**This article is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease. The information in this article is not a substitute for medical care or advice provided by your healthcare team. Please consult your doctor or dietitian for specific, personalized treatment.***
Whether you have diabetes or care for someone with diabetes, you may be wondering if people with diabetes can eat watermelon.
As a diabetes dietitian living with type 1 diabetes, I have plenty of experience answering this question as many people with diabetes question if they can eat watermelon and other fruit. You can read more about eating fruit with diabetes in my other article.
In this article, we will cover the benefits and cons of eating watermelon when you have diabetes.
Watermelon nutrition info
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Central, 1 cup of watermelon contains:
- 47 calories
- <1 gram of protein
- <1 gram of fat
- 12 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.6 grams of fiber
- 9.6 grams of sugar
Glycemic index of watermelon
Watermelon is the one fruit on the glycemic index scale that is considered high.
The glycemic index labels foods using a scale of 0-100. If a food has a score of 70 or above, it’s considered a high glycemic index food. The glycemic index of watermelon is 72.
Foods that are high on the glycemic index scale are typically foods that will quickly raise blood sugar.
Glycemic load of watermelon
Although watermelon is considered a high glycemic index food, it actually has a low glycemic load.
The glycemic load takes into account how quickly a food raises blood sugar based on its standard serving size. Foods that have a low glycemic load do not quickly spike blood sugar.
The standard serving size of watermelon is 1 cup and as mentioned above, 1 cup of watermelon contains around 12 grams of carbs.
The glycemic load of watermelon is 5.6 and anything with a score of 10 or below has a low glycemic load.
Benefits of eating watermelon
Below are the benefits of eating watermelon when you have diabetes.
Vitamins and minerals
Watermelon is an excellent source of the mineral, potassium, which is good for your nerves, heart, and muscles. Watermelon also contains other important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and magnesium (1).
Good for your heart
People living with diabetes are at a higher risk for cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) diseases such as high blood pressure and stroke.
In the United States and many other countries, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of morbidity and early death, affecting millions of people each year (2).
Research suggests daily consumption of fruit such as watermelon helps regulate blood pressure and protects against CVDs. Watermelon has also been shown to decrease the bad cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, in your body (2).
Good source of antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances found in certain foods that protect against damaging free radicals in the body (3).
Watermelon is a rich source of lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant, known to protect against prostate cancer in men (4). Lycopene also protects the body from oxidative stress that causes cancer and heart disease (and remember, people with diabetes are at a high risk for this!) (5).
The antioxidant, vitamin C, is also found in watermelon. Vitmain C is important for healthy skin and the production and repair of tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels (6). Vitamin C is especially beneficial for the common and often severe diabetes complication, foot ulcers (3).
Good source of water
Along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, watermelon is also a good source of water.
If drinking water is something you struggle with, try to eat more fruits and vegetables with high water content, like watermelon, as it’s made up of 91% water (7).
Did you know you can eat watermelon seeds? You probably want to roast them first of course.
These seeds contain important nutrients like protein, unsaturated fatty acids, iron, zinc, and antioxidants (8). You can add roasted watermelon seeds to salads or to a trail mix for a snack.
As a bonus, seeds do not contain carbs, so watermelon seeds will not raise blood sugar.
Low calorie snack
Watermelon, like many fresh, frozen, and canned fruits, is low in calories per serving and contains water and fiber for fullness making it a good choice as a snack for those with diabetes trying to lose or maintain weight (9).
Cons of eating watermelon
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of eating watermelon, let’s cover the cons. There are a few cons to eating watermelon when you have diabetes.
Contains only carbs
Watermelon fruit is not a good source of protein, a macronutrient that helps keep you full and stabilizes blood sugars.
When you eat a carb only food like watermelon, it’s important to include a source of protein as it takes longer for the body to digest protein which leads to you feeling full and a slower release of sugar into your blood.
If you aren’t sure what foods contain carbs or protein, download my free cheat sheet here.
There are times of the year where certain fruits are ‘in season’ which means the time period when they are ready for harvest.
Not only does fruit taste better when it’s in season, but it’s typically cheaper too. Watermelon is in season during warmer months, so you may want to wait until then to get the best quality and price which limits the amount of time you get to enjoy watermelon.
Watermelon may be difficult for some people to prepare as it contains a hard outer rind. It’s also very juicy, so be ready to make a mess.
Not for kidney disease
Kidney disease is a common chronic disease in people living with diabetes. This disease happens in stages, and the last stage is kidney failure.
Kidneys filter out the mineral, potassium, from your blood. If your kidneys don’t work well or don’t work at all, too much potassium can build up in your blood and cause dangerous heart problems.
If you have kidney disease, your doctor and/or dietitian may tell you to avoid or limit watermelon in your diet since it is a rich source of potassium.
Individual glycemic response
Nutrition recommendations for people with diabetes is not a one-size-fits-all.
Everyone is different. Your body may respond differently to eating watermelon than your friend who also has diabetes.
Eating carbs is not the only thing that impacts your blood sugar.
Things like hormones, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, physical activity, medications, sleep and more can impact your individual blood sugar response to eating watermelon (or any carbs for that matter).
By no means are we to have perfect blood sugars all the time, but if you find yourself struggling with rollercoaster blood sugars (highs followed by lows and repeated), I encourage you to reach out to a diabetes educator. They will sit down and work with you to find a diabetes management plan that works for YOU.
FAQ about diabetes and watermelon
Below are answers to frequently asked questions about watermelon from my time teaching diabetes education classes.
Is watermelon good for diabetes?
Despite what many people may think, watermelon is actually good for diabetes.
Watermelon not only provides carbs for energy, but also important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It can even help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, two things many people living with diabetes need.
Can people with diabetes eat watermelon at night?
Some research suggests that watermelon increases fasting blood sugar, but the studies were small and used large portions of a watermelon juice supplement, not pieces of watermelon (10).
Anytime you’re drinking juice, especially 3-4 servings worth, instead of eating the fruit your blood sugar is going to spike higher and quicker due to the lack of fiber in juice.
If you’re worried about a high fasting blood sugar from watermelon, I would suggest sticking with one serving and eating it with a source of protein such as cheese or nuts.
How much watermelon should someone with diabetes eat?
This depends on your personal diabetes management goals.
Are you eating the watermelon as a snack or with a meal? Do you have a certain range of carbs you like to stay within at meals? Do you want the majority of your carb counts for the meal to be from watermelon or just a portion of the overall carbs?
A standard serving of carbs is about 15 grams or 1 carb choice which equals 1 cup of watermelon.
And just a FYI, just because that’s a standard serving, doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to just 1 cup. You can have more or less; just be aware of the amount of carbs you’re eating.
Knowing this information and measuring your portion size if possible helps determine how much watermelon YOU should eat.
So, can people with diabetes eat watermelon?
Yes! You can still have in range blood sugars when eating watermelon and other fruits.
Keeping blood sugars more stable can happen while eating watermelon when you measure your portion (or at least guesstimate!), include a source of protein, and take your diabetes medications.
If you want more information about diabetes nutrition, check out my other resources:
- Carb Counting Cheat Sheet
- Free eBook: Eating With Diabetes: A Guide for Beginners
- Low Glycemic Fruit: Are They Good for Diabetes?
Megan is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, and a Certified Insulin Pump Trainer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Iowa State University. She has had type 1 diabetes since she was 11 years old and has taught diabetes education for many years.