Grapefruit, whose botanical name means "fruit of paradise," is a relative of the orange, with segmented, juicy flesh and a clean, tangy flavor. These fruits are categorized as red, pink or white by their interior color. While all colors of grapefruit carry a wealth of health benefits, red grapefruit may be most beneficial of all. Low in calories, high in fiber and phytonutrients, grapefruit is a healthy dietary choice. If you take prescription medications, especially statin drugs, avoid undesirable interactions by consulting your doctor before eating grapefruit.
Grapefruit is bursting with vitamin C; a mere half of a grapefruit provides 46.86 mg, or 78.1 percent, of the recommended daily value. Grapefruit is an excellent source of this antioxidant, which supports cardiovascular health by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. In addition, consuming vitamin C-rich foods supports the immune system, and leads to reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer and stroke, says the site.
Carotenoids are plant-based compounds that may have disease-preventing properties, and grapefruit--especially pink and red--contains more than its share of them. Grapefruit's carotenoid phytonutrients, an antioxidant called lycopene, may have chemoprotective effects. In a clinical study published in the March 2005 issue of "International Journal of Cancer," researchers found that prostate cancer risk declined with increased consumption of lycopene. According to Texas A & M University Extension, 3.5 ounces of pink grapefruit--about half of a small grapefruit--provides 3.36 mg of lycopene. Vitamin Herb University notes that estimating daily intake of lycopene is difficult due to variability in foods, but suggests most people consume from 3.7 to 6.5 mg per day.
Another group of beneficial phytonutrients, limonoids, is found in grapefruit. Limonoids help control the activity of genes in cancer cells, activating genes that promote cancer cell death, according to a study published in the "Journal of Biological Chemistry" in 2011. As a result, consuming limonoid-rich grapefruit might help shield you from cancer.
The soluble pectin fiber contained in grapefruit may slow down the development of atherosclerosis. The World's Healthiest Foods says that eating grapefruit can lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol--considered the "bad," or harmful, cholesterol-- as well as your levels of triglycerides, a form of fat linked to heart disease. Some scientific evidence supports grapefruit's cholesterol-reducing properties. In a clinical study published in the 2006 issue of "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry," researchers found that, although red grapefruit had higher antioxidant potential than white, both white and red grapefruit decreased serum lipid levels in coronary atherosclerosis patients. Although grapefruit is a good source of fiber, the fruit is low in calories, with a half of a grapefruit containing a modest 36 calories.
Vitamins and Minerals
Grapefruit is a source of vitamin A, delivering 318.57 IU--or 6.4 percent of the DV--per half. Vitamin A is necessary for healthy vision and for the maintenance of teeth and skeletal and soft tissue. The National Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists a half of a grapefruit as providing 348 mg--or 3.5 of the DV--of vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, needed by the body to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The World's Healthiest Foods states that grapefruit is also a good source of folate, or vitamin B9--crucial for brain function and for production of genetic material such as DNA and RNA-- as well as potassium, essential to heart function and smooth muscle contraction.