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 surrounding 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 is supremely portable and makes a great snack while relieving thirst due to its high water content.

However, if you are taking medications that lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, you should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice. That's because the compounds found in grapefruits may interact with the way your body absorbs those medications, causing the level of medications in your blood to increase dangerously.

Here's why you should start buying more of the tangy citrus fruit and what to know about its numerous health benefits.

01 of 15

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. Adding grapefruit to your meal plan can help you reach your fluid goals. When choosing grapefruits, aim to pick the heaviest ones as they will contain more water.

02 of 15

Grapefruit May Improve Diet Quality

Research has suggested that consuming grapefruit improves diet quality and increases your vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber intake.

Grapefruit delivers a lot of nutrition and water. For example, one-half of a red or pink grapefruit delivers 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 35% of that of vitamin A. It also contains 8% and 5% of your recommended daily values for fiber and potassium, respectively.

So, it's a great choice if you want to boost your intake of high-nutrient foods.

03 of 15

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. That white flesh is called pith. And you might not way to throw it away.

"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 grapefruit pith can have more of a bitter taste than oranges, it's worth eating along with the fruit (if you can stand the taste). Fiber helps improve blood sugar and cholesterol. Also, fiber may possibly even lower colon cancer risk.

04 of 15

Grapefruit Can Help Lower "Bad" Cholesterol

Eating one grapefruit daily may help lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol.

Research has found that overweight adults who eat half of a red grapefruit with each meal (three times a day) may lower their "bad" cholesterol by almost 12 milligrams per decilitre and their total cholesterol by 19 milligrams per decilitre.

That's great news for your heart. "Bad" cholesterol is a type of fat that can build up in your arteries and raise your risk of heart attack and stroke.

However, if you are taking a cholesterol-lowering drug—including Zocor (simvastatin) or Lipitor (atorvastatin)—don't add a grapefruit for extra effect due to interactions with such medications.

05 of 15

Grapefruit May Help Pump Up Your Immune System

That's because of the hefty doses of vitamins A and C, which help your immune system work properly, in each serving.

Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant, which aids in protecting cells from damage.

Although research has found that grapefruit did not help prevent colds, some evidence suggests that it may reduce your suffering or the duration of a cold.

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

06 of 15

Grapefruit Can Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that eating grapefruit every day for six weeks slightly improves 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," explained Dr. Chiasson.

And for the 116 million Americans with hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, any drop in blood pressure is a good drop.

Grapefruit's effect on blood pressure may be due to its decent potassium levels. That's important because potassium helps neutralize 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 (nifedipine), can be dangerous when combined with grapefruit

07 of 15

The Redder, the Better

All the grapefruit colors pack goodness, vitamins, and nutrients. But the red and pink ones come with a little extra.

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

Lycopene is one of a group of carotenoids, or pigments, that gives red and pink grapefruits (as well as other vibrant fruits and vegetables) their colors. Studies have suggested eating diets rich in carotenoids may lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Generally, antioxidants may help prevent cancer by preventing cell damage caused by free radicals, which are harmful substances that increase your risk of developing chronic diseases.

08 of 15

Grapefruit May Help Control Blood Sugar

Raw grapefruit also has a lower glycemic index (GI), which means it does not raise blood sugar as quickly or as much as high-GI foods, like white bagels.

However, your blood sugar reaction to food can vary widely, depending on the composition of your meal—how much you are eating and what you are eating. For example, foods containing carbohydrates like grapefruit with protein and fat can help reduce blood sugar spikes.

If you have type 2 diabetes and are eating grapefruit, you can assess how your body reacts to grapefruit by testing your blood sugar before and two hours after eating it. Discuss your post-meal blood sugar targets with your healthcare professional.

09 of 15

The Fruit Is Better Than the Juice

Grapefruit juice has plenty of benefits. But the fruit itself will supply you with more nutrients than the juice.

"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 daily and choosing juice products that don't have added sugar.

10 of 15

Grapefruit May Speed Wound Healing

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

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

Always ask your healthcare provider before adding vitamins, minerals, or any herbal supplements to your daily regimen, especially if you're about to have surgery. In that case, that also applies to grapefruits, given their ability to affect the metabolism of certain drugs.

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Grapefruit May Even Help Prevent Cancer

Studies have shown a link between people with higher amounts of vitamin C in their diets and a low risk of developing cancer. There is also limited research that citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, may lower the risk of stomach and lung cancer.

Additionally, carotenoids and beta-carotene (both of which are found in pink and red grapefruit) link to a low risk of developing cancer.

12 of 15

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

You can store grapefruits in your fridge for as long as three weeks. But they release their best flavor when kept at room temperature. Leave them on a counter or table if you plan to eat them within one week.

And there's another advantage of keeping them in plain view.

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

If you don't think that you will eat your grapefruit for two or three weeks, tuck it in the fridge. But make sure that its at room temperature before you actually dig in. That will give you maximum flavor.

13 of 15

You Can Make a Meal Out of Grapefruit

People most often associate grapefruit with being a breakfast staple, but don't let that limit your imagination.

Grapefruit is also great 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 satisfied longer.

14 of 15

Grapefruit May Have More Vitamin A Than an Orange

One-half of a grapefruit contains about one-third of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, which is far more than the 4% in oranges, said Delbridge. Vitamin A is good for your eyes, as well as your heart, lungs, and other organs.

In addition to vitamin C and fiber, you also get a bit of calcium (3%) and iron (1%), and you start to understand why grapefruit is so good for us. Why eat only half of a grapefruit when you can eat a whole one?

15 of 15

The Scent Alone Can Give You a Boost

Citrus scents are becoming popular in aromatherapy for a reason.

"Citrus is really amazing for increased energy and vitality," explained Dr. Chiasson. "It will wake people up."

Not all aromatherapy is inhaled. You can also rub a diluted essential oil on your skin, allowing you to feel and inhale it simultaneously. Grapefruit aromatherapy may even act as a natural skin toner, said Dr. Chiasson.

Summary

Be they white, yellow, pink, or deep red, grapefruits have a variety of health benefits that make them not quite like any other fruit. They can help you fend off hunger, lower cholesterol, and boost fiber intake.

But proceed with caution if you are currently taking any cholesterol- or blood pressure-lowering medications. The compounds found in grapefruits may affect the way your body absorbs those medications and cause serious side effects.

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Sources
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