When you’re trying to lose inches around your waist, low-calorie foods that fill you up, such as watermelon, can aid your weight loss efforts. The summertime favorite is a refreshing treat that helps satisfy your sweet tooth while providing some key vitamins and antioxidants. Although research on watermelon’s direct effects on losing belly fat is scarce, the fruit makes a healthy addition to a weight loss plan.
Nutrition Benefits of Watermelon
In addition to being sodium-free and fat-free, watermelon is lower in carbohydrates than some other fruits. With about 12 grams per cup of diced fruit, the melon has less than half the carbs of a cup of either grapes or banana slices, which is helpful for those following a low-carb plan to lose weight.
Watermelon contains significant amounts of a few micronutrients, including vitamins A and C and potassium. A 1-cup serving nets you 17 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin A, which is important for eye health and immune function.You’ll also get 21 percent of the DV for vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that plays a role in wound healing and helps enzymes do their jobs. There’s a little bit of potassium -- 5 percent of the DV -- in watermelon, too. The mineral helps nerves and muscles function properly and is critical for maintaining fluid balance in the body.
Eating Watermelon to Lose Belly Fat
In addition to its nutritional benefits, watermelon is a fluid-laden food that can help you get enough water -- an essential nutrient -- in your diet. The fruit is 91 percent water, which means each cup of fruit you eat provides almost a cup of liquid.
The high fluid content makes watermelon a low-energy-dense food. Foods low in energy density are perfect for helping you lose belly fat, because they provide fewer calories in a larger volume of food, which helps you feel more satisfied, so you eat less. At only 46 calories per cup of diced fruit, watermelon has less than half the calories of similar servings of many other fruits. For comparison, a cup of seedless grapes has 104 calories, and a cup of banana slices has 134.
Although most fruits and vegetables are lower-energy-density foods, substituting watermelon for even slightly higher-energy choices reduces your calorie intake and helps with weight loss. For example, eating watermelon instead of a banana three times a week saves 13,728 calories per year, which translates to dropping almost four pounds of weight in that time.
Other Healthy Substances in Watermelon
You’ve probably heard of lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes. Watermelon flesh is lycopene-rich, too. In fact, 1 cup of diced watermelon contains more than twice as much lycopene as a medium raw tomato. Studies suggest lycopene may protect against heart problems, diabetes, some types of cancers, and an eye disorder called macular degeneration. Lycopene is also an antioxidant, which means it may help protect the body from free radicals, which are harmful molecules that contribute to inflammation and disease.
The watermelon rind, which is often tossed into the trash, may have health benefits, too. It contains a non-essential amino acid called citrulline, which may help blood vessels relax, lowering blood pressure. A study published in The American Journal of Hypertension in 2012 showed citrulline may help reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension. More research is needed to know if simply eating watermelon rind has the same effect as the watermelon extract or citrulline supplements used in most studies to date.
Preventing Tummy Troubles
Because it's a low-calorie food, it's tempting to eat watermelon in large quantities when you're watching your weight, but depending on your digestive health, you may need to use caution. Watermelon contains a significant amount of certain carbohydrates which can cause intestinal discomfort in some people, especially those with irritable bowel syndrome. The carbohydrates – specifically polyols, fructans and free fructose – can ferment in the gut and produce uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhea. So if you have a sensitive intestinal tract and want to avoid watermelon’s laxative effect, start with a few cubes at a time and work up to the regular serving size of 1 cup for your weight loss plan.
Choosing, Storing and Serving Watermelon
For the freshest fruit, pick a watermelon that feels heavy and has a yellow spot on one side, where it touched the ground. Store your whole watermelon on the countertop. Wash the outside to remove bacteria before you cut it; then refrigerate the cut fruit and use it within five days.
Use one of a number of ways to work watermelon into a belly fat-whittling, nutritious meal plan. Garnish salad greens with watermelon cubes, a few walnuts and crumbled bleu cheese, or make a melon medley by mixing bite-sized chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. For a diet-friendly dessert, brush watermelon triangles with a bit of olive oil and grill on each side; then drizzle lightly with honey before serving. Whirl watermelon pieces in a blender to make a low-calorie, refreshing juice that you can drink straight or strain first to remove the pulp.