Grapefruits vary in color from white or yellow to pink and red. They can range in taste from acidic and even bitter to sweet and sugary.
These fruits support clear, healthy skin, can help to lower our risk for many diseases and conditions, and may even help with weight loss as part of a healthy and varied diet. The juices, peels, and pulps all provide nutritional benefit.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is written by a registered dietitian and nutritionist, Megan Ware, and forms part of a collection of articles about the health benefits of popular foods.
Contents of this article:
- The grapefruit is a cross between an orange and a pomelo.
- It can provide health benefits for the skin, blood pressure, heart health, and disease prevention.
- Grapefruit contains high levels of vitamin C.
- Store grapefruit in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. Choose grapefruits that have reached their peak ripeness.
Possible health benefits
Grapefruit carries a range of health benefits.
Grapefruits are low in calories but are full of nutrients, and an excellent source of vitamins A and C.
Many studies have suggested that increasing the consumption of plant foods such as grapefruit decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while. It is also said to promote a healthy complexion, increased energy, and lower overall weight.
1) Weight loss
Some people claim that grapefruit is a miracle weight-loss fruit. However, this has been debunked by recent studies.
With this in mind, these studies do show that grapefruit demonstrated improvements in blood pressure and lipid levels.
Blood pressure and lipid levels are connected to obesity, and further studies could demonstrate long-term benefits for weight control and obesity prevention.
According to the American Heart Association, eating higher amounts of flavonoid may lower the risk of ischemic stroke for women. Flavonoids are compounds found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit.
The risk of ischemic stroke was 19 percent lower for those who consumed the highest amounts of citrus than for women who consumed the lowest amounts.
3) Blood pressure and heart health
The powerful nutrient combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, vitamin C, and choline in grapefruit all help to maintain a healthy heart.
In one study, those who consumed 4069 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one grapefruit with a 3-to-3.5-inch diameter contains 139 mg of potassium. Grapefruit is an excellent option for helping to increase the daily intake of potassium.
Increasing potassium intake is also important for lowering blood pressure because of its powerful vasodilation effects. Vasodilation widens the arteries.
The DASH diet, designed to reduce blood pressure through dietary options, includes grapefruit as a recommended food.
Grapefruit is a rich source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C. These can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. Lycopene intake has been linked with a decreased risk of prostate cancer in several studies.
Grapefruit, because of its water and fiber content, helps to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.
Grapefruit consists of 91 percent water. This makes it one of the most hydrating fruits available. Grapefruit is also full of electrolytes and a great snack to have available to prevent dehydration.
Grapefruit has been linked to healthy skin. However, caution is advised for people who spend a lot of time in the sun.
The antioxidant vitamin C can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture when eaten in food or applied to the skin.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of the skin. Regular hydration and vitamin A are also crucial for healthy-looking skin. Grapefruit provides both of these.
However, it is worth noting a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in June 2015. This study suggests the intake of large amounts of citrus fruit juice may place an individual at higher risk of melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
More research is required, but the mechanism associated with this risk is likely due to this fruit being high in compounds believed to make the skin more sensitive to the sun. However, in the conclusion of the study, the authors stated that:
"At this time, we don't advise that people cut back on citrus - but those who consume a lot of grapefruit and/or orange juice should be particularly careful to avoid prolonged sun exposure."
Consume a moderate amount of citrus juice and take care as to how much time is spent is the sun.
8) Asthma prevention
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a cup of pink, red, or white grapefruit sections contains:
- 74 calories
- 0.23 grams (g) of fat
- 0 g of sodium
- 0 g of cholesterol
- 18.58 g of carbohydrate
- 1.45 g of protein
Eating one cup of grapefruit sections every day will provide 132 percent of an individual's vitamin C needs, 43 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 5 percent of calcium requirements, and 3 percent of the recommended magnesium intake.
Grapefruits also contain small amounts of:
- vitamin E
- pantothenic acid
They also provide powerful antioxidant benefits, containing lycopene, beta-carotene, and active plant compounds.
Fresh pink or red grapefruit contains higher quantities of bioactive compounds and has significantly higher antioxidant potential than white or yellow grapefruit. They also contain more vitamin A.
How to eat more grapefruit
Blending your own grapefruit juice can ensure that there are no artificial preservatives.
There are great ways to make sure the right amount of grapefruit is present in a diet.
Pick grapefruits at their peak of ripeness, as they do not ripen or improve in quality after being picked.
Store grapefruits at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Choose a grapefruit that is heavy for its size and has a little softness when squeezed.
While it can sometimes be hard to find high-quality fruits and vegetables in the winter, it is the perfect time to buy citrus. Winter is the peak season for grapefruit, oranges, and other citrus fruits.
Add some grapefruit slices to a salad at lunch or dinner.
Here are some serving suggestions to enrich the diet with grapefruit:
- Make a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, sliced grapefruit, mandarin oranges, and grapes.
- Add some grapefruit slices to your salad at lunch or dinner. Complement the oranges with walnuts or pecans, crumbled cheese, and a light balsamic or citrus vinaigrette dressing.
- Blend your own grapefruit juice to be sure there are no added preservatives or sweeteners.
Have a look at some of these healthy recipes at home to incorporate more grapefruit into your diet:
Potential health risks
Avoid eating grapefruit when taking certain medications as it has an enzyme-binding ability.
This means the medication can pass from the gut into the bloodstream faster than normal. In many cases, these higher levels of medication can be dangerous. Statin drugs, calcium channel blockers, and psychiatric drugs are some of the medications that commonly interact with grapefruit.
People with kidney infections should also be cautious when consuming grapefruit. Too much potassium can be harmful to people whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
Those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation when consuming grapefruit, as it is highly acidic. However, individual reactions vary.
Keep an overall picture of the diet in mind when considering eating new foods to preserve health. It is more healthful to eat a varied diet than to concentrate on individual foods.