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 Feller break down some of the top health benefits of grapefruit in case you're not already convinced.
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.
Grapefruit can be a great food to start the day with to get your gut going. "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. 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."