Growing up in a family of five whose income was well below the poverty line, wasting food was never an option. From stews to soups during weekdays, to at-home smorgasbords on weekends, my parents made sure each and every morsel of food purchased with their hard-earned income was in some way consumed.
Always looking to spare the family some cash, mom had a knack for making innovative snacks at home. A few of my personal favorites were sun dried and roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and, believe it or not, watermelon seeds.
For mom, repackaging seeds as snacks was just another way to avoid wasting food. Mom didn’t even realize she’d actually incorporated among the most incredibly nutritious snacks into our dietary repertoire.
Watermelon seeds are a valuable source of protein – their most valuable attribute.
This holds especially true if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking for a natural way to boost your intake. Protein is an essential nutrient that’s absolutely critical for injury prevention and recovery, weight management, and muscle health. The protein housed in watermelon seeds is comprised of numerous muscle-building amino acids including arginine, lysine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and leucine, which is a huge plus if you’re one who regularly engages in resistance exercise or high-intensity interval training.
Along with their rich protein content, watermelon seeds contain substantial amounts of B-vitamins and key minerals like iron and phosphorus, all of which work together to support the body’s endless oxygen requirements and energy demands.
You can also get a good amount of zinc from eating watermelon seeds – one of only a few minerals that is also an antioxidant. Zinc specifically helps the body’s immune system function both efficiently and effectively, especially important during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood.
Surprisingly, the list of valuable nutrients contained in watermelon seeds continues. They also house a rich supply of important electrolyte minerals, namely potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These electrolyte minerals collectively function in maintaining proper fluid balance, regulating nerve function, and coordinating the many processes involved in muscle contraction and relaxation.
Due to their unique electrolyte composition, eating watermelon seeds may delay or even prevent the onset of exercise-induced muscle cramps. When you work out, electrolytes are lost in sweat, which greatly increases the likelihood of cramping. If you’re prone to muscle cramping, pop a handful of watermelon seeds as a pre-workout snack.
Capping off the superior nutritive profile of watermelon seeds is their beneficial composition of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which you’ve probably heard of. Often classified as “healthy” or “good”, these fats have been shown to considerably lower the risk of many diet-linked chronic diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer) when regularly consumed.
While polyunsaturated fatty acids play a huge role in the overall nutritional quality of watermelon seeds, better not to pop them by the cupful, as the calories that accompany these fats can quickly add up. In fact, a cup of watermelon seeds contains nearly 600 calories!
In addition to protein and fat, these seeds also contain healthy amounts of dietary fiber, all of which provide superior satiation. Just don’t overdo it. A 1/4 or 1/2-cup serving a day is all it takes. Enjoy them as a stand-alone snack or add them to your favorite cereals, side dishes and entrees for unique flavor and texture.
Mom was unknowingly on to something when she introduced watermelon seeds into our diets.