5 Health Benefits of Grapefruit — and 4 Delicious Recipes to Try

The thought of eating grapefruit either has you craving the tang and sourness or sends you running toward the sweetness of an orange. But you don't want to miss out: Grapefruit is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that stack up to some pretty impressive health benefits.

Grapefruit nutrition facts reveal the fruit is packed with nutrients like fiber and vitamins A and C. (Image: dashtik/iStock/GettyImages)

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Why Is Grapefruit So Good for You?

Grapefruit Is Low in Calories

The tangy fruit is low in calories yet nutrient-dense, deeming it a smart addition to your diet.

A half pink or red grapefruit contains:

  • 52 calories
  • 0.2 grams of fat
  • 13 grams of carbs (including 2 grams of fiber and 8.5 grams of sugar)
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 0 milligrams of sodium
  • 0 milligrams of cholesterol

A half grapefruit also delivers:

  • Vitamin A: 47 percent of your recommended daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 43 percent DV
  • Potassium: 4 percent DV
  • Magnesium: 3 percent DV
  • Calcium: 2 percent DV

It's Linked to Reducing Inflammation

Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your cells from damage and fight inflammation, which may cause chronic diseases, according to a March 2014 study in Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry.

The National Institutes of Health advises women get 75 milligrams a day and men get 90 milligrams daily, and grapefruit can help you hit those goals. According to a May 2014 article published in Food and Nutrition Research, men and women who ate fresh grapefruit or drank 100-percent grapefruit juice had higher overall intakes of vitamin C and improved their overall diet quality.

Plus, vitamin C can increase your absorption of iron — a nutrient many menstruating women are low in — which is linked to heart and metabolism health, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Tip

People who smoke need more vitamin C in their diets to help protect the body from damage caused by nicotine. Pregnant women also need higher amounts.

Grapefruit Can Help Keep You Regular

It's no secret that there's a fiber issue in the U.S. Only 5 percent of Americans actually get the recommended amount of fiber per day, according to a January 2017 article published in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. The macronutrient — found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — helps prevents constipation and maintain digestive health, per the Mayo Clinic.

Women need 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need 38 grams, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. One grapefruit can help bridge the gap with its 4 grams. Bonus: You'll also be getting extra hydration from the water content of the citrus fruit. When you increase fiber in your diet, it's important to also increase your fluids, since not drinking enough may cause constipation.

The Fruit May Also Aid in Weight Loss

That fiber in grapefruit may also help with appetite control, weight loss and weight management, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Plus, the satiating macro can improve your body's response to insulin, which may, in turn, help you manage your weight.

In fact, researchers found that eating grapefruit is associated with modest weight loss and a significant reduction in waist circumference in adults who are overweight, according to a small July 2012 study in the journal Metabolism.

Grapefruit is Packed With Lycopene

Lycopene is a carotenoid, a natural plant pigment that's responsible for grapefruit's lovely rosy color as well as some potential health benefits — especially when it comes to heart health.

Lycopene has anti-inflammatory properties and is linked to protection against high blood pressure, according to May 2018 research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. It's thought to improve a process called vasodilation — opening, or dilating, your blood vessels — which helps lower your blood pressure.

The same July 2012 Metabolism study also found that adding grapefruit to the diet improved participants' blood pressure and total cholesterol and lowered their harmful LDL cholesterol.

What's more, adding lycopene to men's diets may even boast prostate-protective benefits. Eating more lycopene was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing prostate cancer, an August 2015 meta-analysis in Medicine found.

Recipes to Get More Grapefruit in Your Diet

Besides eating it on its own, grapefruit is super versatile and can add some zest to many dishes. Try these creative recipes to get started:

  • So Much Citrus Salad: Lemon, orange and lime juices as well as grapefruit punch up the vitamin C content in this bright salad. Pair it with grilled salmon or baked chicken for extra protein.
  • Granola and Red Grapefruit Brûlée: Replacing your daily dessert with fruit is a healthy way to satisfy the sweet craving that often comes after a meal — and this recipe has just enough sweetness with all of the health benefits of the ruby red grapefruit.
  • Citrus Mojito Pops: Citrus peels are high in antioxidants and totally edible! These keep the peels on and package it up in a perfect ice pop. Just hold the rum for the kiddos.
  • Grapefruit, Ginger and Turmeric Smoothie: This refreshing smoothie packs in 10 grams of protein from Greek yogurt, hemp hearts and raw almonds.

Allergies, Interactions and Warnings

Despite grapefruit's benefits, some people shouldn't eat the fruit. Allergies to citrus are rare and most are related to oranges, but a grapefruit allergy is possible. With citrus fruits, oral allergy symptoms such as itching and burning around the mouth are more common than severe anaphylaxis, according to a patient case study published in a July 2013 issue of Clinical and Translational Allergy.

People on certain medications shouldn't eat grapefruit or drink the juice, since a chemical in the fruit has the ability to bind to an enzyme in your intestinal tract, which reduces the absorption of your meds, according to Harvard Health Publishing. If you have been told by your doctor that you should not eat grapefruit or if there's a similar warning on your medication bottle, then stay away.

These medications include:

  • Statins such as Lipitor and Zocor
  • Immunosuppressants such as Sandimmune
  • Anxiety and insomnia medication such as Versed and Valium
  • Psychiatric medications such as Zoloft
  • Calcium channel blockers such as Plendil and Procardia

Alternatives to Grapefruit

If you're not a fan of the tang of white grapefruit, try going redder: The darker the fruit, the sweeter it is. If you still can't stomach grapefruit — whether it be the flavor or because you're on certain medications — go for oranges to get in on similar nutrients. If you're looking for lycopene, try tomatoes or watermelon.

Heating lycopene-rich foods and pairing them with a source of dietary fat helps your body absorb the antioxidant more easily, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Tomato sauce could be a perfect way to get some lycopene, so get cooking!

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