It can help you lose weight, reduce inflammation, and cleanse your body of toxins — or at least that’s what the Internet chatter would have you believe. Like other extreme diets and cleanses, the watermelon diet makes big promises. But does it deliver?
There are a few versions of the watermelon diet. The most popular is a sort of cleanse. It involves a relatively short (but strict) deprivation period, followed by a return to your regular diet.
During the first stage, dieters eat nothing but watermelon. This stage usually last for three days. You may end up consuming the equivalent of one large watermelon each day. Again, specifics of this diet vary by source.
After that, some people go back to their normal diet. Others gradually add other foods back into their diet. For instance, in one variation, you may have two light meals each day and eat watermelon as a snack.
According to nutrition consultant Jessica Marcus, MS, RD, CDN, these types of diets appeal to people because they have a lot of structure but only require a short commitment.
“Unlike lifestyle-change diets, the finite time period of the watermelon diet gives dieters a realistic, achievable goal,” she says. “We’re more likely to willingly punish ourselves if we know it’s only for a few days.”
Watermelon as the main selling point doesn’t hurt, Marcus says. “We’re more likely to sign up for a diet if it means we get to eat something we love all day.”
For most people, watermelon is good for you. In addition to nutritional benefits, it provides a good deal of water.
“The watermelon diet is really more of a cleanse that relies on the fact that watermelon is over 90 percent water,” explains Marcus. “So it’s low in calories and provides some vitamins and minerals. It’s hydrating, refreshing, and can help you feel full, at least temporarily.”
One cup of nutrient-rich watermelon has only 46 calories, and it’s packed with the following vitamins, as well as many others:
- vitamin A, which is essential to healthy vision
- vitamin B-1, which helps your body convert food into energy
- vitamin B-6, which your body needs to create red blood cells (RBCs)
- vitamin C, which is vital to tissue growth and repair
Watermelon also contains more citrulline than any other food. The amino acid citrulline is most notable for its role in vasodilation and proper blood flow. Citrulline actually takes its name from the Latin term for watermelon, Citrullus lanatus.
Before you go stock up on watermelons, Marcus also offers some words of warning. The diet’s restrictive nature leaves people without any dietary source of protein, she explains.
Because of this, she can’t recommend the diet to children, pregnant women, or anyone with a health condition requiring a special diet (such as diabetes), or a person with compromised immune function. She adds that, like all flash diets, it’s not a long-term solution.
“Study after study shows that these fad-type diets don’t work in the long run,” she says. “Once the diet period is over, people fall into their old habits, regain the weight, and look for the next diet to test drive.”
It’s important to note that watermelon doesn’t contain any fat, which is an essential nutrient, just like protein. People with health conditions requiring a special diet, such as diabetes, should avoid the watermelon diet.”
For healthy dieters, some optimism: “In general, I don’t advocate for extreme, restrictive diets and cleanses like this,” Marcus says. “But if you’re generally healthy, it’s unlikely to be harmful when followed for a few days. If you have a plan for how to continue your weight loss efforts once the diet is over, and all you need is a little jumpstart, then go for it.”