Nature's Performance Drug? Watermelon Juice

Watermelon has BIG benefits. Turns out this sweet and juicy treat is loaded with a compound that increases blood flow.

Nature's Performance Drug? Watermelon Juice

Summer's favorite fruit has more going for it than a good excuse for a picnic. Turns out this sweet and juicy treat is loaded with a come-hither compound that turbocharges blood flow in much the same way "performance" drugs do.

The compound is citrulline, which your body converts into l-arginine, a blood vessel relaxer that enhances circulation to all your vital parts. In a new Italian study, 24 lucky middle-aged guys with "mild" erection problems took a citrulline supplement for a month; half said their difficulties cleared up and they had sex more often. American experts have found that knocking back a couple of glasses of watermelon juice a day raises blood levels of l-arginine significantly. (And, yes, you can buy 100% watermelon juice; if your local health-food store doesn't have it, Amazon does.)

There are many other sources of citrulline -- almonds, cantaloupe, chickpeas, cocoa, cucumber, dark chocolate, peanuts, red meat, salmon, soy, and walnuts -- but none come close to delivering the amount in watermelon's pretty pink flesh and crunchy rind. Don't care for pickled watermelon rind? Then scrape out those little close-to-the-rind bits that are so full of citrulline.

Watermelon is easier on your stomach than l-arginine supplements, experts say, because taking the pills can cause nausea and diarrhea. Citrulline has another advantage: It turns into l-arginine in your artery walls, so you get the benefits right where you need them. Some of the l-arginine in supplements may be lost in digestion.

Watermelon alone may not be enough to keep naughty bits behaving perfectly, but keeping blood flowing freely to all the right places can't hurt. Other helpers include staying physically active, getting plenty of sleep, and spending time with friends -- including your significant other.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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