15 Health Benefits of Grapefruit, According to Nutritionists

White, yellow, pink, or red, grapefruits have a variety of health benefits that make them not quite like any other fruit.


Grapefruit can seem like an acquired taste. Their bulbous size, bitter pith (the white stuff that surrounds the fruit), and tart taste can be off-putting to those who are more accustomed to their sweeter citrus cousins.

But it might do your health some good if you consider adding this superfood to your regular rotation of healthy foods. It's among the 19 best foods to eat for breakfast. And you don't have to limit your intake to the early morning hours: Grapefruit are supremely portable and make a great snack while also relieving thirst due to its high water content.

Here, experts weigh in on why you should start buying more of the tangy citrus fruit, due to its health benefits.

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Grapefruit Contains a Lot of Water

At about 92% water, grapefruit has one of the highest water contents of any fruit. That makes it good for overall health.

"All of our body systems and process . . . require water," Wesley Delbridge, RD, a Phoenix-based dietitian, told Health. "Proper hydration makes your body more efficient in everything you're doing."

About 20% of your daily fluid intake actually comes from food, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So add some grapefruit to get closer to your daily H2O goal and choose the heavier of two fruits of equal size: It has more juice.

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Grapefruit May Improve Diet Quality

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A 2014 study published in Food and Nutrition Research found that consumption of grapefruit was associated with improved diet quality and higher intakes of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber.

Grapefruit delivers a lot of nutrition and water. For example, one half of a red or pink grapefruit delivers 100% daily value (DV) of vitamin C and 35% DV of vitamin A. It also contains 8% daily value for fiber and 5% for potassium, per Food and Nutrition Research. So it's a great choice if you want to boost your intake of high-nutrient foods.

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Even the Pith Is Good for You

When you peel away the outer layer of a grapefruit, you may be tempted to pick off the white flesh that is between you and the juicy fruit, and throw it away. This stuff is called pith. Don't do it.

"That [pith] is very rich in antioxidants and nutrients and also soluble fiber which is going to help you feel fuller and impact your glucose reactions," said Delbridge.

While the pith of grapefruit can have more of a bitter taste than say, oranges, it's worth eating along with the fruit (if you can). Fiber is a good thing. It can help improve blood sugar and cholesterol, and may possibly even lower colon cancer risk, according to a 2020 review examining the health benefits of dietary fiber in the journal Nutrients.

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Grapefruit Can Help Lower "Bad" Cholesterol

A grapefruit a day may help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, according to a 2012 study in the journal Metabolism.

In the study, overweight adults ate half a red grapefuit with each meal (three times a day) for six weeks, while others, the control group, did not. Grapefruit eaters had a drop of almost 12 mg/dL for LDL and a drop of almost 19 mg/dL for total cholesterol.

This is great news for your heart. LDL cholesterol is a type of fat that can build up in your arteries and raise the risk for heart attack and stroke. But if you are taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, don't add a grapefruit for extra effect—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in 2012 about interactions with such medications.

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Grapefruit May Help Pump Up Your Immune System

That's because of the hefty dose of vitamins A and C in each serving.

Vitamins A and C each help your immune system work properly, and vitamin C is also an important antioxidant, which aids in protecting cells from damage, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Although a meta-analysis published in 2013 in Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews found that grapefruit did not help prevent colds, there was some evidence to suggest that it may reduce your suffering or possibly the duration of a cold.

"There's nothing else you can do for a cold so why not?" said Ann Marie Chiasson, MD, assistant director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.

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Grapefruit Can Lower Blood Pressure

The 2012 study in Metabolism found that eating grapefruit every day for six weeks was associated with slight improvements in systolic blood pressure.

"Grapefruit has got some data that it decreases systolic blood pressure, not by a lot—it's usually about five points—but there's definitely good data," said Chiasson. And for the 116 million Americans who have hypertension, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any drop in blood pressure is a good drop.

The effect on blood pressure may be due to grapefruit's decent potassium levels. Potassium neutralizes the negative effects of sodium.

But again, don't eat grapefruit if you are already taking a blood-pressure lowering drug. Certain ones, such as Procardia XL and Adalat CC (both are from the generic nifedipine), can be dangerous when combined with grapefruit, according to the FDA.

