Like all fruits, watermelon contains plenty of natural sugar. While watermelon is usually safe for someone with diabetes to eat as part of their diet, how much and how often they can do so depends on several factors.
People with diabetes are aware of the need to educate themselves about the right kinds of foods to eat to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables is advisable, but fruit contains natural sugars, and so it can be confusing to work out how much a person with diabetes can eat.
A single cup of diced watermelon contains about 12 grams (g) of carbohydrates. The American Diabetes Association recommend up to 60 g of carbs per main meal and up to 20 g for snacks.
There is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer about whether fruits, such as watermelon, are healthful for people who have diabetes. In this article, we look at the nutritional and health benefits of watermelon, as well as other factors a person with diabetes should consider.
Health benefits of watermelon
Watermelon is a refreshing, juicy fruit and is a common healthful food choice in the summer. But what does it contain?
Watermelon is refreshing but like all fruit contains natural sugar.
Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including:
Vitamin A helps to keep the heart, kidney, and lungs functioning properly. It also supports vision and eye health. A 280 g serving of watermelon provides 31 percent of a person’s recommended daily amount of vitamin A.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and promotes a healthy immune system. A good immune system can reduce colds and infections, and may help prevent certain types of cancer. One 280 g serving of watermelon provides 37 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
A diet that is high in fiber will keep the digestive system functioning well and also help the body flush out toxins. Fruit is often high in beneficial fiber.
Watermelon is more than 90 percent water, which means it is a great choice for hydration. In addition, magnesium and potassium can improve blood circulation and aid kidney function. One serving of watermelon contains around 170 milligrams (mg) of potassium.
Watermelon also contains a non-essential amino acid called citrulline, which can help prevent high blood pressure. A diet that regularly includes watermelon or watermelon extract is thought to stop high blood pressure from worsening over time.
Watermelon and glycemic index
As the GI for watermelon is above 70, people with diabetes should be mindful of how much of it they eat.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly sugar from food enters the bloodstream. The faster this happens, the more likely it is that a person’s blood sugar levels will spike or rise quickly.
Foods are given a number or GI between 1 and 100. The higher the number, the more quickly sugar enters the bloodstream.
Watermelon has a GI of 72 per 100 g serving. Any food item with a GI of 70 or more is considered high. Because of this, people with diabetes should carefully consider how much watermelon they consume.
Additionally, people who have diabetes should try to eat it with a healthy fat or protein, such as nuts or seeds. This combining can help keep them full for longer and lower the impact on their blood sugar levels.
Other good fruits for diabetes
A person with diabetes should try to eat a balanced, healthful diet containing at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables. Since the sugar in fruits is naturally occurring, people with diabetes do not need to monitor it as closely as added sugars.
However, it is still important to be aware of how much sugar and carbohydrates are in the fruits being eaten. Similarly, it is recommended not to eat too much fruit, to avoid causing blood sugar levels to spike.
Choosing fruits with lower levels of sugar and carbohydrates and being careful about consuming sugary liquids, such as fruit juices and smoothies, is advisable.
As a general rule, fruit with a lower carbohydrate content has a lower GI, so a person with diabetes can eat more.
Fruits with a low GI include:
- plums — GI 24
- grapefruits — GI 25
- peaches — GI 28
- apricots — GI 34
- pears —GI 37
Watermelon can provide many health benefits for a person with diabetes, as long as it is consumed in moderation and attention is paid to the other foods that are eaten alongside it.
Talking to a doctor can help determine how much sugar a person is eating in their diet and how much they should be eating, and which foods are best suited to a diabetic diet.