• Debbie Safra, MS, RDN, LD/N

A Yellow Watermelon?

Much to my surprise this 4th of July instead of cutting open into a ripe red watermelon, we got a yellow one. Back up a few days, my family ordered groceries online that included a watermelon for the 4th. What's the 4th of July without a watermelon, right? When our order arrived, I noticed the sticker on the melon said, "yellow watermelon" Wait, what? At first, I thought WTH? Then we debated whether the label was a mistake and if it was really red inside. I wanted to take bets, but good thing I didn't because I would have lost.

When I cut open the watermelon, you guessed it; the melon was yellow. Hmmm, I never had a yellow watermelon before. I wondered what did it taste like? Would the texture be the same? Would it have the same sweetness and juiciness? When I tried it, it did have the same feel, juiciness, but it did taste a little less sweet, at least to me. The researcher/dietitian in me decided to find if there is any nutrient difference between a red and yellow watermelon. So, here's what I discovered.

Carotenoids are responsible for the different colors in fruit and vegetables. In a red watermelon, the red-fleshed fruit contains a majority pigment called lycopene, and a secondary pigment known as carotene. The carotenoids in a yellow-fleshed watermelon are known as neoxanthin.1 This carotenoid is also a constituent of Lucerne, Valencia orange, paprika. It has shown to have an apoptotic and anti-proliferative function.2

There are little nutrient differences in red and yellow watermelons, both species contain about 45 calories in 1-cup, and vitamins A, Bs, C. The red watermelon in past studies is linked to prostate and heart health due to its high concentration of lycopene.3 The less common species, the yellow watermelon, lacks lycopene but makes up the difference with a high mineral count, containing iron, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.

A few historical facts about watermelon: they were found about 5000 years ago in South Africa and later made their way to America brought over by European colonists. The first watermelon was grown in the 16th century in Florida and then in the 17th century, farming in Peru, Brazil, Massachusetts, Panama, and other British/ Dutch colonies.3

No matter what color your watermelon may be, enjoy this healthy, hydrating, and sweet fruit alone or paired in your favorite dish.


1. Zhao, W., Lv, P. and Gu, H. (2013) Studies on carotenoids in watermelon flesh. Agricultural Sciences, 4, 13-20. doi: 10.4236/as.2013.47A003.

2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Neoxanthin, CID=5281247, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Neoxanthin (accessed on July 5, 2020)

3. History of Watermelon. Vegetable Facts Website. http://www.vegetablefacts.net/vegetable-history/history-of-watermelon/. Accessed July 5, 2020.