Grapefruits can be white, yellow, pink or red in color with a taste ranging from sour to sweet — most often a refreshing mix of the two. Whatever color you choose, the calories in grapefruit are low, but the flavor and nutrients are high. Just a half a grapefruit each day can ensure the average adult is meeting at least half of typical vitamin C requirements, one of the reasons grapefruit benefits many areas of health.
Grapefruit also contains health-promoting phytochemicals like lycopene and beta-carotene (in the pink and red varieties) as well as limonoids like limonin and flavonoids like naringenin. Not surprisingly, it makes the American Institute for Cancer Research’s list of “Foods that Fight Cancer.” (1)
Plus, multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, reveal that grapefruit is an extremely smart choice if you’re trying to lose weight with just half a grapefruit per day making a significant impact on weight loss efforts. (2)
Grapefruit has many health benefits, uses and forms. Along with consuming the entire fruit, grapefruit juice, grapefruit essential oil and grapefruit seed extract can all be used to benefit your health. In this article, we will focus on grapefruit as a whole citrus fruit and the grapefruit benefits you can obtain by consuming the fruit.
Grapefruit is an edible fruit that come from the grapefruit tree (Citrus paradisi), a citrus tree of the Rutaceae family. According to Harvard Medical School, grapefruit has a glycemic index of 25, making it one of the lowest glycemic fruit options. (11)
In addition to being a low-calorie food that’s also relatively low on the glycemic index, grapefruit is loaded with nutrients. Grapefruit nutrition does vary slightly depending on the color of the fruit. The pink or red color of a grapefruit equates to it having beneficial beta-carotene and lycopene.
To give you an idea of just some of the top nutrients in grapefruit, a half (123 grams) of a pink or red grapefruit contains about the following: (12)
- 51.7 calories
- 13.1 grams carbohydrates
- 0.9 gram protein
- 0.2 gram fat
- 2 grams fiber
- 38.4 milligrams vitamin C (64 percent)
- 1,415 international units vitamin A (28 percent)
- 166 milligrams potassium (5 percent)
- 16 micrograms folate (4 percent)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (4 percent)
- 27.1 milligrams calcium (3 percent)
- 0.3 milligram pantothenic acid (3 percent)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (3 percent)
- 11.1 milligrams magnesium (3 percent)
As you can see, this is a definitely a nutrient-dense superfood, especially rich in vitamin C. There are roughly only 100 calories in a grapefruit, and it provides more than 100 percent of daily vitamin C requirements.
The benefits of grapefruit are numerous. Here are the top six major grapefruit benefits:
1. Weight Loss
Research continues to reveal that consuming grapefruit benefits weight loss in a a major way. The key may be an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which appears to get activated by an organic compound in grapefruit called nootkatone. When AMPK gets activated, it encourages the body’s energy-producing processes, like glucose uptake, for example, which helps boost metabolism. That, in turn, can encourage weight loss. AMPK is generally activated during exercise to help muscles use stored sugar and fat for energy.
An animal study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism demonstrated how long-term intake of nootkatone “significantly reduced high-fat and high-sucrose diet-induced body weight gain, abdominal fat accumulation, and the development of hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia.” The study concluded that not only can grapefruit’s nootkatone likely help to prevent obesity, but it can also improve overall physical performance. (3)
Animal studies have also shown that grapefruit juice beats out anti-obesity drugs when it comes to weight loss. Specifically, one study compared grapefruit juice to sibutramine, which is no longer available due to concerns about it increasing heart attack and stroke risk. Not only was grapefruit juice more effective for weight loss than the sibutramine, but it also didn’t negatively affect neurotransmitters the way sibutramine did. (4)
If the animal studies aren’t convincing enough, there have also been human studies involving grapefruit benefits when it comes to weight loss. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food looked at the impact of grapefruit and grapefruit products on body weight and metabolic syndrome in 91 obese patients. Grapefruit capsules and grapefruit juice resulted in more weight loss than the placebo groups, but fresh grapefruit was definitely the star. The consumption of half of a fresh grapefruit before meals was associated with significant weight loss along with improved insulin resistance. (5)
(Grapefruit also makes a prominent appearance in the so-called Military Diet.)
