Are you a diabetic who loves to eat fruits like watermelon? Perhaps you’ve been told that this refreshing summer fruit is too sugary for people with diabetes.
While it’s important to consider the blood sugar implications of every food you consume as a diabetic, you don’t want to avoid perfectly healthy choices that could improve your life, BUT the timing of eating watermelon and other sweet fruits is important. We will get to the details of this later in the article!
Or, perhaps you need to lose weight, and the same idea has held you back from having some watermelon. Either way, this article will offer everything you need to know about watermelon’s properties, from its role in weight loss, to answering the essential question, “Is watermelon good for diabetes?”
Nutrients With Health Benefits Found Within Watermelons
Watermelon is a good source of Vitamin A, a fat-soluble compound responsible for improving eye health and vision. Vitamin A has other benefits, like supporting cell growth, promoting optimal immune system function, and skin cell health.
Watermelon also contains Vitamin C, which is a water-soluble vitamin known for its effect on immune health. Vitamin C is also able to lower your risk of heart disease, manage high blood pressure, and reduce your risk of chronic disease!
Potassium is an electrolyte found in watermelon and other fruits that assist with essential bodily functions. It can help regulate blood pressure, normalize water retention, prevent muscle cramps, and improve digestion.
Magnesium is another mineral found in watermelons that can help regulate blood sugar levels, promote heart health, prevent migraines, and even combat inflammation.
Like Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin found in watermelons and other fruits that is essential for many bodily functions. In fact, Vitamin B6 cannot be produced in the body, so it needs to be taken in through our diet. Vitamin B6 promotes brain health, reduces heart disease risk, promotes eye health, and may even prevent or treat anemia.
Dietary fiber found in whole plant foods is one of the most important nutrients in any diet. It’s essential for adequate digestion and promotes gut health, as well as helping mitigate the risk of chronic disease.
Iron is a dietary mineral found in some fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and grains. It has essential functions in the body, including aiding the transport of oxygen in the blood.
Calcium is another mineral necessary for some essential bodily functions. Some of its more well-known functions are strengthening bones and teeth. Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium properly, which is why milk is often fortified with Vitamin D.
The Link Between Diabetes and Watermelon
Unfortunately, there isn’t a strong, direct relationship between watermelon consumption and diabetes management. At least, a connection has yet to be documented. Our clinical experience is to FIRST get your weight where you want it to be before adding watermelon to your diet. Balancing your blood sugar, insulin and hormones is the key to losing weight and reducing your chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes. Once you are at your ideal weight, watermelon is a great choice in servings of about ½ a cup, depending on your activity level.
In support of this, research has suggested the lycopene found in tomatoes is linked to a reduced risk for heart disease. Lycopene, an antioxidant, is also found in watermelon in moderate amounts. Again, we recommend keeping your serving size at about ½ a cup so you do not experience insulin spikes that can create hunger, cravings, and even weight gain.
What is the Glycemic Index of Watermelon
The glycemic index, or GI, is a measure of how fast sugar from a particular source enters the bloodstream. Glycemic index values range from 1 to 100, with one being the least likely to cause blood sugar spikes, and a 100 being the most likely to cause a blood sugar spike, with the quickest increases in blood glucose levels.
Glycemic load, or GL, is a combination of the glycemic index and the total carbohydrate content of a food. It’s typically used to give a more holistic idea of the overall impact a serving of food will have on the blood.
A glycemic index below 55 is considered low, while 55 to 69 is moderate, and 70 is considered high. A glycemic load of 10 or below is low, between 10 and 19 is moderate, and 20 and above is considered high.
Watermelon scores 72 for the glycemic index, but only a two on the glycemic load for a serving size of 100 grams.
This means that while watermelon does contain sugars, and could cause a swift increase in blood glucose levels, the overall amount of carbohydrates is quite low in a moderate amount of watermelon. As such, eating watermelon in moderation (½ cup serving size) should be safe for most diabetics.
What are Some Other Diabetes-Friendly Fruit Options?
Fruits can be a great addition to a healthy diet, even for diabetics. While they contain natural sugar, and some fruits like watermelon have a moderate to high glycemic index, some have a smaller effect on blood sugar.
Fruits are a wonderful source of antioxidants and nutrients, and it’s all about keeping the serving size controlled. When fruits are out of season, frozen organic is your best option. It’s a great idea to add canned or frozen fruit to your diet, but be sure. Some fruits that are good for diabetics include:
All of these fruits feature lower glycemic indices than watermelon and pineapple, which have some of the largest GIs of any fruit. Lower glycemic index fruits should be favored, as they are less likely to cause unsafe blood sugar levels.
