Watermelon's Role In Heart Health

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Overview

Watermelons are not only a delicious snack, but they also hold immense nutritional value as a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants. Their impressive capacity to regulate beneficial (HDL) and harmful (LDL) cholesterol levels sets them apart as a ‘super’ fruit. Finding the perfect equilibrium is important for maintaining optimal heart health, and watermelons appear to effortlessly achieve this delicate balancing act. It's not merely indulging in a tasty snack but rather providing one's heart with an added layer of care and nourishment.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, maintaining both mental and physical health through a nutritious diet is essential. In particular, heart health has become a rising concern not just for middle-aged and elderly individuals, but for younger populations as well.

The heart is responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood throughout our body at all times, and this job is no easy task considering it beats since the day of your birth! To ensure the heart beats perfectly, we have to watch over the food we intake. 

The food we consume directly affects the heart's function, influencing its ability to pump efficiently and maintain the delicate balance necessary for life. Therefore, beyond mere appreciation for the heart's tireless work, there lies the essential duty of fostering it through thoughtful dietary decisions. A heart-healthy diet abundant in nutrients and devoid of harmful components is no longer a luxury but a requirement to guarantee our heart functions as it should. 

That’s where watermelons come in, these lovely, juicy, and sweet fruits are super healthy for the heart. 

Key nutrients in watermelon for heart health

Lycopene

Lycopene, the vibrant compound responsible for watermelon's red hue, extends beyond its role as a colourant. As one of the most potent antioxidants, lycopene becomes a formidable ally in preventing the onset of various cardiovascular diseases. This powerful antioxidant combats oxidative stress within the body, a key factor in the development of heart-related issues. 

Beyond merely enhancing the visual appeal of watermelon, lycopene stands as a protective shield for cardiovascular health. Its presence signifies more than just colour; it signifies a natural defense mechanism that, when incorporated into our diet, contributes to the overall well-being of our hearts. Embracing the rich red tones of watermelon becomes not just a sensory delight but a conscious choice in promoting heart health and fortifying our bodies against potential cardiovascular challenges.

Citrulline

Citrulline, an important amino acid present in watermelon, is a good source of protein helping control the amount of nitric oxide produced in our body. By releasing nitric oxide under control, citrulline functions as a protective mechanism against serious cardiovascular disorders like heart attacks. Moreover, citrulline supports our heart by acting as a natural defense system for the heart, thereby enhancing general cardiovascular health.

Consuming food items rich in citrulline, such as watermelon, is no longer merely a delicious preference but rather a deliberate strategy aimed at bolstering the resilience of one's heart health. This amino acid offers both essential protein and actively collaborates with other bodily processes involved in guarding the heart's health. Consequently, when enjoying watermelon, one can appreciate not only its refreshing taste but also the potential benefits it may bring to their heart's health over time.

Potassium

The potassium in watermelon does wonders for your heart. It helps control blood pressure, which, in turn, improves the overall function of your heart. Think of it as a friendly supporter for your heart's well-being. Keeping your blood pressure in check is crucial for your heart to work smoothly, and potassium steps up to the plate. So, when you indulge in a slice of juicy watermelon, you're not just treating your taste buds; you're giving your heart a natural boost. It's an easy and tasty way to support your heart health and keep your cardiovascular system running like a well-oiled machine.

Vitamin C

Watermelons belong to the citrus family of fruits, which have good amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects the heart. The immune system benefits from this vitamin, ensuring your body is well-equipped to fend off illness. So, when you bite into a juicy watermelon, you're not just enjoying its refreshing taste; you're also giving your immune system a boost and providing your heart with a protective layer. It's a delicious way to fortify your overall well-being, thanks to the natural goodness of Vitamin C in watermelons.

Nutrient composition of some varieties of watermelon

According to Tabiri (2016)8, in a study on watermelon seeds as food, the nutrient composition, phytochemicals, and antioxidant activity were investigated.

