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 does contain natural sugars. Depending on your overall diet and the amount of watermelon consumed, this may have an impact on your blood sugar level.

Keep reading to learn how adding watermelon to your diet may affect you.

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

Vitamin A 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 watermelon.

Vitamin C has been known to:

  • improve heart health
  • aid in the prevention of some cancers
  • help battle symptoms of the common cold

Because it’s high in fiber, eating watermelon can 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, watermelon can help you stick to your diet and aid in weight management.

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

Watermelon contains moderate amounts of lycopene, which 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. Early research suggests that the lycopene found in tomatoes may be linked to a reduced risk for heart disease.

Approximately 68 percent of people with diabetes who are age 65 or older die from some type of heart disease. Roughly 16 percent of people in this demographic die of stroke.

With this in mind, the American Diabetes Association has classified diabetes as one of seven manageable risk factors for heart disease.

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.

People who are managing their diabetes by carbohydrate counting often use this approach. 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. The GL of watermelon is low, and it can be eaten in moderation like all fruit as part of a balanced meal.

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 whenever and wherever possible, as it doesn’t have any added sugars.

If you want to buy canned or frozen fruit, remember to choose canned fruits packed in fruit juice or water, rather than syrup. Be sure to read the label carefully and look for hidden sugars. You can also drain or rinse those packed in syrup.

Dried fruit and fruit juice should be consumed less often than fresh fruit. This is due to:

  • calorie density
  • sugar concentration
  • smaller recommended portion sizes

Diabetes-friendly fruits with a low GI include:

  • plums
  • grapefruit
  • peaches
  • apricots
  • pears
  • berries

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 higher GI, yet a low GL. Keep an eye on portion sizes and test glucose levels after eating watermelon to see how your body responds.

Talk to your healthcare provider about how you want to add variety to your diet. They’ll review your current diet and look at your overall health profile.

They may refer you to a dietitian to help you determine the best eating plan.

A dietitian can:

  • answer all of your questions
  • recommend portion sizes
  • advise you on possible substitutes

After talking with your doctor and dietitian, make sure to track your physical response to adding watermelon or other new foods to your diet. Share your tracking information with them on your next visit.