Nothing feels like summer more than a refreshing slice of watermelon on a warm day. But apparently, the summer fruit is much more than a yummy snack. Research increasingly suggests watermelons have a wide range of important health benefits, particularly lowering blood pressure.
In a recent study done at Florida State University, a group of overweight middle-aged participants was given a placebo or an extract of watermelon for six weeks before asking them to switch. During that time the participants had their blood pressure checked both in normal conditions and with one hand dipped in cold water. Cool temperatures are known to be a source of stress which causes the heart to work harder and consequently increase blood pressure. The results of that study were that the watermelon extract significantly reduced blood pressure in overweight individuals both at rest and under stress.
A similar study is currently being conducted at Reading University in England. The researchers’ main goal was to find out the extent to which the compound L-citrulline, found naturally in watermelon, helps to widen blood vessels and thus lowering blood pressure. “We know L-citrulline has the potential to lead to dilation of blood vessels and we want to find out if there is enough of it in watermelon juice to make a difference,” Charlotte Mills, a lecturer in nutritional sciences and the study’s chief researcher, told The Times.
L-citrulline is an amino acid, which encourages healthy blood pressure by producing nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and supports flexibility in the arteries.
It’s not only your blood pressure that can benefit from watermelon. Two papers from 2019 hailed it as being one of the healthiest fruits. Watermelon contains vitamins A and B and is rich in lycopene, which means the fruit possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Lycopene - an antioxidant that has also been linked to favorable effects on blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders - is what gives watermelons their pink color. Enjoying foods that are naturally red or pink in color, like tomatoes and guava, will give your body a boost of lycopene. To learn about other foods that have been shown to lower blood pressure check out our previous article: 20 Foods For High Blood Pressure.
Exercise and nutrition scientists at San Diego State University found that watermelon can also aid in weight loss by warding off pangs of hunger. For four weeks, 33 overweight adults were given 300g of watermelon cubes or low-fat cookies as a daily snack. By the end of the trial, the watermelon eaters reported feeling less hungry for up to 90 minutes after eating the fruit, compared to the cookie-raters, who felt their hunger return after 20 minutes. Interestingly, the watermelon pieces actually contained double the amount of sugar as the cookies per serving. However, the fruit contains nutritional components that suppress a spike in blood sugar and also has a small amount of fiber, which can improve the body’s glucose tolerance, which explains the trial results.
As you can see there are many good reasons to add watermelon to your diet this summer. The simplest way to enjoy it to slice it up and eat it on its own, but there are plenty of other options. You could freeze fresh chunks to eat later as an icy treat or make this easy and delicious watermelon smoothie. Whichever way you like it, know that you are not only getting a bite of refreshing and delicious food but also fueling your body with nutrients that may help manage blood pressure too!
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