelon contains about 250 milligrams of citrulline per cup. When our body absorbs this citrulline, one of the steps it can take is the conversion of citrulline into arginine. A research study found that taking L-citrulline supplements can improve erections while avoiding many of the potential side effects of Viagra.
If you’ve gotten used to thinking about the juicy red flesh at the centre of watermelon as its only nutrient-rich area—and far more nutrient-rich than the more lightly-coloured flesh that is farther out near the watermelon rind—it is time to change your thinking. In a recent study, food scientists compared the nutrient content of flesh from different parts of a watermelon: flesh from the centre, the stem end, the blossom end (opposite from the stem), and the periphery (the part nearest to the rind). What they’ve discovered were impressive concentrations of phenolic antioxidants, flavonoids, lycopene, and vitamin C in all of these different areas.
Recent studies have confirmed the nutritional importance of allowing a watermelon to fully ripen. For example, research has shown that the biggest jump in lycopene content occurs at the time when the flesh turns from white-pink to pink. Yet when that flesh continues to ripen, resulting in a colour change from pink to red, the lycopene content becomes even more concentrated. Prior to ripening, when the flesh of a watermelon is primarily white in colour, its beta-carotene content is near zero. Even when allowed to ripen to the white-pink stage, a watermelon still contains very little of its eventual beta-carotene content. But as it moves from white-pink to pink to red, the beta-carotene content of a watermelon steadily increases. Like lycopene and beta-carotene, total phenolic antioxidants in watermelon also increase consistently during ripening, all the way up until the appearance of fully red flesh. The bottom line: eating a fully ripe watermelon can really pay off in terms of nutrient benefits.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Support
– If you had to pick a single nutrient from this anti-inflammatory and antioxidant category that has put watermelon on the map, that nutrient would be lycopene.
– Recent research has shown that the lycopene content of watermelon also remains very stable over time. When two-inch cubes of fresh-cut watermelon were stored in the refrigerator at 36°F (2°C) over 48 hours, researchers found virtually no deterioration in lycopene content. That deterioration did not start to become significant until about seven days of storage when it decreased by about 6-11%. While we do not recommend waiting seven days before consuming fresh-cut watermelon, we believe that the excellent stability of its lycopene over a two-day period is great news for anyone wanting to enjoy fresh-cut watermelon over the course of several days.
Watermelon-loving athletes are in luck: drinking watermelon juice before an intense workout helps reduce next-day muscle soreness and heart rate, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. This can be attributed to watermelon’s amino acids citrulline and arginine, which help improve circulation.
The seeds can provide us with small but helpful amounts of both iron and zinc. We’re talking about several hundred seeds (the amount contained in a typical seeded watermelon, which is not an amount that we would anticipate or suggest eating at one time) to obtain 1–2 milligrams of either mineral. Still, regular consumption of whole, seeded watermelon would provide us with nutrient benefits in this area over time. Interestingly, we’ve seen one study showing that the iron and zinc in watermelon seeds is surprisingly bioavailable (85-90%), despite the oxalates and phytates that are contained in the seeds. (Oxalates and phytates can sometimes bind with minerals like iron and zinc to lessen their bioavailability.)
Skin and hair benefits
Vitamin A is stellar for your skin, and just a cup of watermelon contains nearly one-quarter of your daily recommended intake of it. Vitamin A helps keep skin and hair moisturized, and it also encourages the healthy growth of new collagen and elastin cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Vitamin C is also beneficial in this regard, as it promotes healthy collagen growth.
Have you some watermelons today!