Can I Eat Watermelon If I Have Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on September 27, 2016Written by Jerisha Parker Gordon

watermelon and diabetes

The basics

Watermelon is typically a summertime favorite. Although you may want to dish some of the sweet treat up at every meal, or make it your go-to summer snack, it’s important to check the nutritional information first.

If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to watch what you eat and monitor your blood sugar levels. Watermelon is loaded with natural sugars. Depending on your overall diet, this may have an impact on your blood sugar level. Keep reading to learn how adding watermelon to your diet may impact you.

The health benefits of watermelon

Native to West Africa, watermelon is a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals that include:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • vitamin B-6
  • fiber
  • iron
  • calcium

One 280 gram serving provides 31 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. This supports healthy vision and aids in the upkeep of your heart, kidneys, and lungs.

Vitamin C is also beneficial to a healthy diet and found in large amounts per 280 gram serving. A single serving of watermelon provides 37 percent of your daily recommended intake. Vitamin C has been known to improve heart health, aid in the prevention of some cancers, and help battle symptoms of the common cold.

Because it’s high in fiber, eating watermelon can help your body flush out toxins and promote good digestive health.

Not only can eating moderate amounts of watermelon curb your craving for something sweet, it can also keep you feeling full longer. This is because watermelon is over 90 percent water. In addition to keeping you hydrated, this can help you stick to your diet and aid in weight management.

What the research says

There isn’t any research directly connecting watermelon consumption and diabetes management. That said, there is some evidence to suggest that eating watermelon may help reduce your risk for certain diabetes-related complications.

Watermelon contains moderate amounts of lycopene. This is the pigment that gives the fruit its color. It’s also a powerful antioxidant. Although more research is needed, lycopene may help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, early research suggests that the lycopene found in tomatoes may be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Approximately 68 percent of people with diabetes who are age 65 or older die from some type of heart disease. Sixteen percent of people in this demographic die of stroke. With this in mind, the American Diabetes Association has classified diabetes as one of seven controllable risk factors for heart disease.

Where does watermelon fall on the glycemic index?

The glycemic index (GI) looks at how fast food sugar enters the blood stream. Each food item is given a value between 1 and 100. These values are determined according to how each food compares to a reference item. Sugar or white bread is generally used for reference.

Glycemic load (GL) is the combination of the GI and the actual carbohydrate content in a typical serving of food. It’s argued that the GL gives a more real-world value of how a specific food can affect blood sugar levels.

This approach is often used by people who are managing their diabetes by carbohydrate counting. Foods with a low or medium GI are considered less likely to raise your blood sugar levels.

A GI of 55 or less is considered to be low. A GI between 55 and 69 is generally considered to be medium. Anything over 70 is considered to be high.

A GL under 10 is low, 10 to 19 is medium, and 19 and above is considered high.

Watermelon typically has a GI of 72 but a GL of 2 per 100 gram serving. Though the GL of watermelon is low, be sure to balance any meals containing watermelon with low-GI foods to minimize any potential blood sugar spikes.

What are other diabetes-friendly fruits?

Although eating watermelon has its benefits, you should consider balancing your diet with fruits that have a lower GI. Be sure to pick up fresh fruit wherever possible, as it doesn’t have any added sugars.

If you want to buy canned or frozen fruit, remember to opt for canned fruits soaking in fruit juice over syrup. Be sure to read the label carefully and look for hidden sugars.

Dried fruit and fruit juice should be consumed less often than fresh fruit. This is due to calorie density, sugar concentration, and smaller recommended portion sizes.

Diabetes-friendly fruits with a low GI include:

  • plums: 2 whole plums have a GI of 24 and a GL of 4
  • grapefruit: 1 average size has a GI of 25 and a GL of 7
  • peaches: 1 large peach has a GI of 28 and a GL of 5
  • apricots: 5 whole apricots have a GI of 34 and a GL of 6
  • pears: 1 small pear has a GI of 37 and a GL of 2

Check out: Can you eat bananas if you have diabetes? »

What does this mean for me, my diet, and my diabetes care?

If you want to add watermelon to your weekly meal plan, it’s best to look at your diet as a whole. Watermelon has a high GI yet a low GL. Moderate intake of watermelon is recommended.

Visit your doctor and talk about how you want to add healthy sugar to your diet. Your doctor will review your current diet and look at your overall health profile. They may refer you to a dietitian to help you determine the best dietary plan. A dietitian can answer all of your questions, recommend portion sizes, and advise you on possible substitutes.

After your visit with your doctor and dietitian, make sure to track your physical response to adding watermelon to your diet. Be sure to report any unusual spikes in blood sugar or other issues to your doctor right away.

Keep reading: How to manage diabetes with a carbohydrate-friendly diet »

CMS Id: 110619