Fruit is known as nature’s candy, the natural sugars provide a sweet flavor, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals.
The only problem is, many varieties of fruit are loaded with sugar, making them less than ideal if you’re trying to stay in ketosis.
But not all fruits are created equal, and some just might fit into your daily carb allotment.
While a mango or kiwi are definite no-no’s on the keto diet, melons are a bit more complex. So let’s dig in.
Melons are a type of fruit that are part of the guard family. They typically grow in warm conditions and are native to central Asia. Although there are over 20 different types of melons, you’re probably only familiar with a select few.
This sweet and flavorful fruit is a staple for fruit salad and tastes delicious wrapped in prosciutto, but do melons fit into the low-carb diet?
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#1 Rich Source of Vitamin C
Melons are a great source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, but they happen to be especially rich in vitamin C. One cup of cantaloupe, for instance, contains nearly 65% of your daily vitamin C needs[*].
Although this water-soluble vitamin can be found abundantly in the food supply, your body can’t produce it on its own, so it’s essential that you get enough in your diet.
One of the ways that vitamin C supports your health is through its role in immunity. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to quench free radicals and calm oxidative stress in your body. Oxidative stress is thought to be at the root of many chronic diseases, so keeping your vitamin C levels high is a crucial preventative measure.
Vitamin C also plays a critical role in skin and joint health as a nutrient needed for the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is the primary protein that makes up the extracellular matrix layer of your skin, which acts as a scaffolding keeping your tight taught and healthy-looking.
Similarly, collagen supports the connective tissue of your joints by producing a strong extracellular matrix.
For these reasons, a deficiency in vitamin C can result in issues like joint pain, poor wound healing, skin hemorrhages, and thickening of skin[*].
#2 Packed With Antioxidants
Vitamin C isn’t the only antioxidant that you’ll find in melons.
In fact, most foods with a golden color contain two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, that are known to support eye health. Cantaloupe, in particular, happens to be a good source of these two free-radical scavenging nutrients[*].
In your eyes, lutein and zeaxanthin act as shields, protecting your macula from blue light. It’s believed that over time UV radiation from blue light can lead to degenerative eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Watermelons, with their bright pink and red hues, are a rich source of the antioxidant compound lycopene[*].
Some research even suggests that lycopene can protect against skin damage caused by UV rays from the sun[*].
#3 Supports Blood Pressure
One of the most effective ways to manage blood pressure is to manage the levels of sodium and potassium in your body. These two minerals work together to control the pressure and volume of your blood, with sodium often being the instigator of high blood pressure.
Melons are a great source of potassium, and the American Heart Association recommends including them as part of a blood pressure-lowering diet[*].
#4 May Support Blood Sugar
One type of melon, known as bitter melon, sets itself apart from the pack due to its bitter taste. For centuries this fruit has been used as a healing plant for a number of ailments, including eczema, jaundice, gout kidney stones, psoriasis, and arthritis[*].
One of the most well-researched benefits of bitter melon, however, is its ability to stabilize blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is implicated in a variety of conditions and can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome[*].
Research shows that bitter melon lowers blood sugar and has potent antioxidant activity, imparting therapeutic effects in diabetes and related metabolic conditions[*].
Now that you’ve got a good grasp on the health benefits of melons let’s take a look at the carb count to determine if melons can fit into a keto diet.
While there are more than 20 different varieties of melons, here are the carb counts of the most well-known varieties.
Each serving size is a one cup serving.
Total Carbs: 14.4 grams
Grams of Fiber: 1.59 grams
Net Carbs: 12.81 grams
Total Carbs: 11.6 grams
Grams of Fiber: 0.61 grams
Net Carbs: 11 grams
#3 Honeydew Melon[*]:
Total Carbs: 12 grams
Grams of Fiber: 1 gram
Net Carbs: 11 grams
#4 Bitter Melon[*]:
Total Carbs: 5.3 grams
Grams of Fiber: 2.4 grams
Net Carbs: 2.9 grams
#5 Cassaba Melon[*]:
Total Carbs: 11.2 grams
Grams of Fiber: 1.53 grams
Net Carbs: 9.6 grams
#6 Winter Melon[*]:
Total Carbs: 5.28 grams
Grams of Fiber: 1.75 grams
Net Carbs: 3.53 grams
The answer to the question of whether melons are keto is not so straight forward.
While most varieties of melons contain 11 to 14 grams of carbs per serving, some are as low as 5 grams. Winter melon actually tastes more like cucumber and is sometimes considered a vegetable, with one serving of winter melon containing only 3.5 net carbs[*].
Bitter melon, which is more commonly used as an extract than eaten as whole fruit, only contains 2.9 grams of net carbs. However, the bitter taste makes this variety of melon a bit less appetizing to many people[*].
The goal of the keto diet is to keep your carbs below 50 grams a day, in general. While you could certainly enjoy some melon on the keto diet, you want to be sure to do so in moderation as to not go above your carb limit. If you’re going to try to include melons in your diet, make sure to do so strategically, either around workouts or in pre-portioned quantities.
Melons can work easily into a smoothie or try them wrapped in prosciutto for a savory and refreshing appetizer.
Targeted Keto Diet (TKD)
In a TKD, you increase your carb intake around workouts to help fuel your exercise. This can help enhance your performance by filling up your glycogen stores. This way, you have more readily available fuel to energize your training sessions.
Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)
In the CKD, much like the TKD, you fuel your workout by enhancing carb intake. However, in CKD, instead of just eating carbs around workouts, you make one to two days a week “high carb” days. The purpose of this way of eating is to utilize your anabolic hormones like insulin to increase muscle growth and restore muscle glycogen.
Other keto-friendly fruits you can enjoy in moderation on the ketogenic diet include blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries.
The best way to incorporate any fruit into your diet, however, is in combination with high-fat foods. Think about combining healthy fats like coconut butter, almond butter, or any other variety of nuts and seeds with your fruit.
In general, there aren’t many keto fruits out there. While avocados, lemons, and limes can be enjoyed relatively freely on the keto diet, other fruit options like citrus fruits and melons typically need to be eaten in moderation.
With the high water content of many melons, you can certainly sneak them in here and there, but they shouldn’t be a staple due to their sugar content.
Read Next: Can You Eat Fruit On A Keto Diet?