What Makes The Watermelon Diet Such A Bad Idea

Season 2 of Netflix's "Cheer" docuseries dropped earlier this year. Even if you're not interested in competitive cheerleading, you may have heard about a diet trend that seems to have gained popularity, in part, because of the show: the watermelon diet. "Cheer" star Gabi Butler explained how the diet works to Extra. "It actually is very good for you and like removing all that toxic stuff," she said. "What watermelon does is it basically clears everything because it is mostly water." To clarify, the watermelon diet is a literal diet of watermelons and nothing else. 

What do health professionals think of the trend? In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert, RDN, was not on board with a diet consisting purely of watermelon. "While watermelon is a great addition to a whole food, plant based diet, it is unsuitable as the sole source of daily calories and nutrients," she said. Talking with Cosmopolitan, nutritionist Signe Svanfeldt, who works with the nutrition-tracking app Lifesum, emphasized that no single food can give you a balanced diet. Moreover, she said, our bodies already "cleanse" themselves thanks to our kidneys and livers, so a watermelon diet isn't necessary for toxin-flushing.

'The risks far outweigh the benefits'

Bachtell-Shelbert didn't leave the watermelon diet verdict at a simple "Don't." After acknowledging that the fruit is indeed hydrating and rich in vitamins A and C, minerals, and antioxidants, she gave a full rundown about why it still cannot form the entirety of one's nutritional intake. "Watermelon is deficient in protein and fat, low in fiber, and deprives the body of essential vitamins and minerals," she listed. "This can put you at risk for long-term health consequences, namely muscle loss, altered gut microbiome and gastrointestinal health, brain fog, and unstable blood sugar." 

Even if you've seen other public figures, besides the cast of "Cheer," touting the watermelon diet, know that professionals advise against it. Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and a member of Eat This, Not That's medical expert board, clarified that watermelon by itself would not be sufficient fuel for anyone, athlete or not.