Most Americans prize the sweet and juicy flesh of watermelons, but remove or spit out the seeds. This general disdain for the seeds has led to the development of “seedless” watermelons, which produce much smaller, lighter colored seeds. However, watermelon seeds are consumed in many cultures around the world, because they are a relatively rich source of certain nutrients.
Eating the Seeds
Watermelons are indigenous to India and tropical regions of Africa. The peoples of these regions, and others from Asian and Middle Eastern countries, have a long history of consuming all parts of the watermelon, including its rind and seeds. Watermelon seeds are often dried, roasted and eaten as a snack, much like pumpkin seeds, although they are also used in soups and sauces. The seeds have a hard outer coating, so they must be roasted and chewed very well in order to make the nutrients available for absorption. If not, the seeds will pass through your digestive tract almost completely intact.
Calories and Fat Content
One cup of dried watermelon seed contains a little more than 600 calories, which is almost three times more than a cup of brown rice, according to “The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts.” The relatively high number of calories is mostly from fat -- about 70 percent -- which exists as oil within the seeds. Almost half the weight of a watermelon seed is oil, which is composed of 20 percent saturated fat and the rest monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-6 fatty acids. One cup of dried watermelon seed contains about 50 grams of fat, which is almost 80 percent of the recommended daily value. In countries where food is scarce, watermelon seeds are an important source of calories and energy.
The next most prevalent nutrient in watermelon seed is protein. One cup of dried seeds contains about 30 grams of protein, which includes all the essential amino acids except lysine. Thirty grams is about 60 percent of the recommended daily value for protein. Protein, and its amino acids, is essential for the growth and repair of muscles, skin and other connective tissues. It’s also an important part of the immune system and required to make enzymes. In poorer countries of the world, protein deficiency is a common problem and often leads to diseases called marasmus and kwashiorkor. Eating watermelon seeds can be beneficial for combating protein deficiency diseases.
Watermelon seeds also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. The B-vitamin group is most prevalent in the seeds, but they are also good sources of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, iron and copper. B vitamins are necessary for good metabolism, healthy blood and effective immune response. Magnesium and other minerals are needed for strong bones and immunity, but they are also beneficial in regulating blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
- Nutritional Sciences for Human Health; Stanislas Berger et al.
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.