Discover the Health Benefits of Winter Citrus: Grapefruit
Of course, attractive color and culinary versatility aren’t the only good reasons to dig in. Grapefruits have plenty to offer for your health as well. Here are seven reasons to reach for a grapefruit spoon.
1. Grapefruit Is Hydrating
The honor of most hydrating fruit may go to watermelon, but grapefruit isn’t far behind. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), pink and red Florida varieties contain 91.6 percent water.
While it’s always smart to drink your water, eating a portion of your daily hydration is a good idea, too. “Getting water from foods and drinks can help to ensure you are getting enough hydration,” says Kimberley Wiemann, RDN, who practices in Long Island, New York. “Sometimes people get bored with just focusing on water. Consuming foods that are naturally high in water can help meet hydration goals.” Healthy hydration comes with benefits like preventing constipation, improving cognitive function, promoting weight loss, and more, as research suggests.
2. Grapefruit Could Improve Immune Function
Grapefruit season happens to coincide with flu season — and thank goodness! Loading up on the fruit could be a good move while contagious bugs are going around. Grapefruit’s immune potential has partly to do with its plant-based fiber. “The pectin fiber in grapefruit may be a surprising immune system helper by helping to keep the gut lining tight, blocking inflammatory signals, and producing immune-supportive metabolites,” says Moon (and research supports this view).
Then, of course, there’s all that vitamin C (85 milligrams [mg] per 1 cup of segments, per the USDA). “The vitamin C in grapefruit alone is enough to earn its credibility as an immune system supporter,” Moon says. “A robust body of science has established that vitamin C can reduce the length and severity of colds, according to a review of 29 studies that included more than 11,000 adults and children.”
That said, Moon notes one caveat. “The catch is that you have to get your vitamin C in before a cold starts for the best benefits. That is, vitamin C primes the immune system to work better.” In other words, put grapefruit on your plate even before you feel a tickle in your throat.
3. Grapefruit May Support Weight Loss
You don’t have to go on a grapefruit diet to incorporate this food into a weight-loss friendly meal plan. (In fact, registered dietitian nutritionists strongly recommend against any eating plan that features just one food.) At 37 calories per half, grapefruit won’t contribute much to your daily calorie total. Its 2 grams (g) of fiber per half also provides satiety, helping you feel full between meals, Wiemann says. Fortunately, grapefruit fits into many eating plans that may be associated with weight loss, such as the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, the Atkins diet, or the paleo diet.
Some scientific research has examined the direct effects of grapefruit on weight loss. A previous study found that people who ate half a grapefruit with each meal for six weeks experienced modest weight loss and a significant reduction in waist circumference.
4. Grapefruit Could Help Reduce Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance happens when your cells don’t respond well to insulin, preventing them from receiving much-needed glucose from your blood. When this happens, the body produces increasing amounts of insulin, which can coincide with the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Grapefruit could help lower your resistance to insulin. In an older study, 91 adults with obesity consumed either a placebo, apple juice, grapefruit juice, or half a fresh grapefruit three times a day for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, those in the grapefruit group had significant improvements in insulin resistance.
Although scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind this change, Wiemann says it could have to do with grapefruit’s fiber content. “Fiber can help to slow the absorption of food in the digestive system, which can help to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels,” she notes.
5. Grapefruit Supports Healthy Skin
Skin-plumping collagen is all the rage these days, famously found in foods like bone broth and sardines. But other foods — like grapefruit — can play a supporting role in the production of collagen. Though grapefruit doesn’t contain collagen itself, it does boast high levels of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is known as a precursor to collagen. “Vitamin C is a helper molecule in the collagen production process,” Moon explains. “It helps convert certain amino acids into forms that make collagen stable and strong. It also encourages skin cells to produce more collagen.” When the skin produces more collagen, it helps create the filled-out, healthy appearance that’s so desirable.
Vitamin C might boost skin health in other ways, too. Research has found that normal, healthy skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C, and that the vitamin’s antioxidant activity makes it an excellent candidate for protecting skin against UV damage.
6. Grapefruit Could Help Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
Research on grapefruit’s effects on cancer isn’t yet conclusive, but some studies suggest it could have benefits for cancer of the prostate. Test tube research, for example, found that furanocoumarin bergamottin, a compound in grapefruit juice, inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. Pink and red grapefruits also contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked with reduced prostate cancer risk, according to other research.
Whether grapefruit can target prostate cancer cells specifically is unknown, but one thing’s for certain: Diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce cancer risk in general, per the American Cancer Society.
7. Grapefruit May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Vitamin C isn’t the only micronutrient grapefruit has in abundance. It also shines for its potassium content. One cup of segments contains 292 mg, making it a good source of the nutrient. This mineral can help manage blood pressure levels, Wiemann says. According to the American Heart Association, potassium lessens the harmful effects of sodium on the cardiovascular system and eases tension in the walls of blood vessels.
In fact, one aforementioned study that showed grapefruit’s potential for boosting weight loss had another intriguing finding regarding blood pressure. People in the grapefruit-eating group had significant improvements in systolic blood pressure compared with a control group. Similarly, a study found that middle-aged women who drank grapefruit juice daily for six months had reduced arterial stiffness, which is associated with high blood pressure.
If you’re on medication for high blood pressure, know some medications for hypertension shouldn’t mix with grapefruit or its juice. Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you sink your teeth into this fruit.