Watermelon has a colorful history. Originally grown in the desert, they were a source of water for travelers, which is where their name originated. They made their way to America in the 1600s and are now enjoyed around the world. Available year-round, the watermelon is much more than a simple summertime snack. Packed with health benefits from lowering blood pressure to preventing heart disease, watermelon makes a wise addition to your diet.
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Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Adding watermelon to your diet may help you decrease that risk factor, according to the Department of Nutrition at Florida State University. Researchers evaluated the effects of watermelon supplementation on the blood pressure of pre-hypertensive subjects. The results of the study, published in the January 2011 issue of "American Journal of Hypertension," show that six-week supplementation with watermelon lowered blood pressure and improved the health and function of arteries. Anti-hypertensive action is said to be from watermelon's L-citrulline content, which converts to L-arginine in the body, a known blood pressure lowering substance that relaxes blood vessels.
Improves Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone in the blood that regulates blood sugar by helping it enter cells. PubMed Health explains that when the body does not respond properly to insulin blood sugar stays in the bloodstream. To counteract that occurrence, the body produces more insulin, and the excess insulin and sugar in the bloodstream have a negative effect on the kidneys and triglyceride levels. Watermelon's L-citrulline content raises L-arginine levels which helps reduce circulating blood sugar levels, excess fat and cholesterol levels in animal and human subjects, according to a study in the December 2007 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition."
Watermelon contains lycopene, a phytochemical that is responsible for watermelon's bright red color. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that lycopene is also an antioxidant that can reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer in humans. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York reports that lycopene consumption may be effective against breast, lung, stomach and prostate cancer.
Watermelon contains several important vitamins, with the greatest concentration being of vitamins C and A. Vitamin C is needed for healthy bones, skin and teeth and may play a role in fighting heart disease and cancer, according to MedlinePlus.com. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy eyesight, strengthens the immune system and reduce the growth of certain cancers, explains the Linus Pauling Institute. A 1-cup serving of diced watermelon contains 12 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 16 percent of the recommended intake of 75 milligrams for women, and 13 percent of the recommended intake of 90 milligrams for men. The same serving delivers 865 international units of vitamin A, which is roughly 30 percent of the recommended intake of 2,333 IUs for women and 3,000 IUs for men. With only 46 calories and 11 carbohydrates in a 1-cup serving, everyone can enjoy watermelon.