Watermelon Variety%P%Ca%Mn%K%Na%MgFe (mg/100g)Cu (mg/100g)Zn (mg/100g)
Charleston Gray0.17±0.000.16±0.020.02±0.003.57±0.140.07±0.010.15±0.013.71±0.060.38±0.063.71±0.06
Crimson Sweet0.22±0.030.11±0.010.04±0.003.40±0.070.08±0.000.14±0.022.72±0.110.45±0.240.81±0.02
Black Diamond0.18±0.020.14±0.030.09±0.013.85±0.110.17±0.020.17±0.024.60±0.070.58±0.030.66±0.03

Adapted from (Tabiri, 2016).

Watermelon and heart health

Watermelon extract lowering blood pressure

‘Hypertension’ or High-blood pressure is a disorder of the cardiovascular system wherein there is a persistent abnormal rise in the pressure that increases in the arteries and veins and may be fatal if left unchecked, (Lacerda Massa et al., 2016)6 explain that when 6g of watermelon extract are consumed everyday it can effectively help reduce blood pressure, this is due to the presence of the amino acid ‘citrulline’ in watermelon that acts as a saviour that protects the heart from several diseases including hypertension.

Lycopene with reduced risk of CVD mortality

There is solid scientific evidence pointing to the fact that plant-derived compounds, known as phytochemicals, can be game-changers in disease prevention. Within the watermelon spectrum, lycopene takes the spotlight as a potent player that holds promise for our well-being. Numerous studies highlight lycopene, the powerhouse in watermelon, for its association with a lower risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) mortality.

Specifically, it showcases its effectiveness in warding off 'Coronary Artery Disease,' a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects many. As we munch on the juicy goodness of watermelon, it's not just about relishing the taste; it's about embracing a potential health ally. Lycopene, found abundantly in this delightful fruit, might just be our safeguard against the formidable threats posed by conditions like Coronary Artery Disease. So, as we enjoy the refreshing sweetness of watermelon, we're also giving a nod to its possible role in supporting our cardiovascular health and overall well-being.

Tips for eating more watermelon

Watermelon can be enjoyable and simple to incorporate into any diet, whether you're looking to get a picky eater to eat more or hoping to boost your heart health. Making watermelon a staple in your diet doesn't have to be challenging. With these creative and practical tips, you can turn this heart-healthy fruit into an enjoyable part of your everyday meals. Whether in beverages, salads, or frozen treats, watermelon provides a delicious and nutritious way to support your overall well-being while tantalizing your taste buds.

Here are some creative ways to enjoy watermelon:

Cool watermelon chillers

Blend it into smoothies or juice to create a cool, tasty beverage. The sweetness of watermelon pairs perfectly with other fruits like strawberries and mango, as well as yogurt or milk for a creamier drink. You can also freeze watermelon juice or puree it into popsicles for a no-sugar-added summer treat, which can be a kids favourite.

It’s also important to note that watermelons are sources of natural sugars! Very safe compared to processed cane sugar or sugary high fructose drinks.

Add watermelons to your daily fruit bowl!

If you’re bored of your usual fruit bowl, consider adding a few pieces of watermelon to the mix! They make it more sweet, enriching, and enjoyable to consume. For a more savoury twist, toss diced watermelon into green or pasta salads. The addition of watermelon introduces an unexpected juiciness and sweetness that pairs wonderfully with leafy greens or pasta. Beyond its delicious contribution, watermelon brings nutritional benefits, including vitamins, minerals, and hydration.

Watermelon BBQ

Wait up! It doesn’t taste as it sounds, grilling watermelon slices or cubes for a tasty, visually appealing barbecue side. The grilled fruit caramelizes beautifully while retaining that cool melon flavour.

Seedless varieties for easy snacking

For many, the small seeds of the fruit would make it uneasy to snack on or have regularly, but the seedless varieties of the watermelon are equally delicious and nutritious!

FAQs

How does watermelon contribute to heart health?

Watermelon is rich in heart-friendly nutrients like lycopene, potassium, and Vitamin C. These elements aid in regulating blood pressure and supporting overall cardiovascular well-being.

Can watermelon help prevent cardiovascular diseases?

Yes, watermelon contains compounds like lycopene, which has been associated with a reduced risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) mortality, potentially protecting against conditions like Coronary Artery Disease.

Is lycopene the only heart-healthy component in watermelon?

