What’s a fruit, a drink and a party game all wrapped up into one? Hope you guessed watermelon—the fruit that always reminds us of good times, from backyard barbecues to family picnics. Technically watermelons are a fruit, but they’re also a drink because they’re 92 percent water, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). And what’s even better? The benefits of watermelon are countless—so they’re the perfect choice for a refreshing snack on a warm day.
According to Aggie Horticulture, watermelons have an interesting history. Dr. David Livingstone—the Africa explorer of “Dr. Livingston, I presume” fame—was the first to pin down the watermelon’s origins in Africa, where he discovered acres of them growing wild. There are pictures of watermelons on ancient Egyptian papyrus that still exist today. Because the watermelon is largely in a liquid state, it provided much needed hydration in arid areas starved of rain.
One of the major benefits of watermelon? It’s a great source of hydration no matter where you live. In fact, a study published in 2013 in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that watermelon juice might be just the right thirst-quencher for athletes. Along with being mostly water, the fruit is rich in an amino acid, citrulline, which helped ease sore muscles and reduce recovery heart rate (the rate at which the heart returns to normal after exercise) in seven athletes after their workouts. The body converts citrulline to l-arginine, an amino acid that helps relax your blood vessels and improve blood flow, a boon for your heart.
Two University of Florida studies looking at the benefits of watermelon extract found it lowered blood pressure and eased arterial stiffness, two risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Watermelon is also a leading dietary source of lycopene, an antioxidant under study for the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer, according to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
On Nutrisystem, watermelon is a SmartCarb—though you’re limited to one cup a day because of its high Glycemic Index rating, a measure of how much a food can raise your blood sugar. One cup contains about 40 calories, 15 percent of your recommended daily requirement for vitamin A and 12 percent of your need for vitamin C. Like most fruits and veggies, it’s also a good source of potassium.
Have it as a snack, a dessert or even a salad. This versatile fruit is full of flavor and freshness.
Check out six ways to enjoy the many benefits of watermelon:
1. Healthy Watermelon Summer Salad with Quinoa >
Toss it with feta and arugula for a salad or side dish. Throw in some frest strawberries, slivered almonds and quinoa, and it’s a healthy light meal. See the full recipe here >
2. Caramelized Grilled Watermelon >
Slice it thick and put it on the grill. The heat from the grill will caramelize the sugar in the fruit and make it even more intensely sweet. Brush the fruit slices with olive oil so they don’t burn. You can add a pinch of salt and pepper for a savory, sweet meal. Serve with chevre or other soft cheese. Get the details here >
3. Melon Fruit Kebabs >
Thread cubes or balls of watermelon on kebabs skewers with other fruit, or even some veggies like cucumbers along with low-fat cheese cubes for a great snack or dessert. Watch the video for a healthy how to here >
4. Non-Alcoholic Watermelontini >
Enjoy this non-alcoholic Watermelontini that whips up a cup of the fruit with ice, coconut water, lime juice and Truvia natural sweetener for a refreshing summer drink. Get the recipe here >
5. Watermelon Berry Salad >
If you’re looking for a refreshing salad to satisfy your hunger in the warm weather, this Watermelon Berry Salad is your go-to. Complete with feta cheese and chopped mint, this fresh and flavorful salad is a watermelon win. Get the details on the salad here >
6. Watermelon Popsicles >
Puree seedless watermelon and pour the puree into small cups or popsicle molds with sticks inserted and freeze for four hours. You’ll have a sweet treat that is perfect for a warm-weather cool down. Get the directions here >