Best known as a colorful summer staple, there’s also a lot of medical research showing that watermelon has several significant health benefits.
Here’s a look at some of the ways watermelon juice has proven itself to be a versatile and functional food.
Watermelon juice relieves post-exercise muscle soreness
Watermelon juice’s positive reputation among athletes is getting scientific support in a study. Research found that juice from the popular, colorful summer fruit can relieve post-exercise muscle soreness.
The 2013 report in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry attributes watermelon’s effects to the amino acid L-citrulline. That amino acid is closely related to L-arginine, which, among its other properties, is essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure.
Encarna Aguayo and colleagues cite past research on watermelon juice’s antioxidant properties and its potential to increase muscle protein and enhance athletic performance.
But scientists had yet to explore the effectiveness of watermelon juice drinks enriched in L-citrulline. Aguayo’s team set out to fill that gap in knowledge.
They tested natural watermelon juice, watermelon juice enriched in L-citrulline, and a control drink containing no L-citrulline on volunteers an hour before exercise.
Both the natural juice and the enriched juice relieved muscle soreness in the volunteers. L-citrulline in the natural juice (unpasteurized), however, seemed to be more bioavailable — in a form the body could better use, the study found.
Watermelon juice was shown to also reduce atherosclerosis
In a 2011 study by University of Kentucky researchers, watermelon was shown to reduce the build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances on artery walls.
The animal model used for the study involved mice with diet-induced high cholesterol. A control group was given water to drink, while the experimental group was given watermelon juice.
By week eight of the study, the animals given watermelon juice had lower body weight than the control group, due to a decrease of fat mass. They experienced no decrease in lean mass. Plasma cholesterol concentrations were significantly lower in the experimental group, with modestly reduced intermediate and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations as compared to the control group.
A measurement of atherosclerotic lesion areas revealed that the watermelon juice group also experienced statistically significant reductions in atherosclerotic lesions, as compared to the control group.
“Melons have many health benefits,” said lead investigator Dr Sibu Saha. “This pilot study has found three interesting health benefits in mouse model of atherosclerosis. Our ultimate goal is to identify bioactive compounds that would improve human health.”
How to make your own watermelon juice
Watermelon juice is sold in some grocery stores, but you can make it yourself, and you don’t even need a culinary degree.
Here’s the how-to from the National Watermelon Promotion Board:
Slice a chilled watermelon into 2-inch slices and place in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Press through a fine sieve, strain and discard seeds and pulp, pour the juice into a pitcher, chill and serve cold.