If you’ve been wondering if watermelon is good for diabetes, you’re not alone. Among the alleged “forbidden fruits” for people with diabetes, watermelon is often at the top of the list. But should it be? Read on to find out the truth about watermelon and type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, chances are you want to know if and how you can enjoy this sweet, juicy summertime favorite. And it can be hard to find answers. It may seem like everyone you talk to and every headline you read says something different about what you can and can’t eat when you have diabetes. And I know how incredibly frustrating that can be! That’s why I wanted to dive into the research and give you the facts about watermelon and diabetes. And you may be surprised to learn the real answer to that burning question ‘is watermelon good for diabetes?’
Health Benefits of Watermelon
So here’s the deal- watermelon does contain sugar. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid watermelon with diabetes. That’s because not all sugar is created equal. Fruits, like watermelon, contain naturally occurring sugars. Unlike added sugar (which should be limited to less than 10 percent of total daily calories), naturally occurring sugars are typically bound in a matrix of fiber, water, and beneficial nutrients. Which is why research has found eating fruit is good for diabetes.
Yes! You read that right – watermelon is good for diabetes!
This sweet, refreshing fruit doesn’t just provide a delicious flavor, but it is healthy nutrients as well.
One cup of diced watermelon contains:
- Calories: 46
- Protein: 0.9g
- Carbohydrates: 11g
- Fiber: 0.6g
- Fat: 0.2g
- Potassium: 170mg
- Vitamin A: 17% of your daily value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 20% of your DV
In addition to being low in calories and fat, watermelon is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin C plays an important role in cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, eye health, and your immune system in tip top shape. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for immune, eye, and reproductive health.
The health benefits of watermelon don’t stop with its vitamin content. Since watermelon is 92% water, when you eat watermelon, you increase your fluid intake helping you to stay hydrated. And this is great news if you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day, especially on hot summer days. The high water content in watermelon means that one cup of watermelon is equivalent to drinking more than ½ cup of fluid!
Is Watermelon High in Sugar?
Just as all fruit contains natural sugar, so does watermelon. One cup of diced watermelon contributes 9g of sugar. Let’s see how it stacks up compared to other common fruit.
Sugar Content in One Cup of Various Fruits
|Fruit, 1 cup (sliced or diced)||Sugar|
Aside from strawberries, watermelon has the least amount of sugar per cup than most other fruits!
What makes watermelon so juicy (and lower in sugar per volume) is its high water content. The fact that over 92% of watermelon is water makes a big difference. This means that you can enjoy more of the fruit and consume less sugar than you might with other, less juicy fruits.
How Does Watermelon Affect Blood Sugar?
We know that watermelon has 9g of sugar and 11g of carbohydrate per cup, but what does that mean for your blood sugar? When we look at the relationship between watermelon and blood glucose levels we need to consider its glycemic index and glycemic load.
The glycemic index (GI) helps to rank food by how quickly it will cause a rise in blood sugar. This rise is then compared to the rise you would receive from a similar weight of plain glucose. The rankings range from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (pure sugar). Watermelon comes in relatively high, with a GI of 80.
Does this mean that watermelon will cause a huge spike in your blood sugar levels? Not necessarily. A big downfall to the GI is that it uses grams of carbohydrate in a food to find its ranking, not necessarily the amount of food in a typical portion. To make the GI work for the real world, Glycemic Load (GL) was created.
About 1 cup of watermelon, a typical portion, has a GL of 5 which is low on the GL scale. Why this discrepancy between GI and GL? It comes back to the abundance of water in watermelon! You would have to eat several cups of watermelon to cause a spike in blood glucose that’s close to that of table sugar.
Ways to include Watermelon in a Diabetes Friendly Diet
Watermelon can be a healthy and tasty addition to any snack or meal you eat this summer. Cup for cup, watermelon has less sugar than many other fruits. Since watermelon contains very limited fiber, protein or fat it’s a good idea to pair watermelon with another food to help slow down its effect on your blood sugar.
Diabetes Friendly Watermelon Ideas:
- Serve with feta and mint on skewers or a salad
- Make a watermelon salsa
- Add to a protein packed smoothie
- Watermelon Pizza
For more ideas and recipes to the suggestions above, read the 10 Reasons and Ways to Eat Watermelon
How Much Watermelon Should You Eat?
Even though watermelon is high on the glycemic index scale, it doesn’t have to result in a spike in your blood sugar. Stick to 1 cup or 1-2 wedges of watermelon at your meal or snack. By limiting the amount you eat at any one time, you can decrease watermelon’s impact on your blood sugar. And remember, as a source of carbohydrate, it is important to balance your intake of watermelon with your other carbohydrate sources at meals and snacks to ensure you don’t eat too many overall carbs that can elevated blood sugar levels.
The Best Time to Eat Watermelon
While it’s important to pay attention to how much watermelon you’re eating at one time, you may want to consider the time of day you’re eating it as well. While food can affect each person differently, there are a few times of day you might want to be cautious with watermelon.
Times you may want to avoid watermelon:
Early morning. Some people find that they are more insulin resistant in the early morning. Spikes in blood sugar in the early morning hours can be caused by hormone changes in the body. If you’re eating in the early morning hours, try sticking to a meal high in protein and fiber.
Before bed. While you sleep, your digestive system slows down. Eating watermelon before bed can cause an upset stomach and symptoms such as diarrhea in some people. And the high fluid content may lead to frequent bathroom trips during the middle of the night. In addition, eating a bedtime snack that contains only carbohydrate with little protein, fiber, or fat may lead to spikes and crashes in blood sugar during the night. So try to save the watermelon for daytime hours, or if you really want to enjoy it at night, pair it a source of protein or healthy fat such as an ounce of cheese or a handful of nuts.
Final Thoughts: Is Watermelon Good For Diabetes?
It’s safe to say you can remove watermelon (and all other fruits) from your forbidden foods list for diabetes! The abundance of nutrients watermelon provides, along with its amazing flavor, makes it the perfect addition to a diabetes friendly diet. Just keep the above tips in mind for how to eat watermelon.
Remember that your body is unique and each person’s blood glucose responds differently to food. The only way to truly know how your blood sugars respond to watermelon is by experimenting and monitoring your blood glucose levels.
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