Watermelon, the luscious fruit that used to be a childhood favorite in the summers, is now facing flak from skeptics. All those keen to drop a few pounds or tone up are asking: Is watermelon fattening? To answer simply: no, watermelon is not fattening. It’s actually good for weight loss.
Most of the concern about whether watermelon can make you fat stems from the sweetness of the fruit. Since sugar is a complete no-no for the weight conscious, the doubt is very relevant. Let’s explain why watermelon can be an ideal filler food for weight watchers.
A Cup Of Watermelon Has 92% Water And Just 46 Cals
This may come as a surprise to many, but watermelons are not all water. Here’s what else they contain1:
Watermelons Won’t Make You Gain Weight
Watermelons seem to check all the right boxes for a filler food. The following properties of the fruit will set your weight-paranoid heart at ease:
1. Low Fat
Fat consumption has a significant influence on whether you gain weight or not.2 3 Having only 0.2% fat and 0% cholesterol, watermelons are nothing but good news to those going on low-fat diets to lose or maintain weight. Even in the list of common healthy foods of almonds, apples, and bananas, watermelons have reserved the spot for the lowest total fat content.4
2. Low Calories
It is no secret that to prevent weight gain or induce weight loss, you need a calorie deficit. This means you must burn more calories than you consume. One approach is to exercise more, another is to eat fewer calories.
Quite a relief to avid calorie counters, watermelons are over 90% water and water has zero calories. A whole cup of the fruit for a meager 46 Calories is quite a healthy bargain.5 Even for those constantly craving sugar, this low-calorie fruit is perfect to appease a nagging sweet tooth.
1 cup of watermelon has just 46 Cal and yet is filling because of the 92% water content.
In addition, drinking water has been shown to increase metabolism and bring about weight loss in obese individuals.6 By eating watermelons we are indirectly consuming water, which is bound to reflect well on the weighing scale.
3. Low Glycemic Load
There are two values used to assess the impact a food has on blood sugar levels:
Glycemic Index (GI): GI is a measure of how high blood glucose peaks within 2 hours of eating a certain food on a scale of 0 to 100. Foods high on the GI scale (above 70) cause quick spikes in blood sugar as they release glucose quickly.
Glycemic Load (GL): GL is based on GI but takes into account portion size – how many carbs are actually present in a serving, i.e., how much you actually eat. This is why GL is the preferred index for most dieticians.
Watermelon’s glycemic index is 76 but glycemic load is only 8. That means you will have to eat about 10 cups to cause a spike in your blood sugar.
Watermelons have a high GI of 76, the same as that of a doughnut.7 8 However, a cup of watermelons has only 11 gm of carbs, way below the 100 gm that was used to determine its GI. You would have to eat about 10 cups for it to significantly increase your blood sugar – not something most of us would do! A cup of watermelons has a low GL of 8 (below 10 is considered low).
While some studies show that low-GL foods help in weight loss in overweight individuals who have high insulin secretion, there is also evidence that GI and GL have nothing to do with body weight.9 10
Watermelons May Help You Lose Weight
While watermelons keep your weight in check, they may also help reduce your weight by promoting muscle gain, reducing fat storage, enhancing your workouts, and curbing your hunger. Here’s how.
1. Watermelons Reduce Fat Storage And Build Muscle
Watermelon has a chemical that is converted to the essential amino acid arginine in the body. Arginine helps replace fat with muscle.
Watermelons are loaded with citrulline, an amino acid, that is converted to an essential amino acid, arginine, in the body.11 Arginine may play a role in weight loss.
A study on rats showed that a boost in dietary arginine can reduce storage of fat while increasing muscle mass.12 Not so coincidentally, this seems to be the universal goal for most of us trying to lose weight or tone.
While similar results in humans are yet to be proved, we can be hopeful that watermelons may soon prove to be a convenient, effective weight loss tool that has been overlooked and underestimated until now.
2. Watermelon Juice Soothes Sore Muscles
Male athletes who drank natural watermelon juice an hour before their workouts cooled down faster and had less muscle soreness the next day.
When your muscles feel sore the day after an intense workout, you probably feel extreme satisfaction that you’re making good progress, but you also probably secretly hope there was a way to lessen the pain.
Watermelon juice may just be what you need to improve your workouts. Not only do they make a low-calorie thirst-quenching, refreshing drink, but they actually help relieve muscle soreness because of their high citrulline content.13
Drink 17 oz (500 ml) unsweetened fresh watermelon juice an hour before your workout to alleviate muscle soreness the next day.
Citrulline enhances blood circulation to muscles during exercise by relaxing blood vessels, thereby reducing soreness.14
Because of the increased blood flow, citrulline also helps your accelerated heart rate return to normal in lesser time, giving you a quicker cool down time.15 This will help you push yourself even harder while you exercise.
3. Watermelons Supply You With Essential Nutrients
Exercise is more effective when clubbed with proper nutrition. Watermelons are a good source of vitamin C. They also contain decent amounts of vitamins A, B5, and B6 and minerals like potassium and magnesium. This nutritious boost will make you feel more energetic while you exercise, allowing you to perform better and do more.
Note: RDA values (what you should be getting each day) are calculated as averages for adult men and women.16 17
4. Watermelons Keep You Full For Longer
Watermelons fill you up with water and make you feel less hungry.
High water content foods contain fewer calories per gram (because water has zero calories) and are called low-energy-dense foods. Studies have shown that such foods can help control hunger by keeping you full for a long time while reducing your calorie intake.18 This means you can eat bigger quantities guilt free!
Watermelons are a whopping 92% water and a cupful contributes only 46 Calories. This makes them a forerunner in weight-friendly foods. While they keep you satiated, you will be less tempted to eat more calorie-laden foods.
5. Watermelons Help You Reduce Your Portion Size
More chewing translates to a poorer appetite.
When we think of eating a watermelon, most of us naturally envision ourselves diligently chomping away at a sharp edge of a decently large slice. Here’s the interesting part. All the biting and chomping may actually trick your brain into thinking that you’ve eaten a lot and will help reduce intermittent hunger.19 This will help you keep your portion size in check.
- Eating Too Much Watermelon Can Cause Intestinal Discomfort
Those suffering from Crohn’s disease and intestinal bowel syndrome should steer clear of watermelons or keep their intake minimal.
Watermelons are sweet, delish, and refreshing. It is easy to get carried away and overeat them. But not only will that deprive you of nutrients from other foods, but you will also be exposing yourself to the laxative effects of the fruit.
Watermelons contain 7.6% carbs and are a FODMAP – which means it can cause gas bloating, and diarrhea.20 While this may not be a concern for stomach-strong individuals eating the fruit in moderation, it may pose a problem for those suffering from intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.21
Carbs are not the only concern. Lycopene, the pigment that imparts the red color to watermelons, may cause intestinal disturbances, too. So, while lycopene shows potential in treating cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration (in the eye), consuming large quantities of lycopene-rich foods may cause intestinal discomfort.22
- Diabetics Can Eat Watermelons
Watermelons have shown beneficial effects on diabetic rats.23 Though clinical trials are pending, the National Institutes of Health recommends melons for diabetics as part of a balanced diet.24
Watermelon’s low glycemic load also suggests it is safe. Diabetics can go ahead and eat the fruit in moderation. The “too much can be harmful” rule applies just as much to them as to non-diabetic individuals.
- Just The Watermelon Diet Is Not Wholesome
While low-calorie diets can materialize into visible short-term weight gain, it is not advisable to continue such diets for too long. The stress that inevitably builds with such diets causes an increase in stress hormone cortisol levels, which is counterproductive to weight loss.25
The best approach to weight loss would be to include watermelons along with other nutritious foods in your diet for sustainable results. This forms the basis of the watermelon diet that suggests substituting high-calorie foods with watermelon. It does not mean going on a crash diet of only watermelons. It is also advisable to limit yourself to 2 cups of the fruit a day.
Watermelon Fruit Or Juice?
