Can diabetics eat watermelon? Yes, diabetics can eat watermelon in very small amounts and, preferably, infrequently. What makes watermelon good for diabetes is its low energetic value as well as moderately low carbs and sugar content. The fruit holds other benefits for diabetes, such as a good potassium content and great antioxidant value, especially contributing to better blood pressure numbers which is a major health goal for many diabetics. At the same time, it can cause blood sugar spikes if you eat too much of it. The recommended intake of the fruit in a diabetes diet is generally very low, limited to very small amounts of the likes of 100-150 g per serving per day.
Anything beyond a very low intake is considered a dietary excess and comes with side effects. For example, eating too much watermelon with diabetes causes spikes in blood sugar levels and ‘too much’ may often mean even as little as 150 g. Some diabetics may not even be able to eat the fruit at all. So the real question we should be asking here is not if diabetics can eat watermelon, but rather how safe is it to eat watermelon with diabetes? And what can you do to eat watermelon with diabetes safely in order to reduce the risks of side effects of the likes of spikes in blood sugar levels or feelings of unwell?
Here is a little bit of context when it comes to diabetes and watermelon.
1) Watermelon is a fruit that is merely allowed in diabetes in very limited amounts. Watermelon does not treat or cure diabetes. Instead, it has the potential to worsen it.
2) Not every diabetic person can eat it. Despite its good nutritional value and generally great health benefits, watermelon may be poorly tolerated in a diabetic diet and be a source of side effects. What this means is that while some diabetics may be able to eat limited amounts and feel good, others may not be able to eat it at all.
3) There is no way to tell for sure how eating watermelon when you have diabetes will impact you individually. Effects may vary depending on how you combine your foods, how serious your condition is, your individual nutritional requirements (more exactly, your maximum allowed intake of carbohydrates and sugar, which may be different from that of others) and other factors.
4) It is always best to talk to your doctor or a dietitian specialized in diabetic nutrition to learn if you can introduce the fruit in your current diet, how much of it you can eat safely or whether you need to make some dietary changes first in order to be able to eat even small amounts of watermelon.
Watermelon nutrition and diabetes
Watermelon carbs content. 100 g of watermelon contains 7.55 g of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are also turned into sugar following digestion, so a diabetic person has to keep count of the carbohydrate content of food as well.
1 cup of diced watermelon (estimated at 152 g) provides 11.48 g of carbohydrates.
1 watermelon wedge from a 4.5 kg melon (estimated at 286 g or 1/16 wedges) provides 21.59 g of carbohydrates.
Watermelon sugar content. Of a total of 7.55 g of carbs per 100 g, 6.2 g are sugars.
1 cup of diced watermelon (estimated at 152 g of fruit) contains 9.42 g of sugar.
1 watermelon wedge from a 4.5 kg melon (286 g or 1/16 wedges) has 17.73 g of sugar.
Believe it or not, watermelon has half the carbs and sugar content of cherries, for example. Also see Can You Eat Cherries With Diabetes?
The type of sugars in watermelon are fructose and glucose, two simple sugars. These are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and are a potential source of blood sugar spikes if you eat too much of the fruit (too much meaning even as little as half a cup for some diabetics).
To consider: If you’ll ever hear someone say that the type of sugar in watermelon is good for diabetes because it’s natural or from a natural source, know that it’s not true. Sugar is still sugar. And watermelon owes its sweet taste to fructose and glucose, two simple sugars that when put together, make up sucrose (the same as table sugar). Your body will not make a difference between sources of sugar and there will be a spike in blood sugar levels if you exceed your daily intake, hence the importance of keeping to a very limited intake of watermelon and fruit in general when you have diabetes.
Watermelon glycemic index: high (72)
The glycemic index refers to how fast the sugars from a certain food are absorbed into the bloodstream. A GI below 55 is low. A GI between 55 and 69 is moderate. A GI between 70 and 100 is high.