However, eating watermelon may or may not affect your blood sugar to a large degree. Even with the fruits listed above, it’s important to consider the glycemic load, as a high GL can cause sustained elevations in blood sugar levels.
What Does This Mean for My Diabetes?
Of course, you’re probably able to eat watermelon on occasion and in moderation, even with diabetes. However, it’s best that you start with a small portion size and test your glucose levels before and after eating watermelon to make sure your body’s response is safe.
If consuming watermelon causes an unsafe spike in blood sugar, it’s probably best that you don’t eat watermelon. Better yet, consult your healthcare provider before adding fruits like watermelon to your diet.
Can Watermelon Raise My Blood Sugar?
As watermelon does contain sugars, it can elevate blood sugar levels as the carbohydrates are broken down and converted into glucose. Due to a low glycemic load, it’s unlikely to cause a large overall increase in blood glucose, but the increase can be swift, and may affect different people with diabetes or even those without a diagnosis differently.
While this may prohibit some people with diabetes from enjoying this refreshing summer fruit, don’t be discouraged! Berries and citrus fruits are other great options, as are any of the lower GI fruits listed above!
Can Watermelon Help With Weight Loss?
One of the biggest health benefits of eating certain fruits in specific portions, is the ability to lose weight. Watermelon is delicious, but it should not be your first choice if you are trying to lose weight. Weight loss is not about counting calories, it’s about balancing your blood sugar, insulin, and hormones. Having the correct ratio of protein, veggies, and fruit while eliminating inflammatory foods is really the key to weight loss and long-term weight management and health. Some people tend to equate the calories burned during exercise to the calories eaten, but this is not the correct energy balance.
The body has what’s called a basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which is a rate of energy burn that occurs regardless of what you do. You could do nothing but sit or lie down all day, and your body will burn this number of calories.
This number is generally between 1200 and 2000 calories per day, depending on your size and body composition. This means that you should probably still eat between 1200 and 2000 calories of the right foods in the right combinations per day, even if you’re trying to lose weight. However, it’s best you consult an expert before starting a weight loss regimen.
Regardless, an easy way to lose weight is to substitute high-calorie foods with lower-calorie alternatives that you still enjoy. Watermelon is a fantastic alternative to candy, for instance, but it is still quite enjoyable to eat.
Nuts, berries, and other fruits like baked apples with cinnamon can all be great alternatives to candy, and watermelon is generally less calorie dense than all of those options. People with diabetes should be wary of fruit juices, dried fruits, and too many high-sugar fruits. Also, they should test food’s effect on their blood sugar or consult a professional to discuss the best options. Pros and Cons of Eating Watermelon if You Have Diabetes
Many fruits are high in dietary fiber, which can aid in digestion and gut health. It’s also great for regulating blood sugar, reducing blood cholesterol, and maintaining a feeling of fullness.
Precious vitamins and minerals that help your body function properly can be found in fruits like watermelon. Vitamins A, B6, C, and a handful of helpful minerals like iron and calcium can all be found in watermelon!
Antioxidants such as lycopene can be found in watermelon as well as other fruits. Antioxidants reduce cell damage and can prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, as well as play a role in reducing cancer risk.
Large quantities of fructose can be found in some fruits, which is the form natural sugars take within fruits. Fructose is quickly broken down into glucose and can cause elevated blood sugar levels, just as eating too much table sugar can.
In some cases, such as those involving diabetic nephropathy or kidney disease related to diabetes, excess minerals like potassium can be harmful. In cases such as these, fruits like citrus fruits, bananas, apricots, and watermelon should be avoided or at least restricted.
Is Watermelon Good for Diabetes? Key Takeaways
Eating watermelon can be a healthy part of any diet, even for somebody with diabetes. However, it’s important to monitor its effects on your blood glucose before eating larger portions of the fruit.
If you’re interested in losing weight, watermelon is not the best option because it will spike your blood sugar and hold you back from burning fat.
Watermelon also contains a plethora of valuable nutrients like vitamins and minerals that can help your body function as intended! Vitamins like A, B6, and C can ensure your eyes, skin, and brain are healthy, as well as help regulate your blood pressure, prevent cramps, and even reduce the risk of heart disease!
Overall, watermelon and other fruits are a healthy addition to many diets, even with their fructose content. They can be a risk to people with diabetes, so it’s a wise idea to consult a professional, start small, and monitor the impact on your body.
However, the benefits outweigh the risks for the majority of people, including diabetics, and a watermelon is a great option when you are trying to stay away from processed sugary foods like candy, cakes, and cookies.