Watermelon is a summer staple. It’s hard to imagine backyard cookouts without this sweet fruit. But in addition to being a delicious snack, watermelon is also good for you.

Picking a ripe watermelon is pretty straightforward: If it’s already cut up and looks red and juicy, it’s ready to eat. Cut watermelon will stay good in the fridge for about three days, as long as it’s covered with plastic wrap or in a sealed container.

When going for a whole melon, look at the bottom of the fruit where there’s a lighter spot. This is where the watermelon was resting on the ground while it grew. As the melon ripens, the spot will turn from a light green or white color to a pale yellow or cream color. If you’re planning to eat it soon, choose watermelons with the pale yellow or cream-colored spot.

Read on to learn more about the health benefits of eating watermelon, along with some recipes for how to enjoy it.

Nutritional benefits of eating watermelon

Watermelon is a good source of vitamins and other nutrients your body needs.

Lots of water

They call it watermelon for a reason. The fruit is 91 percent water. That means eating it can also help you stay hydrated.

Lycopene

Lycopene is a compound called a carotenoid. Carotenoids create the red, orange, and yellow colors in fruits and vegetables such as watermelons and tomatoes.

Your body stores lycopene in the:

  • lungs
  • liver
  • prostate
  • colon
  • skin

Regularly eating foods with lycopene has also been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for many processes in the body. It helps with your immune system, vision health, and the function of major organs. Two cups of diced watermelon has 30 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for human health. It helps your body recover from injury. It’s also a powerful antioxidant. Two cups of diced watermelon has 25 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.

Citrulline

Citrulline is a type of amino acid found in watermelon. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They can be taken apart and put back together in different ways to make the different proteins your body needs.

Your body can make some amino acids on its own. But essential amino acids must come from the food you eat. Arginine is an amino acid that your body can make, but it needs help. Citrulline is absorbed in the kidneys and used to make arginine.

Arginine helps your blood flow, boosts your immune system, and helps your kidneys remove waste.

The history of watermelon

The first watermelons grew in Africa. China started growing them in the 10th century. They were introduced to Europe in the 13th century, and finally came to the United States in 1629.

The fruit has changed over the years. The most popular variety of watermelon eaten today is the Charleston Grey, developed in 1954 by Charles Fredric Andrus.

How to eat watermelon

You can slice a watermelon and eat it off the rind. But how about getting a little more creative? There are lots of other healthy ways to enjoy watermelon. You might be surprised at how well it pairs with unlikely ingredients.

  • Watermelon salsa: Mix sweet and savory flavors with this watermelon salsa. The recipe also uses mangoes, cucumber, onions, and basil leaves for added nutrition. Try it with chips, or as a topping for chicken or steak. View the recipe.
  • Homemade watermelon popsicles: With just three ingredients, these watermelon popsicles make for an easy, healthy summer treat. View the recipe.
  • Grilled watermelon, feta, and basil salad: Try throwing watermelon on the grill for a smoky profile that goes nicely with feta, basil, and a balsamic glaze. View the recipe.
  • Simple strawberry watermelon smoothie: Don’t let the word “simple” in the name fool you. This smoothie is full of nutrients. It even contains chia seeds and ginger. View the recipe.
  • Watermelon strawberry sorbet: Guilt-free sorbet on a hot summer day anyone? Who can resist? This recipe relies on watermelon and strawberry for flavor and calls for a healthier alternative to regular sugar. View the recipe.
  • Watermelon feta salad: This is definitely a step up from your traditional fruit salad. Watermelon is paired with berries, balsamic dressing, and feta over a bed of greens. View the recipe.
  • Watermelon lemonade: Summer lemonade just got a bit of an upgrade. Adding watermelon juice to the fresh lemon juice makes it a vitamin C powerhouse. View the recipe.

Next steps

A small percentage of the population may not tolerate watermelon well due to a cross-reaction with ragweed and/or latex.

But overall, watermelon is a delicious, low-fat, low-sugar sweet treat with clear health benefits. Indulge by enjoying it on its own, or try it in a new recipe.