Why You Can’t Ignore the Watermelon at Your Fourth of July BBQ2 weeks ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
For most Americans, the Fourth of July holiday is all about fun, relaxation, good food and drinking! This holiday may also be about spending lots of time in the sun and doing outdoor physical activities.
But as fun as all these things are, some of them can take a major toll on our bodies. For example, we all know overindulging in alcohol and too much sun exposure may cause dehydration. And as we recently discussed, mixing booze and physical activities can be a double punch, affecting both your rate of muscle recovery as well as your performance.
I’m not trying to be a downer on your holiday, but what I am about to tell you is that watermelon, which makes an appearance at most Fourth of July BBQs, may be one of the foods you need to include on your paper plate!
We already talked about the nutritional benefits of watermelon, but we did not discuss watermelon being a rich source of an amino acid called L-citrulline.
What exactly is L-citrulline?
“L-Citrulline (Cit) is a naturally occurring nonessential amino acid, present in mammals and also in every living organism. It is produced by the body naturally and found naturally in certain foods such as watermelons, cucumbers, pumpkins, muskmelons, bitter melons, squashes, and gourds,” according to various scientific reports.
Nonessential nutrients can be made by the body. Along with L-citrulline, vitamin D is a nonessential nutrient. Vitamin D is produced by our skin through sunlight.
But don’t let the word “nonessential” fool you.
Nonessential does not mean we do not need these nutrients. As we age, we need to help our bodies maintain optimal amounts of these nutrients.
(Clearly, we need vitamin D).
It just means we do not necessarily have to get these nutrients from the foods we eat and/or supplementation. But probably more often than not (as in the case with vitamin D), we still rely on eating healthy foods and sometimes supplements to help us reap the benefits of these nonessential nutrients.
And L-citrulline is definitely a nonessential nutrient you may want to consider eating, especially during the Fourth.
Here is why:
- L-citrulline may help you recover after physical activity (in more ways than one).
This amino acid boosts nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide helps your arteries relax and work better, which improves blood flow throughout your body. Your kidneys also convert L-citrulline into another amino acid called L-arginine.
“L-Citrulline, either synthetic or in watermelon, may improve vascular function through increased L-arginine bioavailability and nitric oxide synthesis,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Recent studies have shown that chronic L-citrulline supplementation increases nitric oxide synthesis, decreases blood pressure, and may increase peripheral blood flow. These changes are paralleled by improvements in skeletal muscle oxygenation and performance during endurance exercise.”
So watermelon makes the perfect snack for those Fourth of July outdoor games.
This restorative amino acid also helps accelerate the rate of lactic acid removal from your muscles, giving you a quicker recovery time after running around and playing games.
“These amino acids [L-Citrulline and L-arginine ] are directly involved in clearing excess metabolic ammonia from the human body and are indirectly involved in cardiovascular function, immunostimulation, and protein metabolism,” according to one report.
Some people say that their sweat smells like ammonia. And they may be right.
“Physical exercise is accompanied by increased plasma levels of ammonia but it is not known whether this rise primarily reflects accelerated formation in muscle or decreased removal by the liver,” according to the NIH.
Clearing excess ammonia from the body, however, may help combat muscle weakness and fatigue.
L-Citrulline “is used as a sports performance and cardiovascular health supplement. L-Citrulline supplementation results in reduced fatigue and improved endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic prolonged exercise.”
Additional benefits of L-citrulline?
Since this amino acid may help dilate arteries and improve blood flow and circulation, it may help prevent heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Some reports say it may even help with erectile dysfunction and other conditions due to having powerful antioxidant properties.
And, of course, we cannot forget…
Watermelon is full of water! In fact, this healthy treat is 90% water! With its sweet taste, what better, more delicious way to hydrate this holiday than by snacking on some watermelon? It is also nutrient-dense and will help replenish nutrients you may lose from drinking beer and alcohol. The nutrients will also help properly fuel your body for physical activity.
Try these refreshing watermelon mint popsicles.
All you need are:
- 5 cups cubed seedless watermelon
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves chopped
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice about 1/2 lime
- 1 tbsp raw honey (optional)
Mint is also nutrient-dense and may help aid digestion (which you will likely need from all the indulgent food at the BBQ), so you are getting the best of both worlds in these popsicles! And I honestly think that if you are busy eating a popsicle, this will help prevent you from drinking too much!
You can also try grilling watermelon.
Enjoy your healthy life and have a happy and safe Fourth of July!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.