I used to have a boss who would walk around the office and hand out oranges to everyone as he walked to his desk. On the surface, it seems like a nice gesture, but I always had the sneaking suspicion he only did it so no one had an excuse to use a sick day. After all, oranges are packed with vitamin C. But you know what would have worked even better to keep us all healthy? Grapefruit. It turns out they’re more nutrient-dense than their smaller, orange cousin.
Right now we’re still in grapefruit season (which lasts until May or June) making it the perfect time to stock up. And if you’re looking for a reason to do so, how about seven? Keep reading for the nutritional low-down on why having grapefruit at breakfast is so beneficial, plus some ideas on how to enjoy it.
What are the health benefits of grapefruit?
1. It’s great for your immune system. Exhibit A of all that glorious nutrient density: grapefruits are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E—a trifecta that works together to keep the immune system up. (Specifically, one whole grapefruit has 77 mg of vitamin C—more than what you’d get in a large orange.) So you know those times of the year when everyone in your office seems to be sick? (Um, like right now?) It’s the perfect time for some grapefruit.
2. Eating grapefruit regularly is linked to higher nutrient consumption. One study found that women who ate grapefruit had a higher intakes of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and improved diet quality. “Grapefruit may provide a healthful option for adults striving to meet fruit recommendations,” the study concludes. However, they weren’t only eating grapefruit, so it’s hard to tell how much the grapefruit made an impact on those overall levels. But the association itself is certainly promising.
3. It could help prevent diabetes. There’s evidence that eating grapefruit—which is moderate on the glycemic index scale—can help keep insulin levels even, protecting against type 2 diabetes. “Greater consumption of blueberries, grapes, apples, bananas, and grapefruit were significantly associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes,” reads one large 2013 study. “Our findings suggest that there is significant heterogeneity in the associations between individual fruits and risk of type 2 diabetes.”
4. It could help keep fat from building up in artery walls. There’s evidence—at least in mice—showing that naringin (a flavonoid in grapefruit) can help prevent atherosclerosis, when plaque and cholesterol build up in your arteries. Again, this is just a mouse study, but grapefruit certainly could be worth adding to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
5. It’s high in antioxidants. Grapefruit is also a good source of antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and fight damage caused by free radicals in the body. Even grapefruit peels are high in antioxidants, so don’t just enjoy the refreshing, vibrant meat and juice of the fruit; use the peels as zest in various dishes, such as poultry or in baked goods.
6. It keeps you hydrated. Grapefruits are 88 percent water (one whole fruit has 216 grams of the stuff!) making them a pretty stellar way to stay hydrated in addition to your regular S’well bottle habit. While grapefruit juice is a popular breakfast beverage, it’s more beneficial to the body to eat the fruit so you’re also getting fiber.
Potential risks of eating grapefruit
Okay, so it’s pretty obvious that eating grapefruit on the reg is hugely beneficial to the body. However, there’s a catch. Grapefruit can interfere with an enzyme that metabolizes a wide variety of drugs, allowing more of the drug to make its way into the bloodstream and increasing the risk of side effects and even overdose. This isn’t a niche issue; a 2012 study found that 85 medications ranging from OTC antihistamines to prescription blood pressure medications could be affected by grapefruit. “Taking one tablet with a glass of grapefruit juice is like taking five tablets with water,” a pharmacologist told NPR in 2012.
This is not to make you freak out about eating grapefruit. But people who regularly eat the fruit should definitely raise it with their doctor any time they’re prescribed medication to ensure that the citrus won’t cause a potentially dangerous interaction.
How to enjoy grapefruit
Besides just eating it? Well, let me count the ways:
1. Broiled, with a little honey. Grapefruit is delicious and refreshing as-is, but registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman, and host of Well+Good’s YouTube series You Vs. Food, likes hers broiled with a little honey on top. She pops the grapefruit in the broiler with a bit of natural sweetener sprinkled on top for two minutes until it’s caramelized, then tops it with Manuka honey before digging in. Bonus: the vitamin C-Manuka combo is like an immunity one-two punch.
2. With gluten-free pancakes. Another way to reap grapefruit’s sweet rewards is by incorporating the fruit (specifically its juice) into your favorite pancake recipe. Be sure to zest the peel on top too for extra citrus flavor and antioxidants.
3. Sip as a juice. While eating grapefruit in its whole form is the best way to get all its nutrients—especially the fiber—grapefruit juice still has potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C (and is hydrating, too).
Incorporating grapefruit into your diet will help keep your immune system up, lower inflammation, and stay hydrated. Clearly oranges aren’t the only citrus full of body-boosting benefits.
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