Watermelon: A dieter’s best friend

By Fitz-George Rattray: 

IN our continued pursuit of healthy snack options, we have to talk about fruits and all their nutritional and health benefits. This week we are looking at the refreshing and tasty watermelon.

One of the few drawbacks of fruit as a snack is the restricted quantities due to the risk of having too much sugar. Due to the World Health Oranization’s recommendation of 25 grammes or less of sugar per day, for minimising sugar-related health complications, most fruits top out at one or two per day or one cup.

Fortunately, this is not the case with watermelon. Watermelons allow you to have a heartier serving, and are about 92 per cent water with roughly six per cent sugar, which makes for a light yet filling sweet experience. But how much can you really have?

Most fruits are in the region of 50 to 110 calories per 100 grammes serving with 10 grams or more of sugar in any average day. That means you should limit your intake to one, perhaps two servings per day. Watermelon, on the other hand, is only 30 calories per 100 grammes and only six grammes of sugar — nearly half the sugar as most fruits. So, when it comes to sugar restrictions, in the case of the watermelon, you can have up to four servings safely, assuming that is all the sugar you are having that day.

That translates to a whopping 400 grams of watermelon! That is more than 3/4 pound of watermelon!

Watermelons are one of my favourite fruits, but the quantity and taste are not the only benefits. They contain sufficient levels of several vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, C, magnesium, potassium, and amino acids such as citrulline and L-citrulline, which seem to help muscle pain.

Collectively, these nutrients can assist with heart health, bone health, prostate health, and prevention and relief of hypertension as the potassium contained, though in relatively small amounts, can help balance the fluids in your cells.

Furthermore, a study conducted at Texas A&M shows that the relaxing effect of watermelon is similar to the action of Viagra and may help with correcting erectile dysfunction and increasing libido.

Another study done at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory showed that the citrulline in watermelon can be metabolised to arginine, which improves arterial health and is helpful for individuals who are pre-hypertensive.

We have learnt how important antioxidants are. Tomatoes have been lauded for its lycopene content; however, one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the lycopene content as a raw tomato.

Now, don’t run out to stuff yourself with watermelon. Stick to appropriate portions not only because of the potential of ingesting excessive quantities of sugar, but as with everything else, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Extreme consumption of watermelons can cause indigestion, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and can be more serious for the elderly with more sensitive digestive systems.

So, with all good things, have in moderation and enjoy the benefits, and with watermelon specifically, enjoy your larger, safe portion sizes.

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