Watermelon and Diabetes

Diabetes-friendly:
No
Glycemic index:

72

Calories per 100 g:

36 kcal

Watermelon and Diabetes

Often, experts tell diabetic patients to take fruit with caution because most fruits have high amounts of sugar, which might raise blood glucose levels. Watermelon is a summertime favorite; it's a juicy delicacy and a naturally refreshing fruit. However, like many others, it has a high percentage of natural sugars, the primary culprit in diabetes.

It is usually safe for people with diabetes to consume fruit and vegetables. Some even say they are a good way of preventing blood sugar spikes. However, other than the several nutritional benefits to gain from adding fruit to one's diet, one must never forget they tend to contain high amounts of carbs. Hence the need to monitor the amount consumed daily.

In this article, we'd discuss the health benefits of watermelon and inform people living with diabetes about specific facts to note before including it in their diet. 

Nutritional value

  • Protein 0.6 g
  • Carbohydrate 7.55 g
  • Fat 0.15 g
  • Fiber 0.4 g
  • Sugar 6 g
  • Cholesterol 0 g

Nutritional Facts: Health Benefits of Watermelon

Many say watermelon is just sugar and water. Indeed, watermelon contains mostly water, at least 90 percent, and natural sugars, but that is not all. It contains vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like protein and fats, though in minute amounts or sometimes totally absent. Also, it is a low-calorie fruit. 


Vitamins and Minerals in Watermelon

Watermelon is a healthy food containing lots of vitamins and minerals; some in decent quantities, while others minute. Let's take a brief look at them and their importance. 


Vitamin C

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that enhances the body's immunity. That is, it is crucial in maintaining the body's defense system against diseases and infections. Vitamin C is also linked with the following:

  • Promoting healing.

  • Repair of body tissues. 

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • As part of treatment for the common cold.

  • Prevent certain forms of cancer. 


Vitamin A

Watermelon contains vitamin A in decent amounts. Vitamin A is primarily attributed to healthy vision. However, it serves many other essential benefits, such as maintaining healthy teeth and proper function of some internal organs like the hearts, lungs, and kidneys. 


Potassium and Iron

These two are the main minerals in watermelon; others are in minimal amounts or absent. Potassium aids in regulating cellular fluid levels, while iron is vital in manufacturing red blood cells in the body.

Watermelon also contains other important nutrients like lycopene, which is responsible for the red colors of ripe watermelons; calcium, vitamins B5 and B6, and citrulline are also present in minute amounts.

Benefits of Watermelon Concerning Diabetes

Here are some benefits of watermelon explicitly related to diabetic individuals.

  • Reduce Body Fats

Reports show that fat people are more predisposed to diabetes. Watermelon contains the amino acid; citrulline. Citrulline is linked with assisting the body to burn out fats efficiently. That is, it may aid in maintaining a healthy weight and reduce the body's accumulation of fats

  • Eye Health

Diabetes, especially in severe cases, may cause retinopathy, where these spikes in the blood glucose levels negatively affect the cells of the retina.

In some cases, it even leads to blindness. Watermelon contains beta-carotene, which the body quickly converts to vitamin A which is chiefly responsible for improving vision. Vitamin A prevents night blindness and macular degeneration. 

  • Improve Kidney Support

Watermelon aids the liver in processing ammonia, which makes the kidney easily dispense excess fluids. This may be important in weight management. Some say active consumption of watermelon may cause one to lose weight. 

Also, because of the large percentage of water in watermelon, it may act as a natural diuretic. Diuretics are drugs that increase the amount or frequency of urination. These drugs are prescribed in combination with other medications for patients with type 2 diabetes.

  • Wound Healing

Diabetic patients often experience reduced healing or, when uncontrolled, may prevent the healing of wounds.

Watermelon contains vitamin C, which enhances the body's healing ability and aid in the formation of connective tissue.

  • Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance is the primary culprit for type 2 diabetes. Eating watermelon, especially with other fruit rich in arginine, like nuts, is said to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. 

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Where Does Watermelon Rank on the Glycemic Index (GI)?

The glycemic index is the scale that ranks the number of carbohydrates in foods from zero to 100. The measure of a food's GI indicates how quickly the sugar in the food enters the bloodstream. Where a food ranks on the scale shows how fast it raises the blood sugar level when taken.

The GI values obtained are often in comparison to that of pure sugar or white bread, which has a glycemic index of 100. A glycemic index below 55 is low. Those between 55 and 69 are medium, and anything 70 and above is high. Watermelon typically has a GI rating of 72. Hence, it falls under high GI foods.

Therefore, it is safe to say watermelon has a high glycemic index, and after eating, one is bound to experience blood sugar spikes. 


Glycemic Load (GL)

The GL is a combo of GI and the actual amounts of carbohydrates present in that food. Experts claim that the GL is a more definite value of how a specific food affects the blood sugar level. GL values below 10 are low; 10 to 19 is medium, and anything above 19 is high. Even with its high glycemic index, watermelon has a low GL value of 5. 