You may choose either. Both are equally beneficial. Depending on your diet, you may eat watermelons as cubes, balls, or slices as a healthy between-meal snack, part of a meal, or as a dessert or drink watermelon juice as a hunger-curbing refreshment throughout the day, especially before workouts. If you’re on a weight-loss spree, avoid eating watermelon seeds. Though they are nutrient-rich, a small serving of 100 gm (a little less than a cup) holds 557 Calories and 47 gm of fat.26
References [ + ]
|1, 4, 5, 17.||↑||Basic Report: 09326, Watermelon, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. USDA.|
|2.||↑||Warwick, Zoe S., and Susan S. Schiffman. “Role of dietary fat in calorie intake and weight gain.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 16, no. 4 (1992): 585-596.|
|3.||↑||Jéquier, Eric, and George A. Bray. “Low-fat diets are preferred.” The American journal of medicine 113, no. 9 (2002): 41-46.|
|6.||↑||Vij, Vinu A., and Anjali S. Joshi. “Effect of ‘water induced thermogenesis’ on body weight, body mass index and body composition of overweight subjects.” J Clin Diagn Res 7, no. 9 (2013): 1894-6.|
|7.||↑||Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. Oregon State University.|
|8.||↑||Glycemic Index and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.|
|9.||↑||Pittas, Anastassios G., Sai Krupa Das, Cheryl L. Hajduk, Julie Golden, Edward Saltzman, Paul C. Stark, Andrew S. Greenberg, and Susan B. Roberts. “A low-glycemic load diet facilitates greater weight loss in overweight adults with high insulin secretion but not in overweight adults with low insulin secretion in the CALERIE Trial.” Diabetes care 28, no. 12 (2005): 2939-2941.|
|10.||↑||Counting Carbs? Understanding Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load News in Health. National Institutes of Health.|
|11.||↑||Collins, Julie K., Guoyao Wu, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Karen Spears, P. Larry Claypool, Robert A. Baker, and Beverly A. Clevidence. “Watermelon consumption increases plasma arginine concentrations in adults.” Nutrition 23, no. 3 (2007): 261-266.|
|12.||↑||Jobgen, Wenjuan, Cynthia J. Meininger, Scott C. Jobgen, Peng Li, Mi-Jeong Lee, Stephen B. Smith, Thomas E. Spencer, Susan K. Fried, and Guoyao Wu. “Dietary L-arginine supplementation reduces white fat gain and enhances skeletal muscle and brown fat masses in diet-induced obese rats.” The Journal of nutrition (2008): jn-108.|
|13, 15.||↑||Tarazona-Díaz, Martha P., Fernando Alacid, María Carrasco, Ignacio Martínez, and Encarna Aguayo. “Watermelon juice: potential functional drink for sore muscle relief in athletes.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 61, no. 31 (2013): 7522-7528.|
|14.||↑||Moon, Jordan R., Roxanne M. Vogel, Paul H. Falcone, Matt M. Mosman, Aaron C. Tribby, Chad M. Hughes, Jonathan D. Griffin et al. “A comparison of citrulline and arginine for increasing exercise-induced vasodilation and blood flow.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12, no. Suppl 1 (2015): P6.|
|16.||↑||Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). National Institutes of Health.|
|18.||↑||Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger. Centers for Disease Control.|
|19.||↑||Wijlens, Anne GM, Cees de Graaf, Alfrun Erkner, and Monica Mars. “Effects of Oral Exposure Duration and Gastric Energy Content on Appetite Ratings and Energy Intake in Lean Men.” Nutrients 8, no. 2 (2016): 64.|
|20.||↑||The Monash University Low FODMAP diet. Monash University.|
|21.||↑||National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health.|
|22.||↑||Naz, Ambreen, Masood Sadiq Butt, Muhammad Tauseef Sultan, Mir Muhammad Nasir Qayyum, and Rai Shahid Niaz. “Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims.” (2014).|
|23.||↑||Oseni, O. A., O. E. Odesanmi, and F. C. Oladele. “Antioxidative and antidiabetic activities of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) juice on oxidative stress in alloxan-induced diabetic male Wistar albino rats.” Nigerian medical journal: journal of the Nigeria Medical Association 56, no. 4 (2015): 272.|
|24.||↑||National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health.|
|25.||↑||Tomiyama, A. Janet, Traci Mann, Danielle Vinas, Jeffrey M. Hunger, Jill DeJager, and Shelley E. Taylor. “Low calorie dieting increases cortisol.” Psychosomatic medicine 72, no. 4 (2010): 357.|
|26.||↑||Basic Report: 12174, Seeds, watermelon seed kernels, dried. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. USDA.|