Ancient papyri and depictions in some tombs of ancient Egypt clearly show this. Watermelons were deposited in Egyptian tombs as a kit for the deceased so that they were a source of sustenance for him or her in the afterlife. And that's not all, the Egyptians attributed a divine origin to watermelon, believing that it was created by the god Seth, the god of the desert and storm, but also the god who, every day, got on the solar boat together with Ra to fight and defeat Apopi, the monster who wanted to devour the sun. And nowadays? Watermelon is certainly one of the most loved summer fruits, wide-spread on the beaches and able to fill the city afternoons with joy. But watermelon is not only refreshing, juicy and sweet, it is also a source of healthy properties proven by scientific studies. Let's try to understand better.
Watermelon, or Citrullus lanatus, belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same as pumpkin, courgette, melon and cucumber. Watermelon is low in calories, in fact 100 grams of watermelon pulp provide 30 kcal. For the most part, 92%, watermelon is composed of water, and therefore is hydrating, it also contains sugar, around 6%, and fiber. It does not contain cholesterol and fat while it is a precious source of vitamins, such as vitamin A, C, group B, especially B1, which contributes to the conversion of glucose into energy, and B6, which plays a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and in the immune response, and of mineral salts, such as potassium and magnesium (Lum et al, Nutrients, 2019). Not only that, this fresh and juicy fruit contains powerful antioxidants, such as lycopene and citrulline, which help protect the heart from cardiovascular diseases, the retina from degenerations such as maculopathy and the skin from damage by solar rays and also counteract cellular degeneration (Nat. et al, EXCLI J, 2014 - Stahl et al, Mol Nutr Food Res, 2012). Watermelon is satiating, thanks to the presence of water and fiber, it is also anti-inflammatory, has a hypotensive action, helps to reduce triglycerides and cholesterol and, in addition, it also helps to reduce body weight and the waist-to-hip ratio in case of overweight or obesity. In fact, this action is due to the satiating effect of the fruit and the presence of fibers, which improve glucose tolerance (Lum et al, Nutrients, 2019 - Connolly et al, Curr Dev Nutr, 2019). Finally, watermelon acts by reducing the stiffness of the arteries and this helps protect against cardiovascular risk (Figueroa et al, Menopause, 2013).
Watermelon and lycopene
Lycopene is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties, it helps to keep cholesterol, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and tumors under control (Naz et al, EXCLI J, 2014). For a long time, it was thought that tomatoes were the only source of lycopene. Now, however, scientific studies have shown that watermelon also contains lycopene, in quantities 40% greater than tomatoes. Not only that, the tomato lycopene is made available only after the tomato has been cooked and combined with a fat, such as olive oil in the classic tomato sauce. Instead, lycopene is readily available in watermelon (Naz et al, EXCLI J, 2014).
Watermelon and physical activity
Watermelon is also an ally for athletes and for those who love an active life. In fact, thanks to the presence of citrulline, watermelon helps to reduce the pain in the muscles that can follow physical activity and also contributes to a faster recovery of the body after physical exercise (Tarazona Diaz et al, J Agric Food Chem , 2013).