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The Redder, the Better

All the grapefruit colors are packed with goodness, vitamins, and nutrients but the red and pink ones come with a little extra.

"They have a higher antioxidant level, specifically beta-carotene," says Delbridge. "They also have lycopene, another antioxidant."

Lycopene is one of a group of carotenoids or pigments that gives hued grapefruit (and other fruits and vegetables) their color. Eating diets rich in carotenoids may lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers, according to a 2020 review in the journal Antioxidants (Basel).

Antioxidants in general may play a key role in preventing cancer.

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Grapefruit May Help Control Blood Sugar

Grapefruit also has a low glycemic index (GI) of around 25, according to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, which means it doesn't raise blood sugar as quickly or as much as high-GI foods like white bagel (72) or even a banana (62) or watermelon (72). (The highest GI score is more than 100.)

However, blood-sugar reactions to food can vary widely, so if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, test your blood sugar after eating grapefruit to make sure it can be part of your healthy eating plan.

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The Fruit Is Better Than the Juice

Grapefruit juice has plenty of benefits, but the traditional fruit itself is going to give you more nutrition and health benefits.

"When you take juice, you're getting some of the nutrients but you're losing all the fiber," said Delbridge. "Grapefruit juice is great but at the end of the day, the entire fruit has pectin and rind and all the parts of it."

Grapefruit juice can also spike your blood sugar more than the fruit itself. If you opt for juice of any kind, Delbridge recommended not drinking more than six ounces a day and going only for 100% juice products that don't have added sugar.

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Grapefruit May Speed Wound Healing

Vitamin C helps make collagen, a protein that's needed to help wounds heal, according to the NIH.

"Vitamin C speeds up wound healing post surgically," said Chiasson. "I tell people to take 500 milligrams of vitamin C before they go into surgery."

Always ask your doctor before adding vitamins, minerals, or any herbal supplements to your daily regimen, especially if you're about to have surgery. In this case, that goes for grapefruit too, given its ability to affect the metabolism of certain drugs.

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Grapefruit May Even Help Prevent Cancer

Population studies show a link between people with higher amounts of vitamin C in their diets and a lower overall risk of cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). There is also limited research that citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, may lower the risk of stomach cancer and lung cancer, per the AICR. Although, more research is needed.

In addition, carotenoids and beta-carotene (found in pink and red grapefruit) are linked with lower risk of overall cancer, per the AICR.

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They Can Be Stored in Your Fridge, or on the Shelf

Grapefruit can be stored in your fridge for as long as three weeks but they release their best flavor when kept at room temperature. If you plan to eat them within a week, leave them on a counter or table.

There's an added advantage to keeping them in plain view.

"The increased visibility helps you remind yourself that you need to eat them," said Delbridge.

A 2012 study published in the journal Environment and Behavior found that when fruit was placed in an open bowl on a kitchen table, people ate more.

If you don't think you will eat the grapefruit for two or three weeks, tuck them in the fridge but make sure they're at room temperature before you actually dig in. This will give you maximum flavor.

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You Can Make a Meal Out of Grapefruit

Grapefruit is most often associated with breakfast, but don't let that limit your imagination.

Grapefruit is also super in salads and with fish or chicken. It's actually best when paired with protein and a little fat, like a handful of walnuts.

"If it's paired with proteins and fats, it will delay your gastric emptying so you'll feel full longer," said Delbridge. The fiber, too, may keep you feeling fuller longer.

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Grapefruit May Have More Vitamin A Than an Orange

One-half of a grapefruit contains about one-third of your daily value of vitamin A, or far more than the 4% in oranges, said Delbridge. This first vitamin in the alphabet is good for your eyes, not to mention your heart, lungs, and other organs, according to the NIH.

In addition to vitamin C and fiber, you also get a bit of calcium (3%) and iron (1%), and you start to understand why it's called a superfood. Why eat a half a grapefruit when you can eat a whole one?

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The Scent Alone Can Give You a Boost

Citrus scents are becoming more popular in aromatherapy for a reason. "Citrus is really amazing for increased energy and vitality," said Chiasson. "It will wake people up."

Not all aromatherapy is inhaled. You can also rub a diluted essential oil on your skin, which allows you to feel it and inhale it at the same time. Grapefruit aromatherapy may even act as a natural skin toner, said Chiasson.

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