2. Cellulite Reduction
Another one of the many desirable grapefruit benefits is its apparent ability to help discourage cellulite. According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the primary way grapefruit can be used to reduce cellulite is through inhaling the vapor of the extract because it stimulates the nervous system by 250 percent. This grapefruit aromatherapy combined with a topical cream that contains caffeine has can reportedly have a slimming effect. (6)
Grapefruit also contains significant levels of anti-inflammatory and skin-cleansing agents, including the enzyme bromelain, which is known to help break down cellulite. So if you’re wondering how to get rid of cellulite, grapefruit just may do the trick.
3. Cancer Fighter
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, cell and animal studies have shown that grapefruit’s phytochemicals naringenin and limonin have shown an ability to reduce the growth of of colon, mouth, skin, lung, breast and stomach cancers.
The studies also showed that not only did proliferation slow down, but the highly desirable self-destruction of the cancer cells increased. It’s believed that these grapefruit compounds work in a two-pronged approach: “They decrease inflammation and increase enzymes that deactivate carcinogens.” (7)
Grapefruit’s super start antioxidant, vitamin C, has also been shown to prevent harmful changes to DNA caused by free radicals while also preventing carcinogen development. All this makes grapefruit one of the more effective cancer-fighting foods out there.
4. Immunity Booster
With its standing among the top vitamin C foods, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree that eating grapefruit is a healthy way to start your day. The red and pink varieties are especially packed with bioflavonoids and provide you with an extra immunity boost.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that all of our immune system’s cells function at their peak when they get enough vitamin C on a steady basis. When these disease-fighting cells get the vitamin C they need from dietary sources like grapefruit, these vital cells are better able to identify and successfully wipe out any invading organisms (like the ones that cause illness). Many experts agree that not getting enough vitamin C can make the human body that much more likely to contract sickness and infections. (8)
5. Stroke Risk Reducer
According to a 2012 study by the American Heart Association, eating grapefruits and oranges appears to be useful in lowering the risk of a stroke, especially if you’re a woman. Citrus fruits, like grapefruit, are very high in a group of compounds called flavonoids, and this research shows that higher consumption of flavonoids may decrease the risk of an ischemic stroke.
The study had just under 70,000 female subjects and found that women who consumed high amounts of flavonoids in citrus fruits like grapefruit had a 19 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least amount. In addition, a prior study had concluded that citrus fruit intake, but not intake of other fruits, improved the risk of ischemic stroke and intracerebral hemorrhage. (9)
6. Skin Health and Appearance Enhancer
If you haven’t noticed, there are a variety of cosmetic and skin-cleansing products on the market these days that have grapefruit as a star ingredient. Grapefruit contains natural acids that cleanse the skin when used in skincare products. Grapefruit is loaded with vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant to protect the skin and also is essential to the formation of collagen, a major building block of our skin. Collagen production is key when it comes to keeping skin looking youthful and wrinkle-free.
Pink grapefruit is also rich in beta-carotene, which is amazing at slowing the aging of skin cells and has been known to also improve hyperpigmentation. Skincare experts also love how pink grapefruit contains lycopene, which is known to guard against sun-induced skin damage and mutation as well as inflammation in general.
Last but not least, grapefruit naturally contains a breakout-fighting and pore-cleansing ingredient you’ve probably heard of before: salicylic acid, making grapefruit a potential home remedy for acne. (10)
Overall, internal and external use of grapefruit is really a double punch when it comes to your skin’s health and appearance.
How to Choose
If you’re interested in getting in on the benefits of grapefruit, you can find them at a grocery store near you any time of year. In the United States, grapefruits are typically in season in states like Florida and Texas from November through June. The peak of the season typically starts around late December and goes into April.
You can opt for organic grapefruit if you prefer, but grapefruits are not a part of the “dirty dozen.” They actually make the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean Fifteen” list. (13) What does that mean for you as a shopper? It means that you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t buy organic when it comes to grapefruits because they’re one of the produce items least likely to be contaminated by pesticides. Of course, organic is best.
