Detox drinks and elixirs get a lot of hype, but sometimes Mother Nature's creations in their simplest form are exactly what your body needs. Grapefruit is one such miracle worker that boasts a long list of health benefits. For starters, the superfood has more water than almost any other fruit and is high in nutrients and low and calories. "Grapefruit is a nutrient-rich tropical fruit that provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber," describes Maya Feller of Maya Feller Nutrition, a registered dietitian nutritionist. "There are many varieties that range in color and flavor from sweet and mild to pungent and slightly sour." For this reason, grapefruit is often considered an acquired taste, but even if you're not yet a fan, its numerous benefits will have you convinced to incorporate it into your diet.
The easiest part about getting on board with grapefruit is that there are so many ways to consume it. "Grapefruit can be used in many ways from a breakfast component served with eggs and greens to grilled and served with the protein of your choice," suggests Feller. "There are no rules about how to cook or prepare grapefruit. It can be eaten raw on top of a bed of greens to increase iron absorption or simply peeled and eaten alongside a handful of nuts as a snack between meals." We had experts break down some of the top health benefits of grapefruit in case you're not already convinced.
Meet the Expert
- Maya Feller is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Brooklyn.
- Mona Dan is a Chinese traditional medicine expert, herbalist, acupuncturist, and the founder of the Beverly Hills-based Vie Healing.
- Sammy Previte is a certified personal rrainer through National Academy of Sports Medicine and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor based in Florida.
Scroll on to learn some of the potential health benefits of grapefruit.
Aids in Immune Function
"Like many citrus fruits, grapefruit is predominantly known for being high in vitamin C and
antioxidants which means that grapefruit can aid in immune function," says Sammy Previte, the owner of private practice Find Food Freedom.
In addition to boasting healthy and healing properties, grapefruit can also be consumed as a tasty snack, Previte says. "You can eat grapefruit slices on their own, add it on to a yogurt parfait, or even blend it into a smoothie. One of my favorites is to juice grapefruits to make fresh grapefruit juice."
Provides Tons of Nutrients
Feller describes grapefruit as wonderfully nutrient dense. "Half of one grapefruit provides pectin fiber and approximately 28% of the DRI (dietary reference intakes) for vitamin A and 52% of the DRI for vitamin C, as well as small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus," she explains. That means it's chock full of the sorts of nutrients that will keep you healthy, energized, and beautified from the inside, out.
Grapefruit can be a great food to start the day with to get your gut going. That's because it helps aid in digestion — helping everything move through your system and you to feel better, as a result As feller explains, grapefruit is rich in pectin, which has myriad benefits. "Pectin fiber is protective against constipation, some gastrointestinal dysfunction, and reducing circulating levels of lipids," explains Feller.
Combats Cell Damage
Feller explains that grapefruit contains active phytonutrients called limonoids. "Some research has looked at limonoids and their ability to act as powerful antioxidants that interrupt cell damage," she recounts. Cell damage shows up on our skin as a sign of aging (so eating more grapefruit can help combat the results of that process). Prior research has suggested that citrus limonoids may even lower cholesterol and prevent cancer.
We're all familiar with the idea of smells having effects on our mood. Grapefruit belongs to a family of fruit that decreases individuals' "mood disturbance"—a global measure that comprises emotional states such as anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion. A 2014 study found that olfactory stimulation from citrus fragrances—the study tested yuzu, a Japanese fruit similar to grapefruit—naturally reduced stress levels. After just 10 minutes of smelling the fruit, participants' mood disturbance levels were significantly lowered. Increase the inhalation period to 30 minutes and the effects were even stronger.
Helps Healthy Weight Maintenance
Some studies have suggested that those who eat fresh grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice before a meal are less likely to gain weight than those who don't, but weight-loss speculations aside, grapefruit has been proven to help individuals maintain a healthy weight. Because grapefruit delivers tons of nutrition and hydration for very few calories, it makes for an effective, satiating snack that will provide energy without derailing a healthy eating plan.
Eating grapefruit before bed to improve sleep may be an old wives' tale, but it's also based in science. Grapefruit is rich in an antioxidant called lycopene, which promotes sleep. Lycopene also has anti-inflammatory effects that work on restoring your body while you rest, reducing oxidative stress, and improving endothelial function—meaning better blood circulation.
Acts as a "Cold Food" in Chinese Medicine
"In Chinese medicine, we look at foods in ways not typically understood in Western culture," explains Mona Dan, Chinese traditional medicine expert, herbalist, acupuncturist, and founder of Vie Healing in Beverly Hills. "Foods have a temperature associated with them, which means if they are warm, they excite the body and when they're cold, they calm the body." She advises that a balanced diet between hot and cold is key. "So with grapefruit, the temperature associated is cooling, making it helpful for ones suffering from weak digestion, a decreased appetite, stomach fullness, alcohol intoxication, and dry or phlegmy cough," she says. "It's great to combine with Manuka honey to treat a phlegmy cough."
Helps Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels
A 2006 study found that eating one grapefruit per day could help lower "bad" (i.e. LDL) cholesterol levels by as much as 15%. As with anything you ingest, it's always important to exercise caution. "It is important to note that grapefruit is not for everyone as there are some drug-nutrient interactions to be aware of," Previte notes. "If you are taking any of the following: immunosuppressants, benzodiazepines, indinavir, carbamazepine, calcium channel blockers, or statins, please talk to your doctor before consuming grapefruit."
Boosts Energy Levels
"Grapefruit is commonly labeled as a 'bad' fruit, due to a higher sugar content and being known to interact with multiple medications," notes Previtte. But high sugar isn't a bad thing, because it equates to high energy, too.
"Sugar is not the enemy and it is important to keep in mind that your relationship with food is more important than any specific food you eat," Previtte says. The sucrose (i.e. sugar) in grapefruit helps stabilize blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller, longer.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, FoodData Central. Grapefruit, raw, pink and red, Florida. Updated April 1, 2019.
Vikram A, Jesudhasan PR, Jayaprakasha GK, Pillai BS, Patil BS. Grapefruit bioactive limonoids modulate E. coli O157:H7 TTSS and biofilm. Int J Food Microbiol. 2010;140(2-3):109‐116. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2010.04.012
Kim J, Jayaprakasha GK, Patil BS. Limonoids and their anti-proliferative and anti-aromatase properties in human breast cancer cells. Food Funct. 2013;4(2):258‐265. doi:10.1039/c2fo30209h
Matsumoto T, Asakura H, Hayashi T. Effects of olfactory stimulation from the fragrance of the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu (Citrus junos Sieb. ex Tanaka) on mood states and salivary chromogranin A as an endocrinologic stress marker. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(6):500‐506. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0425