Top 5 health benefits of grapefruit
Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook outlines the health benefits of grapefruit, from its rich vitamin content to its protective plant compounds, and investigates claims it aids weight loss, lowers cholesterol and more.
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What is grapefruit?
Grapefruit is part of the citrus family and grows in clusters on trees, 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 flavours, from sweet to sour.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides and check out some of our best grapefruit recipes, from our sweet potato pancakes with orange and grapefruit, to our turkey steaks with citrus and ginger sauce.
Nutritional profile of grapefruit
An 80g serving of fresh grapefruit provides:
- 24 kcals/101 KJ
- 0.6g protein
- 0.1g fat
- 5.4g carbohydrates
- 1.4g fibre
- 160mg potassium
- 29mg vit C
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 due to its high sugar content.
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Top 5 health benefits of grapefruit
1. Rich in antioxidants
Grapefruit provides a number of beneficial and protective nutrients and plant compounds which have antioxidant properties. This means they help protect cells from the potential damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
In particular, they’re a good source of beta-carotene, which is converted in the body to vitamin A, and is thought to reduce the risk of chronic conditions including macular degeneration. Grapefruit is also a useful source of lycopene, which is associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
2. May support heart health
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 needed to understand exactly why this is.
Grapefruit is rich in potassium and fibre, as well as protective antioxidants which may help manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Human studies have demonstrated the beneficial role grapefruit, and specifically red grapefruit, may play in helping to improve cholesterol levels, particularly in those suffering with atherosclerosis.
3. May help with weight loss
While low in calories and high in fibre, eating grapefruit is unlikely to deliver the dramatic weight loss touted in some fad diets; however, there is some evidence to suggest that consuming grapefruit may be of some assistance. 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 those participants who consumed half a grapefruit before meals.
4. May aid blood sugar management
Animal studies have examined the beneficial role grapefruit juice may play in reducing blood glucose levels and improving insulin resistance. This is further supported by a higher fruit and green vegetable intake being associated with a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
5. May 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. However, it is too early to say whether grapefruit, in particular, has a significant impact on brain health.
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 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
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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