Bred from oranges, grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a flavor profile ranging from bittersweet to sour. It contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals. People can consume the fruit whole or as a juice or pulp.
The grapefruit first appeared in the 18th century, as a result of crossing a pomelo and an orange. People called it “grapefruit” because it grows in clusters, similar to grapes. The nutrients grapefruit contains may help promote healthy skin and protect against various conditions. They may also play a role in weight maintenance.
Following are some of the possible health benefits of grapefruit.
Grapefruit is low on the glycemic index. This means that it provides nutrients but does not have a significant negative impact on a person’s blood sugar levels.
One study from 2013 describes grapefruit as “significantly associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.” The authors also note that grapefruit contains naringin. They go on to say that naringin appears to have similar properties to an inhibitor that doctors use to improve glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes.
Some people claim that grapefruit is a miracle weight loss fruit. In one study, researchers found no evidence to suggest that it can help people lose weight.
However, they did conclude that grapefruit may help improve blood pressure and lipid (fat) levels in the blood. There is a link between high blood pressure, lipid levels, and obesity. Further studies could prove that the nutrients in grapefruit have long term benefits for weight control and obesity prevention.
According to an American Heart Association (AHA) study, eating more flavonoids may lower the risk of ischemic stroke among women. Flavonoids are compounds present in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit.
The risk of ischemic stroke was 19% lower among those who consumed the highest amounts of citrus fruits.
Blood pressure and heart health
The combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, vitamin C, and choline in grapefruit could all contribute to heart health. The AHA encourage people to increase their dietary intake of potassium and reduce the amount of salt they add to foods. This can help prevent high blood pressure and a range of complications that can result from it.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one small grapefruit measuring 3.5 inches across and weighing around 200 grams (g) contains 278 milligrams (mg) of potassium. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume around 4,700 mg of potassium each day. This means that one small grapefruit can provide around 6% of a person’s daily need for potassium.
The DASH diet, which health professionals designed to reduce blood pressure through dietary options, includes grapefruit as a recommended food.
Learn more about the DASH diet here.
A small grapefruit can provide 68.8 mg of vitamin C. The recommended adult intake of vitamin C is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg for men. A small grapefruit also contains 2,270 micrograms (mcg) of lycopene, which is another antioxidant.
One 2016 population study looked at data for nearly 50,000 men. Its authors conclude that there is a link between a high consumption of tomato sauce, which contains lycopene, and a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Grapefruit contains water and fiber. Specifically, a small fruit weighing 200 g contains 182 g of water and 2.2 g of fiber. Both water and fiber can help prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of the skin.
The authors of a 2017 study conclude that vitamin C could help protect against sun damage and aging. They also note a link between a person’s levels of vitamin C and their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, some scientists have found evidence to suggest a link between a very high citrus intake and the development of malignant melanoma. They looked at how much citrus juice people consumed each week over a period of 24–26 years, and they found a higher incidence of malignant melanoma among people who consumed more citrus juice.
The study authors recommend further investigation.
Vitamin C helps support the immune system in a number of ways. For example, a dietary intake of vitamin C may help prevent and treat respiratory and other infections, according to an article from 2017.
In particular, older adults, people with chronic conditions, and those who smoke should ensure that they have an adequate intake of vitamin C. Grapefruit may be a good option.
Here are some tips for buying and storing grapefruit:
- Buy grapefruit in the winter, as citrus fruits ripen at this time, and they are more likely to be fresh.
- Choose a fruit that is heavy for its size and has a little softness when squeezed.
- Harvest or buy grapefruits that are ripe, as they do not ripen after picking.
- Store grapefruit at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
- There are various ways to add grapefruit to the diet. To incorporate it in the diet:
- Add some grapefruit slices to a salad at lunch or dinner and sprinkle with walnuts or pecans, crumbled cheese, and a light balsamic vinegar.
- Serve half a grapefruit at breakfast or as a starter.
- Squeeze grapefruit juice for a refreshing drink. If the fruit is sour, combine it with orange juice.
- Add grapefruit to a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and grapes.
Here are some other healthful recipes ideas:
Grapefruit is not suitable for everyone to consume. Learn about the risks and considerations of grapefruit consumption below.
- Drug interactions
People should avoid consuming grapefruit when taking certain medications, as it has an enzyme-binding ability. This can cause the medication to pass from the gut into the bloodstream faster than usual. This can raise the levels of medication in the blood, and it could be dangerous. Some medications that grapefruit can affect include:
Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
calcium channel blockers (blood pressure medication)
some psychiatric drugs
- Kidney conditions
People with kidney infections should also be cautious when consuming grapefruit, due to the high levels of potassium it contains. Damage to the kidneys can make it difficult to remove excess potassium from the blood. In some cases, a buildup of potassium can be life-threatening.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
People with gastroesophageal reflux disease may experience a worsening of heartburn and regurgitation when consuming grapefruit, as it is highly acidic. However, individual reactions vary.