There is a reason watermelons have their name. About 92 percent of every watermelon is water. Watermelons are great for hydration, but there is a great deal of nutrition in the other 8 percent of what makes up a watermelon—and not all of it is in the delicious inner flesh.
The Lowly Watermelon Rind
The old adage advises, “It does not matter what the outside looks like, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” In terms of watermelons, what is on the outside also counts. Granted, watermelon rinds have nowhere near the same levels of water and sugar as the insides. Nevertheless, they are attractive, in their own way, and provide some important nutrients to those daring enough to eat them.
First, the watermelon rind is very low in calories, about 2 calories per one-inch piece. That small portion, however, additionally provides a small but respectable amount of both vitamin B-6 and vitamin C. The University of Maryland’s Medical Center states that vitamin B-6 not only aids in the conversion of food carbohydrates into glucose, which our bodies need as fuel, but also helps in many metabolic functions. B-6 is important in the production of neurotransmitters, which are special chemicals that carry impulses between nerves. It also helps the production of both serotonin and norepinephrine, important to mood regulation. Beyond nervous system health, the rinds of watermelons also help keep our skin healthy and strengthen our immune systems.
Numerous preparation methods of watermelon rinds exist, from pickles to side dishes to stew components.
- Sweet or savory, watermelon rind pickles are an old American treat that are simpler and quicker to make than regular cucumber dill pickles.
- Some use watermelon rinds as a cooked side dish or in stir-fry dishes. It has a consistency similar to zucchini.
- Watermelon makes a great filler for stews, stretching out portions while adding more nutrition and fiber to the dish.
Seeds: Kernels of Nutrition
Watermelon seed-spitting fights are a rite of passage in childhood. With age comes wisdom—and the realization that the seeds need not be discarded. The seeds of watermelons are edible and nutritious. Amongst other substances, watermelon seeds contain:
Country Living suggests toasting watermelon seeds in a little olive oil and sprinkling sea salt on top. Just remember, in order to the benefit of all those nutrients, seeds must be well chewed.
Watermelons: Nutritious and Delicious
Regardless of any nutritional benefits of the other parts of the watermelon, most people are interested in the inner portions of this melon. Consider this: watermelons have been cultivated for a long, long time. They likely first grew in Africa’s Kalahari Desert , and went on to travel to China, and later to the Americas.
Most commercial growers stick to more universally popular types. Many watermelons consumed in the United States are grown in Mexico. One commercial grower who supplies watermelons for the U.S. market is Gilberto Salazar, whose farms are in the Sonora region of Mexico. His company produces what most call “regular” watermelons, with green rinds, pinkish-red flesh and black seeds. The melons typically weigh anywhere from 12 to 30 or more pounds. However, as is the case with many other growers, Gilberto Salazar also grows seedless watermelons, which command a higher price due to higher seed costs.
Many athletes swear by the power of watermelon, in fruit or juice form. Obviously, because of its high water content, it is a great hydrator, both before and after physical activity. There are even studies proving that drinking some watermelon juice prior to a workout helps decrease the heart rate while also lessening post workout muscle soreness.
Watermelon provides plenty of benefits for non-athletes as well.
- Watermelon extract supplements helped enhance the cardiovascular health of postmenopausal women
- Watermelon assists in regulating high blood pressure in obese, middle-aged individuals
- The lycopene in watermelon, an antioxidant, could aid in preventing and treating prostate cancer.
One of the most nutritionally important components of watermelons is L-citrulline, a substance that changes into L-arginine when synthesized by the body. L-arginine helps improve the body’s circulation. Watermelon is one of the best natural sources of citrulline, and natural citrulline is better absorbed into the body than when taken as a supplement.
Watermelons in the Pink…or Yellow…or Red…
Watermelons are not limited to just red or pink flesh. There are a number of yellow flesh varieties of watermelons:
- Yellow Crimson
- Desert King Yellow
- Mountain Sweet Yellow
- Black Diamond Yellow Flesh
There is even a white-fleshed watermelon, the “Cream of Saskatchewan.” A variety of colors makes any dish more appetizing. Furthermore, different types and colors of melons have various sweetness levels and textures.
A big question is whether the different colors affect the nutritional benefits of watermelon. The good news is that any differences are slight; the better news is that yellow watermelons provide another necessary nutrient. While yellow watermelons do not have the lycopene found in red-fleshed watermelons, they do provide beta-carotene.
Whatever the color, a slice of watermelon gives your body a hydrating snack full of nutritional benefits.