Watermelons are mostly water — about 92 percent — but this refreshing fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. There`s even a modest amount of potassium. Plus, this quintessential summer snack is fat-free, very low in sodium and has only 40 calories per cup.
Scientists have taken notice of watermelon`s high lycopene levels — about 15 to 20 milligrams per 2-cup serving, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board — some of the highest levels of any type of fresh produce. Lycopene is a phytonutrient, which is a naturally occurring compound in fruits and vegetables that reacts with the human body to trigger healthy reactions. It is also the red pigment that gives watermelons, tomatoes, red grapefruits and guavas their color.
Lycopene has been linked with heart health, bone health and prostate cancer prevention. It`s also a powerful antioxidant thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, according to Victoria Jarzabkowski, a nutritionist with the Fitness Institute of Texas at The University of Texas at Austin.
To really maximize your lycopene intake, let your watermelon fully ripen. The redder your watermelon gets, the higher the concentration of lycopene becomes. Beta-carotene and phenolic antioxidant content also increase as the watermelon ripens. Nevertheless, "All parts of the watermelon are good. There are a lot of nutrients throughout," said Jarzabkowski. This includes the white flesh nearest the rind.
Another phytonutrient found in the watermelon is the amino acid citrulline, which converts to the amino acid arginine. These amino acids promote blood flow, leading to cardiovascular health, improved circulation, and according to research at Texas A&M University, erectile dysfunction improvement (you`d probably have to eat a lot of the fruit to get a Viagra-like effect, though).
Here are the nutrition facts for the watermelon, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act: