​The remarkable health benefits of grapefruit

Not only does it taste delicious, this popular citrus fruit has a number of stellar health benefits.

Is there anyone who doesn’t like the refreshing flavour of grapefruit at breakfast?

Now enjoyed all over the world, grapefruit appears to be the result of a happy accident that took place in Barbados during the early 1800s when a sweet orange was accidentally crossed with a pomelo. The resulting grapefruit became a staple of West Indian (Caribbean) cuisine before its introduction to the rest of the world in the early 1800s. Both the sweet orange and pomelo originated in Asia.[Text Wrapping Break]

Although grapefruit is primarily enjoyed for its culinary values, the fruit is rightfully recognized as being rich with healthy phytochemicals. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of grapefruit, and how you may benefit from including this low-calorie fruit in your diet.

What are the health benefits? 

1. Grapefruit is low in calories. If you’re wondering how many calories are in a grapefruit, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Although many fruits have high levels of sugar, and associated calories, a medium size grapefruit of 4” diameter contains roughly 85 calories and 8.5 grams of sugar. Calories in grapefruit segments with juice total 75 per 8 oz cup, and calories in grapefruit juice total 98 per 8 oz cup.

2. Grapefruit is high in fibre and phytochemicals. The long list of grapefruit health benefits includes the presence of 4 gm of soluble fibre, 76 mg of vitamin C, over 300 mg of potassium, and a wealth of phytochemicals including the bioflavonoids hesperidin and rutin. These have been shown to strengthen the capillaries (i) and provide antioxidant benefits. Pink grapefruit benefits include the presence of lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness) (ii). Lycopene appears to help prevent the development of prostate cancer. (iii)

3. Grapefruit helps hydration. The average grapefruit contains 4 oz of water, which helps keep you hydrated. Carbonated water and grapefruit juice makes a refreshing summer drink with the added benefit of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

5. Grapefruit may improve the skin. Grapefruit benefits for skin appear to be related to its vitamin C and phytochemical content. Vitamin C is needed for the production and maintenance of collagen which, along with elastin, forms the scaffolding of the skin. Grapefruit is also used in skincare preparations, where its salicylic acid plays a role in keeping the skin fresh and glowing. (Salicylic acid is astringent and helps ‘tone’ and exfoliate the skin.)

You may wish to try Cloverfields Nature’s Gifts Blue Clay with Jojoba and Grapefruit Exfoliating Sugar Scrub to gently yet thoroughly detox, exfoliate and cleanse your skin.

6. Grapefruit may help varicose veins and spider veins. The vitamin C content of grapefruit along with bioflavonoids may help to support the health of the veins and capillaries by contributing to collagen production (iv), and reducing the impact of free radical action inside the blood vessels. The fibre in grapefruit also helps prevent constipation, a known contributor to varicose veins within the legs and rectal/anal area (haemorrhoids).

7. Grapefruit provides cardiovascular benefits. The skin and the fibrous walls (pith) that separate segments of the grapefruit are a source of pectin– the substance used to thicken jams. Pectin has been shown in animal studies to reduce cholesterol, so including some grapefruit skin and pith in a smoothie may form part of healthy diet for the heart. (It is important to thoroughly wash the skin of all fruits if you intend using them in a smoothie, and to use organic produce whenever possible.) The bioflavonoids and other antioxidants in grapefruit also help improve blood pressure and reduce inflammation – both of which contribute to the health of the cardiovascular system. 

** Since grapefruit juice can interfere with many heart medications, please discuss its use with your doctor or pharmacist. See note at end of this post.

8. Grapefruit may help manage type 2 diabetes. A 2005 study of 91 obese people showed that after 12 weeks both grapefruit and grapefruit juice improved insulin sensitivity (v). (This study has neither been repeated nor repudiated.) The glycemic index of grapefruit is low at 25, so the fruit can form part of a healthy diet for diabetes control, particularly when combined with a fat and/or protein to delay release of sugars into the bloodstream. Some people with diabetes feel that having half a grapefruit just before a meal containing fat and/or protein helps them better control weight.

9. Grapefruit aids the absorption of iron. Of relevance to women of childbearing age is grapefruit’s ability to enhance the absorption of iron. While the average grapefruit contains only 0.07 mg of iron, its vitamin C content helps aid absorption of this important mineral. Enjoying half a grapefruit with an iron-rich meal will help your body absorb the iron present more efficiently (vi).

10. Men will think you are younger. Our final grapefruit benefit is a fun one! In a 2005 study, Alan R. Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tested a number of aromas including grape, cucumber, broccoli, lavender and grapefruit to determine if any could make a person appear younger to someone smelling them. Only grapefruit met the challenge, making women appear six years younger to men. Just why this is, no one knows, but it doesn’t work the other way round. Men could saturate themselves in grapefruit juice and women would still guess their age accurately.

If you want to put this little gem to the test, Eco Aroma Essential Oil of Grapefruit is available at Natural Chemist. The detoxifying oil is helpful for congested and oily skin conditions, as well as being highly uplifting to the mood.

Ways to prepare grapefruit

How you choose to prepare your grapefruit can make a difference to its effects on your specific health condition. While the benefits of grapefruit juice for the skin and blood vessels are the same as the benefits of eating grapefruit segments, this is not true for cardiovascular health, which is enhanced by the presence of fibre from the pith and the outer skin. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Fortunately, there are many ways to enjoy the health benefits of grapefruit, from having a glass of juice with your breakfast, to enjoying the segments heated with a sprinkle of brown sugar. We suggest having the pink or red varieties variety as they contain more bioflavonoids and have a higher antioxidant value.

** A word of warning. While the health benefits of grapefruit are plentiful, we have a word of warning. If you are taking medication of any kind, including OTC medications, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist about the interactions of that medication with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. 

Ingredients in grapefruit (and to a lesser degree tangelos and Seville oranges) interact with liver enzymes that metabolize medications. The medications you take have been carefully formulated with the actions of enzymes in mind. Having grapefruit can result in either too much or too little of the medication entering your system, with potentially dangerous effects.

The Mayo Clinic advises that grapefruit can interact with drugs that:

  • fight infection
  • reduce cholesterol
  • treat high blood pressure
  • treat heart problems
  • prevent organ rejection
  • treat anxiety
  • control seizures
  • minimize motion sickness
  • treat erectile dysfunction
  • replace hormones
  • reduce cough
  • control pain



i. Vascular effects of flavonoids PMID:26555950DOI:10.2174/0929867323666151111143616

ii. Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PMID:21899805DOI:10.1017/S0007114511004260

iii. Lycopene and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PMID:26287411PMCID:PMC4616444DOI:10.1097/MD.0000000000001260

iv. Effect of vitamin C and its derivatives on collagen synthesis and cross-linking by normal human fibroblasts. PMID:18505499DOI:10.1046/j.1467-2494.1998.171747.x

v. The effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome. PMID:16579728DOI:10.1089/jmf.2006.9.49

vi. The role of vitamin C in iron absorption. PMID:2507689

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