The Top 9 Health Benefits of Watermelon
Written by Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD and Fatima Hallal, APD — Medically reviewed by Amy Richter, RD, Nutrition — Updated on November 8, 2021
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Watermelon is believed to have first been domesticated over 4,000 years ago in Northeast Africa (1Trusted Source).
It’s sweet and juicy, making it the perfect treat to quench your thirst during the summer heat.
This large round fruit has a green rind and bright red flesh. It’s also packed with nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins A and C.
Here are 9 of the top health benefits of watermelon.
1. Helps you stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is important for your body to function properly.
Body temperature regulation, normal organ function, nutrient delivery to cells, and alertness are only some of the bodily processes that rely on adequate hydration (2Trusted Source).
Eating foods with a high water content may help give your body the water it needs to function properly.
Watermelon comprises 92% water, making it a great choice for daily water intake (3Trusted Source).
Furthermore, due to its high water content, this melon has a low calorie density — in other words, very few calories for its total weight.
Eating foods with low calorie densities, such as watermelon, may aid weight management by keeping you feeling full for longer (4Trusted Source).
Watermelon’s high water content may help keep you hydrated — which supports your overall health — as well as feeling full.
2. Packed with nutrients and beneficial plant compounds
Watermelon contains a variety of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. It’s also relatively low in calories, containing just 46 per cup (152 grams) (5Trusted Source).
Here are the nutrients in 1 cup (152 grams) of raw, diced watermelon:
- Calories: 46
- Carbs: 11.5 grams
- Fiber: 0.6 grams
- Sugar: 9.4 grams
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Vitamin A: 5% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 14% of the DV
- Potassium: 4% of the DV
- Magnesium: 4% of the DV
Watermelon is also a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid that may improve exercise performance (6Trusted Source).
Plus, it boasts antioxidants, including vitamin C, carotenoids, lycopene, and cucurbitacin E (3Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
These compounds help combat free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may damage your cells if they accumulate in your body. Over time, this damage may lead to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (8Trusted Source).
Watermelon boasts numerous nutrients, including a substantial amount of vitamins A and C. It also offers antioxidants like lycopene and cucurbitacin E.
3. May have anticancer effects
Several plant compounds found in watermelon, including lycopene and cucurbitacin E, have possible anticancer effects.
While study results are mixed, lycopene intakemay be associated with a lower risk of some types of cancer, such as prostate and colorectal cancers (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Lycopene is believed to work by lowering blood levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a hormone that promotes cell division. Notably, cancer forms when cell division becomes uncontrollable (13Trusted Source).
Additionally, cucurbitacin E may inhibit tumor growth by promoting the autophagy of cancer cells. Autophagy is the process by which your body removes damaged cells (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
All the same, further human research is necessary.
Watermelon contains plant compounds that may combat certain forms of cancer. However, more studies are needed.
4. May improve heart health
Several nutrients in watermelon may support heart health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. It’s worth noting that lifestyle factors like diet may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Studies suggest that lycopene may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It may also help prevent oxidative damage caused by high cholesterol levels (3Trusted Source).
Watermelon also contains citrulline, an amino acid that may increase nitric oxide levels in your body. Nitric oxide helps your blood vessels expand, which lowers blood pressure (18Trusted Source).
Other heart-healthy vitamins and minerals in watermelon include magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B6, and C (3Trusted Source).
The lycopene and citrulline in watermelon may support heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
5. May reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
Inflammation is a key driver of many chronic diseases.
The combination of antioxidants, lycopene, and vitamin C in watermelon may help lower inflammation and oxidative damage (3Trusted Source).
In one study, rats fed watermelon powder to supplement an unhealthy diet developed less oxidative stress and lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein than those in the control group (19Trusted Source).
Additionally, an 8-week study gave 31 people with obesity and high inflammatory markers 500 mg of vitamin C twice daily. They showed a significant decrease in inflammatory markers compared with the control group (20Trusted Source).
As an antioxidant, lycopene may also delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research is needed (21).
Watermelon contains compounds that may help reduce inflammation, high levels of which are linked to numerous illnesses.
6. May help prevent macular degeneration
The watermelon compound lycopene may have benefits for your eyes.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye problem that can cause blindness in older adults (3Trusted Source).
Lycopene’s role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound may help prevent and inhibit AMD, though research is limited (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
One test-tube study that treated eye cells with lycopene found that it decreased the capacity of inflammatory markers to damage cells (22Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that human research is necessary.
Lycopene may help prevent AMD due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Still, further studies are needed.
7. May relieve muscle soreness
Citrulline, an amino acid found in watermelon, may improve exercise performance and reduce muscle soreness (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
It’s also available as a supplement.
One review found that regular intake of citrulline for at least 7 days improved aerobic performance by increasing the body’s production of nitric oxide (26Trusted Source).
This compound helps expand blood vessels so that your heart doesn’t need to work as hard to pump blood through your body (27).
What’s more, some evidence suggests that watermelon itself — not just citrulline — may aid your body after exercise.
One older study gave athletes plain watermelon juice, watermelon juice mixed with citrulline, or a control drink. Both watermelon drinks led to less muscle soreness and quicker heart rate recovery than the control drink (28Trusted Source).
Still, more research is needed.
The citrulline in watermelon may help improve exercise performance and decrease muscle soreness.
8. May aid skin health
Vitamins A and C, which are found in watermelon, are important for skin health.
Vitamin C — either when eaten or applied topically — helps your body make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple and your hair strong (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
One review found that a higher intake of vitamin C from food and/or supplements may decrease your chances of developing wrinkles and dry skin (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
Vitamin A is also important for healthy skin since it helps create and repair skin cells (33Trusted Source).
In one review, animals with vitamin A deficiency had poorer wound healing than those fed a nutritionally complete diet (34Trusted Source).
Bear in mind that further human studies on watermelon specifically are needed.
Several nutrients in watermelon promote hair and skin health, though more research is necessary.
9. May improve digestion
Watermelon contains plenty of water and a small amount of fiber, both of which are necessary for healthy digestion.
Fiber helps keep your bowels regular, while water moves waste through your digestive tract more efficiently (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
One survey in 4,561 adults found that those with low fluid and low fiber intakes were more likely to experience constipation. Nonetheless, other factors may have played a role (37Trusted Source).
The fiber and water content in watermelon may aid your digestive health by supporting regular bowel movements.
The bottom line
Watermelon is a tasty, thirst-quenching fruit that many people enjoy in the heat of summer.
It has a very high water content and provides nutrients like lycopene, citrulline, and vitamins A and C.
Studies suggest that this sweet, red melon may even boost heart health, reduce muscle soreness, and decrease inflammation, though more research is needed.
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