We explain why grapefruit is so healthy from vitamins to flavonoids, and investigate claims that it can aid weight loss, lower cholesterol and more.
What is grapefruit?
Grapefruit is part of the citrus family and grows in clusters on the tree, like grapes – this is said to be where the name originates. Grapefruits come in a variety of colours including yellow, pink and red, and they have a variety of tastes from sweet to sour.
Nutritional benefits of grapefruit
While low in calories, grapefruit contains a whole host of nutrients. In particular, they're a good source of vitamin A, which is important for supporting the immune system and keeping the eyes and skin healthy, folate, which is key for a baby's development during pregnancy, and vitamin C, helping to maintain healthy skin.
Grapefruit also contains some magnesium, potassium and calcium.
How much grapefruit counts towards my five-a-day?
Half a fresh grapefruit, or 80g of tinned grapefruit, counts as one five-a-day portion and 150ml of unsweetened grapefruit juice also counts, but only once each day due to the high sugar content. If you're looking to reduce your sugar intake, avoid adding sugar to fresh grapefruit and check the label on tinned varieties to find an unsweetened option.
Discover more ways to reach your five-a-day.
Can grapefruit help with weight loss and insulin resistance?
Eating grapefruits can’t deliver the dramatic weight loss touted in some fad diets, however, there is some evidence that shows consuming grapefruit may help with weight loss. A 12-week Japanese study looked at the effects of grapefruit versus a placebo, and there was a significant reduction in weight as well as blood glucose levels, in participants who consumed half a grapefruit before meals. Further research has also looked at the beneficial role grapefruit juice may play in reducing blood glucose levels and improving insulin resistance, although this was conducted in animal studies.
Can grapefruit reduce the risk of a stroke?
In 2012, the American Heart Association published a report that suggested that a diet high in certain flavonoids, compounds found in citrus fruits including grapefruit, may lower a woman’s risk of stroke. However, more research is necessary to understand exactly why this association occurs.
Can grapefruit promote better brain function?
There is some promising research into the role of flavonoids in the diet and improvements in memory and cognition as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative conditions, although it is too early to say whether grapefruit in particular has a significant impact on brain health.
Can grapefruit support healthy cholesterol levels?
There have been some positive human studies into the beneficial role grapefruit, and specifically red grapefruit, can play in helping to improve cholesterol blood levels, particularly in those suffering with atherosclerosis – a build-up of fatty material inside the arteries.
Can grapefruit affect prescription medications?
The NHS advises that fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice should not be consumed with certain medications as it has been shown to reduce their breakdown and elimination, which can result in increased blood levels of the drug. These include, but are not limited to, statins, calcium channel blockers, immunosuppressants, certain cancer medications and Entocort, which is used to treat Crohn’s disease. Always check with your GP first if you're taking a prescription medication before consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice.
Read more from the NHS about how grapefruit can affect medicine.
Healthy grapefruit recipes
This page was last updated on 8 August 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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