Watermelon

Tabetha Woodside,
Food Science Intern,
Clemson Universtiy Cooperative Extension Service

HTF 0816

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Watermelon is a favorite summertime treat commonly thought to consist of a lot of sugar and water and that’s about it. However, recent studies show that there is much more to watermelon. While it is true that it consists of mostly carbohydrates (sugar) and water, there are an abundance of nutrients found in this tasty summertime treat. Watermelon packs a powerful nutritional punch with many vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Additionally, it contains lycopene, amino acids (protein!), and the mineral potassium. Finally, it is one of the heart-healthiest foods because it is cholesterol free, fat free, sodium free and only 80 calories for 2 whole cups!

6% Sugar, 92% Water

As watermelons are 92% water, they are completely true to their name. This means that 2 cups of watermelon has approximately 1.85 cups of water in it, getting you 23% of the way towards the recommended 8 cups of water a day. If you want something sweet, but need to stay hydrated during these hot summer months, just reach for a big slice of juicy watermelon and feel satisfied that you are meeting both your needs and wants!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. This means that it stops free radicals in their tracks. Free radicals are found naturally in the body but cause damage to tissues and cells leading to accelerated aging. No one wants that, so it is important to consume enough antioxidants to deter this detrimental process. Additionally, vitamin C aids in collagen synthesis (which strengthens blood vessels walls and deters the formation of cardiovascular disease), forms scar tissues, and forms the matrix for bone growth. Finally, vitamin C and its antioxidant activity strengthens resistance to infection. Watermelon contains 24.6 mg of vitamin C per 2 cup serving, which gets you 41% of the way to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 60 mg/day.

Watermelon, Tasty and Healthy
Watermelon, Tasty and Healthy.
Adair Hoover, ©2016 HGIC, Clemson University

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that is commonly associated with carrots, but it also appears in abundance in watermelon. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and eyes, in addition to enhancing the action of white blood cells, called lymphocytes, therefore helping with immunity. Furthermore, vitamin A aids in bone and tooth growth. Watermelon contains 865 International Units (IU- a quantity of a biologic, such as a vitamin, that products a particular biological effect agreed upon as an international standard) of vitamin A per cup, which exceeds an adult woman’s RDA for the vitamin and meets 96% of an adult man’s RDA. Impressive!

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is valuable in protein metabolism, indicating that the more protein you consume, the more B6 should be in your diet. Moreover, it aids in the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan to the neurotransmitter serotonin which is important in appetite control, sleep regulation, and sensory perception. Along with these important roles, research in the past decade has shown that B6 influences cognitive performance, immune function, and some hormone activity.

Lycopene

Lycopene is a compound known as a phytochemical, and is found in plant-derived foods that have a biological activity in the body. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant, much like vitamin C and results from several epidemiologic studies suggest a strong association between high intake of lycopene-rich foods, such as watermelon, and reduced risk of several cancers, most notably prostate cancer. Additionally, research has been presented demonstrating a link between lycopene and a lower risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis (the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls, a precursor to cardiovascular disease), Alzheimer’s disease, chronic inflammation in the body and aging. One study found that the average consumption of lycopene is between 5 and 7 mg/day and a cup and a half of watermelon contains 9-13 mg of lycopene.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Watermelon is a good source of one common, non-essential amino acid, arginine (there are 20 common amino acids) and one uncommon, non-essential amino acid, citrulline. Protein is of the utmost importance in the body. Protein must be ingested so the body can synthesize its own variety of proteins and as a source of nitrogen, which mostly comes from protein as opposed to carbohydrates and fats, which contain no nitrogen. This nutrient is a vital structural component in all cells. Proteins form the building blocks of muscle, blood, skin and most other body structures, act as enzymes which speed up reaction in the body, and hormones are proteins which have various important roles in the body. These are just a few of protein’s important functions and with 2 grams of protein per 2 cup serving, watermelon is not a great, but decent, source of this essential nutrient.

Potassium

Potassium is commonly associated with bananas, but 1 cup of watermelon contains 3% of the daily value of potassium and bananas only provide a bit more with 7%, so watermelon is considered a good source of potassium. Potassium plays a major role in the body to aid in fluid balance and also helps to maintain normal nerve functioning. Finally, possibly the most important role is potassium helping maintain a steady heartbeat. In fact, high potassium intakes also appear to both prevent and correct hypertension and the risk of stroke. So if you want a good and healthy cardiovascular system, eat some watermelon!

References

  1. Naeve, Linda. "Watermelon." Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Dec. 2015. Web.
  2. Whitney, Eleanor Noss., and Sharon Rady. Rolfes. Understanding Nutrition. Australia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.
  3. Gropper, Sareen Annora Stepnick., and Jack L. Smith. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
  4. Cassileth, Barrie. "Lycopene." Oncology Mar. 2010: 296. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 3 June 2016.
  5. Perkin-Veazie, Penelope, Julie K. Collins, Beverly A. Clevidence, and Alison J. Edwards. "Watermelon Packs a Powerful Lycopene Punch." United States Department of Agriculture. AgResearch Magazine, June 2002. Web.

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