No, watermelon also contains potassium, a mineral crucial for blood pressure control. Additionally, Vitamin C in watermelon acts as an antioxidant, supporting the immune system and heart protection.

How does citrulline in watermelon benefit heart health?

Citrulline, an amino acid in watermelon, helps control nitric oxide production, promoting blood vessel dilation. This regulation contributes to preventing heart attacks and cardiovascular illnesses.

How can I make watermelon a consistent part of my heart-healthy diet?

Incorporate watermelon into your daily fruit bowl, mix it into salads for added flavour and nutrition, and explore creative ways like grilling or blending it into smoothies for variety.

Are there specific watermelon varieties better for heart health?

Opt for seedless watermelon varieties for convenient snacking. These varieties maintain the delicious taste without the inconvenience of small seeds.

Can I enjoy watermelon in savoury dishes to support heart health?

Absolutely! Toss diced watermelon into green or pasta salads for a sweet and juicy twist. This not only enhances taste but also adds nutritional value to your meals.

Is there a recommended amount of watermelon for heart health benefits?

Including a moderate amount of watermelon in your weekly diet can be beneficial. It's versatile and can be enjoyed in various forms, making it a delicious and heart-smart addition to your meals.

Summary

In a nutshell, watermelons are not just a tasty treat but a fantastic addition to your diet. Packed with heart-loving nutrients like lycopene and vitamin C, they come to the rescue by helping to keep bad cholesterol in check. Adding a moderate amount of watermelon to your weekly meals might just be the ticket to ward off heart issues like atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. And for those who are a bit particular about what they eat, fear not – there are seedless varieties and the option to turn a watermelon into sugar-free popsicles, making this heart-healthy fruit a delightful part of your menu.

References

  1. Maoto MM, Beswa D, Jideani AIO. Watermelon as a potential fruit snack. International Journal of Food Properties [Internet]. 2019 Jan [cited 2023 Nov 30];22(1):355–70. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2019.1584212
  2. Choudhary BR, Haldhar SM, Maheshwari SK, Bhargava R, Sharma SK. Phytochemicals and antioxidants in watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) genotypes under hot arid region. Indian J Agri Sci [Internet]. 2015 Mar 9 [cited 2023 Nov 30];85(3):414–7. Available from: https://epubs.icar.org.in/index.php/IJAgS/article/view/47179
  3. Rao AV, Ray MR, Rao LG. Lycopene. In: Advances in Food and Nutrition Research [Internet]. Academic Press; 2006 [cited 2023 Dec 1]. p. 99–164. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043452606510022
  4. Papadia C, Osowska S, Cynober L, Forbes A. Citrulline in health and disease. Review on human studies. Clinical Nutrition [Internet]. 2018 Dec 1 [cited 2023 Dec 1];37(6, Part A):1823–8. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261561417313699
  5. Naseem KM. The role of nitric oxide in cardiovascular diseases. Molecular Aspects of Medicine [Internet]. 2005 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Dec 1];26(1):33–65. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0098299704000755
  6. Massa NML, Silva AS, Toscano LT, Silva JDGR, Persuhn DC, Gonçalves MDCR. Watermelon extract reduces blood pressure but does not change sympathovagal balance in prehypertensive and hypertensive subjects. Blood Pressure [Internet]. 2016 Jul 3 [cited 2023 Dec 1];25(4):244–8. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/08037051.2016.1150561
  7. Riccioni G, Mancini B, Di Ilio E, Bucciarelli T, D'orazio N. Protective effect of lycopene in cardiovascular disease. European Review for Medical & Pharmacological Sciences. 2008 May 1;12(3).
  8. Tabiri B. Watermelon seeds as food: nutrient composition, phytochemicals and antioxidant activity. IJNFS [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2023 Dec 4];5(2):139.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Adithiyan Venkataramanan

B.sc Genetics, Biochemistry, Biotechnology

Adithiyan is a young researcher and an undergraduate specializing in immuno genetics and autoimmunity. With experience in scientific writing and the medical scientific community, he is passionate about genetic counseling and the latest opportunities in immunotherapy. Adithiyan excels in simplifying complex tasks and topics, with a keen interest in teaching and ensuring comprehension.

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