Watermelon has a high glycemic index (72), which means that eating even small amounts has the potential to cause spikes in blood sugar levels. And this high GI is the reason why eating watermelon is considered bad for diabetics. In this respect, pears or plums seem like better fruits for diabetes because of their low GI, but they still need to be consumed in limited amounts.
Also see Can You Eat Grapes With Diabetes?
Watermelon glycemic load: low (5)
The glycemic load (GL) is a value that also sets out to estimate how a portion of a certain food raises blood sugar levels. The GL is determined by multiplying the glycemic index of a food with the number of carbohydrates in 100 g, then dividing by 100.
A GL of 10 or less is low. A GL of 11-19 is moderate. A GL 20 and over is high.
Formula: GI x (carbs in 100 g) : 100.
For watermelon, it’s the glycemic index (72) multiplied by g of carbs in 100 g of fruit (7.55), then divided by 100, resulting in an estimated glycemic load of 5 (low). According to the GL theory, eating 100 g of watermelon which contains 7.55 g of total carbohydrates and 6.2 g of sugar has the actual estimated effect of eating only 5 g of glucose. However, this still doesn’t recommend watermelon for diabetes, just shows that there may be ways to consume it safely.
100 g of the fruit has 30 kcal.
1 cup of diced watermelon (estimated at 152 g) has 46 kcal.
1 watermelon wedge (estimated at 286 g) has 86 kcal.
When you have diabetes, you have to calculate your calorie intake as well as total carbohydrates and sugar intake. Managing calorie intake is important to prevent weight gain which can bring about complications for the condition. From this point of view and this alone, watermelon is a good fruit for diabetes in the sense that it won’t cause weight gain.
Other nutritional information and what it means for diabetes
Watermelon is a particularly good source of vitamin C (8.1 mg/100 g) and contains small amounts of several B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and choline), vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. It is especially rich in the antioxidant lycopene (see Properties and Benefits of Lycopene), also found in gac fruit (find out more about the Properties and Benefits of Gac Fruit) and red carrots, tomatoes, tomato juice, ketchup and pink grapefruit.
Vitamin C, magnesium and potassium are especially good for regulating blood pressure levels and, together with B vitamins, promoting cardiovascular health. Since high blood pressure and other forms of cardiovascular disease are leading complications of diabetes, all diabetics should look to include these nutrients in their diet. However, given the limited intake of watermelon you can eat with diabetes, chances are a diabetic person will not derive much benefit from eating this fruit alone. It’s more likely the entire diet impacts nutrition and future health benefits more than one food.
Watermelon and diabetes blood sugar levels
If you are diabetic and are considering introducing watermelon into your diet, know that the fruit can be both good and bad for you and can raise blood sugar levels if you eat too much. Different nutritional aspects may create the premises for either benefits or side effects, with individual nutritional requirements, dietary habits and severity of the disease determining whether or not you can eat the fruit and how much or little of it.
Here is some advice to help you introduce the fruit into your diet safely
1) Talk to your doctor or a dietitian with specialized in diabetes diets about whether or not you can eat watermelon if you have diabetes and how much you can eat safely.
2) Eat only very small amounts and no more than one serving a day.
3) Distribute your maximum allowed intake of watermelon over the course of an entire day in order to minimize the impact on blood sugar levels and prevent spikes.
4) Avoid eating fruit of any kind before a meal. If you want to eat a small serving of fruit, have it after a meal consisting of lean protein and low in carbs and low in sugar.
5) Plan for sweet snacks. Keep count of your total carbohydrates and sugar intake in a day so you know if and when you can eat a small serving of watermelon.
6) Go for a walk after having a serving of fruit. It also helps keep you in shape and has long-term benefits for diabetes.
7) Don’t eat watermelon every day. Eat other types of fruit too so you can enjoy a varied nutrition, but still keep intakes low.
8) If you don’t feel good after eating this particular fruit, know that it may not be a good choice for you and simply avoid it in the future.