According to the Defeat Diabetes Foundation, the high percentage of water in watermelon is responsible for the low glycemic load. Hence, it may be healthy for people living with diabetes to consume watermelon. However, the organization advises sticking with the fresh fruit. There is a high risk of increased glycemic load in fruit juice. 

Furthermore, after taking watermelon, in a short while, one tends to feel hungry again since it's mostly water. Diabetic patients can take watermelon in combo with foods rich in healthy fats, proteins, and fiber. These pairings prevent blood sugar spikes by reducing the absorption of sugar into the blood, causing one to feel full for more extended periods. 

What Research Says About Watermelon and Diabetes

As of now, no research connects eating watermelon to the management of diabetes. However, evidence indicates that watermelon consumption may reduce the risks of some diabetes related complications, especially cardiovascular disease.

Lycopene, one of the constituents of watermelon, is a powerful antioxidant associated with lowering one’s chances of getting heart-related diseases. Inability to properly manage diabetes may result in heart disease, especially among the aged. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, proper management of the condition may reduce the propensity for subsequent cardiovascular disorders.

Is Watermelon Healthy for Diabetic Patients?

According to the American Diabetes Association, it is acceptable for everyone to eat all kinds of fruit, provided there are no allergic reactions to any such fruit. However, each individual should optimize these fruit consumption. 

Therefore, eating watermelon and other fruits is healthy for diabetic individuals. It, however, has to be moderate amounts or adequately combined with other healthy and balanced meals, especially those containing fats and other macronutrients.


What is a Healthy Diet?

A healthy diet is one that either maintains or improves health. Such a diet provides the body with fluids, macronutrients, such as proteins, adequate amounts of dietary fiber, calories, and the necessary micronutrients - minerals and vitamins; to keep the body running. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, there is no specific distribution of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) that works best for all. Therefore, experts (dietitians, nutritionists, and other wellness professionals) need to work out unique plans that best serve individuals' health goals.

Watermelon is an excellent fruit option for all, as it contains lots of nutrients in suitable quantities. However, if you want to add watermelon to your eating plan, the overall diet must be looked into, not just a single meal. We've established that watermelon has a high GI, though a low GL. That is, patients need to look out for the portion size they consume and may need to run tests on their blood sugar levels after eating watermelon. This way, you get to know how your body responds to it. 

It is best to work hand in hand with your healthcare provider on the food item you like to take. A dietitian, for example, can assist you in building an ideal and workable diet plan after comparing your current eating plan with your overall health. Also, recommend what to eat, and give food substitutes for those you need to avoid. 

How Should People With Diabetes Eat Watermelon?

We have established that it isn't unhealthy for diabetic patients to eat watermelon, either as a meal or snack. Watermelon, however, should be consumed in combinations with foods rich in fats and proteins to make it a balanced meal.

The other macronutrients reduce the rate of sugar absorption into the blood. This may be helpful in those whose eating patterns may cause a spike in their blood sugar levels, as in type 2 diabetes.


So, How Much Watermelon Should I Eat?

Generally, a wedge portion size of watermelon per serving is enough as part of a meal for all individuals. For people with diabetes, it is advised that they do not go beyond this. Eating beyond this will cause rapid blood sugar spikes. 

However, it is best to eat fresh or frozen fruit rather than the canned and processed ones; the same goes for watermelon. Fruit juices often contain added sugars and other additives that may not be helpful in diabetic patients. Also, dietary fibers are lost in fruit juice production, which leads to increased sugar absorption and may result in spikes in blood sugar levels. Fibers may also be important in maintaining good digestive health. 

Therefore, eating watermelon in the form of salad with other fruit is an excellent way to enjoy it. However, it is best to pair watermelon with low GI fruits.

Other Fruit Alternatives for Diabetes

In this article, we have shown that watermelon consumption isn't detrimental to diabetes management. However, it is pertinent that people with this condition consistently maintain a healthy and nutritional diet. 

When choosing fruits to include in the diet, it is best to have a higher percentage of fruits with low GI. The list below includes low or medium GI fruit to help maintain decent blood sugar levels.

However, ensure always to take fresh or frozen fruit. Avoid dried fruit and processed packaged fruit juices as they are more concentrated and tend to have higher amounts of calories and natural sugar. 

How Many Fruit Should I Eat?

Most wellness professionals suggest that the daily servings of every individual - adults and children, contain five fruit and other veggies. The same applies to people with diabetes. Some recommend that half of what you eat each meal consists of fruit or vegetables. 

However, diabetic individuals must focus more on non-starchy vegetables. The remaining half of the meal should contain more proteins and fiber-rich food like beans. Eating healthy fats should be encouraged as they assist in the absorption of vitamins and antioxidants. 

Conclusion

It is harmless for people with diabetes to consume watermelon. However, eating in moderate quantities is crucial, like most other foods and fruit. Irrespective of what you take in as a diabetic patient, endeavor to combine the high GI food with proteins, fats, and fiber. 

It is essential to work with your healthcare experts to know what best suits you, as there is no single diet that suits everyone best. Watermelon has a high glycemic index but little glycemic load, meaning that it has little effect on the overall blood glucose levels.

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