The one question that plagues all weight watchers whenever they try to incorporate a sweet fruit into their diet is: is it fattening or will it help in weight loss? If you are asking whether watermelon is fattening, the simple answer is: no, watermelon is not fattening. It’s actually good for weight loss. Watermelon checks all the right boxes for a healthy filler food. The following properties of the fruit will set your weight-paranoid heart at ease:1
1. It Is Low In Fat
Fat consumption has a significant influence on whether you gain weight or not.2 3 With 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 like almonds, apples, and bananas, watermelons have reserved the spot for the lowest total fat content.4
2. It Is Low In 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.
“1 cup of watermelon has just 46 calories and yet is filling because of the 92% water content.”
Quite a relief to avid calorie counters, watermelons are about 92% 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.
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.
[expert_opinion expertname=’devinburke’ opinion=”Eating food that is high in water and nutrition and low in calories is a secret to a slim waist and a healthy body. Watermelon is full of water and is a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and magnesium. Interestingly, watermelon contains more of the antioxidant lycopene than fresh tomatoes; one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the lycopene as a raw tomato.”]
3. It Reduce Fat Storage And Builds 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.7 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.8 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.
4. It Can Serve As A Pre-Workout Snack
“Male athletes who drank natural watermelon juice an hour before their workouts cooled down faster and had less muscle soreness the next day.”
To prevent your muscles from feeling sore the day after an intense workout, you need the good old watermelon or its juice. Not only does it make a low-calorie, thirst-quenching, refreshing drink but it actually helps relieve muscle soreness because of its high citrulline content.9 Citrulline reduces soreness by relaxing blood vessels and enhancing blood circulation.10
“Drink 17 oz (500 ml) unsweetened fresh watermelon juice an hour before your workout to alleviate muscle soreness the next day.”
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.11 This will help you push yourself even harder while you exercise.
5. It Gives You Many Essential Nutrients Per Calorie
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.
6. It Keeps You Full 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.14 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.
7. It Helps 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.15 This will help you keep your portion size in check.
8. It Can Help Diabetics Lose Weight
If you are watching your weight and ruling out foods with high glycemic index (a scale measuring the amount of glucose 100 gm of a food releases within 2 hours of eating), you may be tempted to stay off watermelons which have a glycemic index (GI) of 76. But when it comes to calorie counting, you need to pay attention to the glycemic load (GL) rather than the GI. The GL indicates the amount of carbs present in a standard portion size of the food. Watermelon has a low GL of 8.
“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.”
While low-GI and low-GL foods may not play a significant role in determining weight loss in a healthy adult, they can help overweight diabetics and prediabetics.16 17 Watermelons have even shown beneficial effects on diabetic rats, and though clinical trials on humans are pending, the National Institutes of Health recommends melons for diabetics as part of a balanced diet.18 19 Moreover, the antioxidant called lycopene, which imparts the red color to watermelons, helps reduce heart disease risk, a common complication of diabetes.20 So diabetics can eat the fruit in moderation.
Avoid watermelon if you have IBS or Crohn’s disease or are sensitive to FODMAP foods
“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. However, that will deprive you of nutrients from other foods and also expose you to laxative effects of the fruit. Watermelons are a FODMAP fruit – which means they contain carbohydrates that can cause gas bloating, and diarrhea.21 While this may not be a concern for healthy 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.22
Don’t have too much – you may suffer from intestinal discomfort
Carbs are not the only concern. Lycopene may cause intestinal disturbances, too. 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.23
Don’t go on a watermelon-only diet
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 raises cortisol levels, which is counterproductive to weight loss.24
The best approach to weight loss would be to include watermelons along with other nutritious foods in your diet. 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.
Choose either watermelon fruit or juice; just remove the seeds
You may choose either the whole fruit or its juice. 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. However, 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.25
|↑1, ↑4, ↑5, ↑13||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||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.|
|↑8||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.|
|↑9, ↑11||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.|
|↑10||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.|
|↑12||Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). National Institutes of Health.|
|↑14||Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger. Centers for Disease Control.|
|↑15||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.|
|↑16||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.|
|↑17||Counting Carbs? Understanding Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load News in Health. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑18||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.|
|↑19||National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑20||Lycopene. U. S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑21||The Monash University Low FODMAP diet. Monash University.|
|↑22||National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑23||Naz, Ambreen, Masood Sadiq Butt, Muhammad Tauseef Sultan, Mir Muhammad Nasir Qayyum, and Rai Shahid Niaz. “Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims.” (2014).|
|↑24||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.|
|↑25||Basic Report: 12174, Seeds, watermelon seed kernels, dried. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. USDA.|