Diabetes Diet: Nature’s Sweet Super Nutritious Treat

It's more than just a sweet, melt-in-the-mouth treat that graces picnic tables and brings color to winter fare.

Watermelon is a nutrient rich food that adds vital vitamins and minerals to our diet, including some that are good for cardiovascular, eye, nerve, and immune system health.

Fortunately, despite its sugary reputation, watermelon is an acceptable food choice for people with diabetes since its high glycemic index is offset by its low carb grams. This means watermelon has a low glycemic-load* and a moderate serving (one to two cups) will not wreak havoc on glucose levels.

A Few Facts

Watermelon likely originated in south African deserts, and was depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics 5,000 years ago. Merchant ships carried the melons along the Mediterranean Sea. They arrived in China by the 10th century, and 300 years later watermelon started spreading through Europe. Approximately 300 watermelon varieties are now grown in Mexico, and the U.S., though only about 50 of those varieties are popular.

Today’s seedless watermelons are the result of hybridization; they are not genetically modified. The white “seeds” in seedless melons are empty seed coats, and are safe to eat. A watermelon’s rind, like the flesh, is nutrient-rich and edible. The rind can be put in a blender with some lime to whip up a refreshing treat. Black watermelon seeds are edible as well, and contain zinc, iron, protein, and fiber.

Watermelon and Diabetes

As part of a healthy diet, the nutrient load in watermelon can help prevent or address several common diabetes concerns:

  • Weight. Watermelon is low in calories, and is more than 90 percent water. All that water helps us feel full and satisfied, putting a damper on cravings. The water helps flush toxins from the body too.
  • Eyes and Immunity. We need vitamins A and C to support eye health, and watermelon is a good source of both. The vitamin C, and watermelon’s antioxidant load also boost our immunity against infection.
  • Blood Pressure. Watermelon gives us potassium, magnesium, and citrulline—substances involved in regulating blood pressure, and reducing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Cardiovascular System. A cup of watermelon has 1.5 times more of the red pigment lycopene than a tomato. Lycopene's antioxidant activity is a powerful preventive against cardiovascular disease. One study found men with the highest lycopene blood levels were 55 percent less likely to suffer a stroke, compared to those with the lowest lycopene levels.
  • Nerves, and Other Things. The vitamin B6 in watermelon supports normal nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and helps the immune system make disease-fighting antibodies.

It’s amazing that all this beneficial goodness comes in a food that can satisfy our sweet tooth.

Watermelon is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. ~ Mark Twain

Cautions

Unfortunately, a food that pacifies the sweet tooth also makes moderation difficult. Watermelon is so delightful we can easily consume too much of a good thing.

Keep in mind that one cup of diced or balled watermelon has about 46 calories, 0.6 grams fiber, and 11.6 grams carbohydrates (9.5 grams sugar). It may help to measure out a reasonable portion of melon and then put the rest back in the fridge—before enjoying the first bite.

We might also want to heed the expression, “Eat melon alone or leave it alone because it will make your stomach groan.” Though we sometimes have watermelon for dessert, more than a few forkfuls may sit best in an empty, or nearly empty stomach. This might not hold true for everyone, but those old expressions that get passed around are often infused with wisdom.

Sources: Foods 4 Better Health; Mercola; Watermelon; Very Well
Photo credit: Rameez Sadikot

*Gycemic load is calculated by multiplying the GI by the grams of carbohydrate in the food, and dividing that number by 100. The glycemic load for watermelon is between 5 and 6; anything below 10 is considered low.

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