Grapefruit slices or a half of grapefruit are delicious themselves. If you happen to get a grapefruit that’s especially tart (the white ones tend to be tarter than pink or red grapefruits), you can always drizzle a little bit of raw honey on it.
How to eat a grapefruit:
- First, cut your grapefruit in half.
- Next, use a knife (ideally, a serrated knife) to cut all the way around the grapefruit’s perimeter (where the pulp and the rind meet).
- Now slice on either side of each segment so it’s readily able to be scooped.
- Place the grapefruit in a bowl and use a spoon to eat the segments.
Looking for other ways to obtain grapefruit benefits? You can also throw grapefruit into salads (fruit-based or savory green salads) as well as smoothies, fresh juices, and even meat and fish dishes that could use a burst of fresh, citrusy flavor. You can also add fresh grapefruit juice to homemade salad dressings and marinades.
Want to experience the many benefits of grapefruit today? Try some of these tasty recipes that include fresh grapefruit:
If you’re struggling with cellulite, you also may want to try my Grapefruit Cellulite Cream.
Grapefruit Interesting Facts
Grapefruit, the “citrus of paradise,” first came about in the 18th century. The name “grapefruit” is said to come from the grape-like cluster growth pattern. History credits Captain Shaddock for first cultivating seeds from the orange and pomelo that ultimately led to the naturally occurring crossbreed that we now enjoy. Early in the 19th century, some Florida farmers brought grapefruit to America, and later that century it became a popular commercial crop. (14)
Today, the major producers of grapefruit in the U.S. are Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Other countries like Brazil, Israel and South Africa are also large grapefruit producers. Some popular varieties of Florida and Texas grapefruit include names like “Ruby Red,” “Flame,” “Thompson,” “White Marsh,” “Star Ruby” and “Duncan,” among others.
Grapefruit seed extract is made by mixing grapefruit seeds and pulp into a highly acidic liquid, which is typically combined with vegetable glycerin to reduce the bitterness and acidity. This extract is taken for all kinds of health issues, including candida, fungal infections, urinary tract infections and more. The main biological compounds in a grapefruit seed that are believed to be responsible for its ability to destroy infectious invaders are the polyphenols known as limonoids and naringenin. (15)
You can also get the grapefruit benefits of grapefruit seed extract by eating the seeds, pulp and white membranes of a grapefruit. The benefits of grapefruit juice are increased when it’s produced fresh and includes the seeds and membranes.
Risks and Drug Interactions
If you currently take any medications, it’s very important to check out the known grapefruit interactions with medications. There are many drugs that you absolutely cannot combine with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. In addition to doing your own research to verify that it’s safe for you to consume grapefruit, I also recommend checking with your doctor.
Why can grapefruit negatively or even dangerously react with some medications? You can thank its furanocoumarins, which are organic chemical compounds that block CYP3A4 enzymes in the human body. The problem is that these enzymes are required for the breakdown and elimination of over 50 percent of all drugs. Unfortunately, spacing out grapefruit consumption from interactive medications doesn’t seem to work either since CY enzymes can stay blocked after consuming grapefruit in any form for over 24 hours. (16)
Some studies indicated that people with cancer or a risk for cancer, especially women with hormonally sensitive cancers like breast cancer, should avoid excessive consumption of grapefruits and grapefruit juice. (17)
Another interaction to be mindful of is grapefruit and caffeine. Grapefruit may slow the body’s elimination of caffeine and, therefore, could lead to a higher likelihood of caffeine overdose effects like jitteriness and headaches.
Obviously, the cleansing prowess and many other grapefruit benefits have reached the mainstream, and rightfully so. The anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and skin-brightening properties of grapefruit make it a superstar fruit that’s low in calories and sugar but high in vital nutrients and health-promoting benefits. Plus, a half of grapefruit a day just may keep the fat (and serious diseases) away!
This fat-burning food truly is a versatile fruit that can be utilized in many ways. No matter how you choose to consume it, grapefruit benefits the body in so many ways.