Watermelon may deliver Viagra-like effects to the body's blood vessels and may even increase libido and sperm counts in men. Who says? Researchers from Texas A&M University. "The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body," says Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station.
Beneficial ingredients in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are known as phytonutrients, naturally occurring compounds that react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions. In watermelons, these include beta carotene and the rising star among phytonutrients—citrulline—a substance that seems to trigger the body's blood vessels to relax, much like Viagra does, as a way to enhance male sexual performance. What's more, citrulline, when consumed, converts into arginine, an amino acid that has been shown to boost sperm count.
"Watermelon may not be as organ-specific as Viagra, but it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects," says Dr. Patil.
The health-boosting effects of watermelon don't end in the bedroom—and it's not just for men. Texas A&M researchers also found that deep red varieties of watermelon may replace the tomato as the single best food source for lycopene, another phytonutrient. Almost 92 percent of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8 percent is loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the human heart and skin health.
One last bit of advice? Watermelons "store much better uncut if you leave them at room temperature. [Phytonutrient] levels can be maintained even as it sits on your kitchen floor. But once you cut it, refrigerate. And enjoy," Dr. Patil says.