Watermelon: Nutrition profile, health benefits and side effects

watermelon

Last Updated on September 8, 2023 by Neelam Singh

Watermelon, scientifically known as Citrullus lanatus, is a refreshing and delicious fruit that is enjoyed worldwide. Its history can be traced back thousands of years, with evidence of its cultivation found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Watermelon is believed to have originated in Africa and later spread to other parts of the world through trade and exploration.

In Indian cuisine, watermelon holds a special place, particularly during the hot summer months. It is commonly consumed as a cooling and hydrating fruit, often used to make refreshing drinks, salads, and desserts. The vibrant red flesh and sweet taste of watermelon make it a favourite ingredient in many traditional Indian dishes and beverages.

Aside from its culinary uses, watermelon also offers numerous health benefits. It is a rich source of vitamins A and C, as well as lycopene, a powerful antioxidant known for its potential to reduce the risk of certain diseases. Watermelon is also incredibly hydrating due to its high water content, making it a perfect choice for staying refreshed and replenishing fluids during hot weather or physical activity.

Health benefits of watermelon

May protect from cardiovascular stress

Cardiovascular diseases are a major cause of increasing deaths worldwide, and treating them is expensive. A heart-healthy diet can help lower the risks. Fruits and vegetables, like watermelon, can fight the negative effects of heart disease. Substances called l-citrulline and l-arginine can help reduce inflammation and stress. But taking them directly might cause stomach issues. So, eating fruits high in l-citrulline, like watermelon, is important. Watermelon also affected genes related to how the body handles fats. Watermelon and l-arginine helped control a gene important for healthy blood vessels and reducing artery problems.

Recent studies also showed watermelon can help human hearts. Eating watermelon for four weeks reduced weight, blood pressure, and harmful fats in overweight people. Watermelon also increases antioxidants, which fight damage to cells. Overall, regular watermelon consumption can lower the risks of heart disease.

May help reduce weight and manage diabetes

Obesity is a serious global health concern linked to diabetes and lifestyle-related diseases. Unhealthy eating habits, including sugary fast foods, contribute to obesity. Oxidative stress and inflammation worsen these issues.

Non-insulin-dependent diabetes lowers nitric oxide (NO) production, affecting energy use and insulin sensitivity.  NO is made from l-arginine, which can reduce glucose levels in diabetic rats. Watermelon consumption boosts l-arginine, aiding heart health and diabetes. In diabetic rats, watermelon juice raised l-arginine levels, lowered glucose and fats, and improved heart function. Watermelon juice also helped regulate metabolism and cardiovascular responses in humans. It reduced blood pressure and body measurements in obese adults, aiding weight management. Overall, watermelon can be a useful tool against diabetes and obesity.

May help treat ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis, a widespread inflammatory bowel disease, leads to inflammation and ulcers throughout the bowel system. It damages cells and can even lead to deadly colorectal cancer. It’s also linked to other issues like arthritis and psoriasis. One symptom is reduced absorption of l-arginine by colon cells. People with ulcerative colitis have less l-arginine, affecting colon health. Adding l-arginine as a supplement improves symptoms by boosting antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and improving other factors. Watermelon’s l-citrulline, a precursor to l-arginine, can also help. Watermelon improves colon health, increases nitric oxide levels, and reduces inflammation. This might happen by increasing a protein called PPAR-γ, which fights inflammation and oxidative stress. Watermelon also may lower colon cancer. Watermelon’s antioxidants protect against oxidative stress and DNA damage, lowering the risk of colorectal cancer.

May have anticancer properties

Cancer is a deadly disease with a high mortality rate globally. Active components in our diet can affect gene expression and impact the development of cancer. For instance, lycopene in watermelon may hinder DNA mutations and tumour spread. Lycopene alters the cancer cell cycle and helps inhibit breast and endometrial cancers. It lessens oxidative stress and fights cancer cell growth. Watermelon’s l-citrulline can also help. Watermelon leaf extracts were found to slow the growth of breast and cervical cancer cells. Different watermelon varieties had varying effects, with cervical cancer cells showing high sensitivity. Phytochemicals from watermelon sprouts inhibited leukaemia cell proliferation and prompted cell cycle arrest. In summary, watermelon’s compounds can counteract oxidative stress and influence key pathways, offering potential health benefits against serious diseases.

Side effects of watermelon

Watermelon is a hydrating and delicious fruit that is generally safe for consumption. However, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of. Consuming excessive amounts of watermelon in one sitting can sometimes lead to digestive discomfort, including bloating, gas, or diarrhoea. Allergic reactions to watermelon are rare but possible, ranging from mild itching or hives to more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing. While watermelon contains beneficial compounds like lycopene, some individuals might experience mild digestive issues when consuming high-lycopene foods, though this is uncommon. Lastly, although watermelon’s high water content aids hydration, extreme consumption, along with other hydrating fluids, could theoretically lead to overhydration, though this is very rare. For most people, enjoying watermelon in moderation as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to result in any adverse effects. The cracks and hollow spaces that develop inside the watermelon due to the separation of internal tissues is called hollow heart. 

Conclusion

Watermelon is a delicious and refreshing fruit that offers numerous health benefits. Its high water content makes it an excellent choice for staying hydrated, especially during hot summer months. Watermelon is rich in important nutrients like vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants that can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Additionally, its natural sweetness makes it a healthier alternative to sugary snacks and desserts. Including watermelon as part of a balanced diet can contribute to overall health and well-being. So, next time you’re looking for a tasty and nutritious treat, reach for a slice of watermelon and enjoy its many advantages.

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