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You already know citrus fruits like grapefruit can add a delightful acidity and punch of flavor to everything from cocktails to baked goods to salads. Eating fresh, whole grapefruit has many nutritional benefits, too, making it a smart choice to enjoy on its own for breakfast, as a snack, or even for dessert.
The good news? You can also drink grapefruit juice to reap its healthy benefits—it just needs to be 100 percent real grapefruit juice. Both grapefruit and 100 percent grapefruit juice are nutrient-rich options that can help you achieve the recommended 2 cups of fruit per day, says Mary Waddill, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and product compliance and nutrition analyst with Whole Foods Market based in Austin, Texas. (By the way, about 80 percent of Americans do not meet the daily fruit recommendations, according to the USDA.) Fun fact: Grapefruit juice is actually considered one of the most nutrient-dense juices compared to other non-fortified, 100 percent juices.
The one benefit of eating the whole fruit is that you'll get even more fiber. That said, drinking 100 percent grapefruit juice may provide slightly more flavonoids, due to the processing of the peel into juice. "When you juice a fruit, you'll get most of the nutrients but lose nearly all of the fiber," says Matthew Landry, PhD, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine based in Palo Alto, Calif. If you blend a fruit like grapefruit instead of juicing, like in a smoothie, you'll maintain that fiber that helps you to digest nutrients and sugars more slowly. "The absence of fiber can lead to spikes in blood sugar," he adds. So there are pros and (minor) cons to consuming grapefruit either way.
It's true that grapefruit can alter enzymes in the body and therefore affect how medications are processed before they're eliminated, Landry says. Medications that most commonly interact with grapefruit include cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), blood pressure medications, and most antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. "However, not all drugs in any one class usually have an interaction, so a doctor can help you select an alternative medication," he adds. If you're worried about a possible interaction, speak with your doctor before cutting out grapefruit from your diet.
Like most fruits, grapefruit is low in calories, containing about 60 calories per one half of a medium grapefruit (around 154 grams). It also contains about 2 grams of dietary fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins C and A.
"One of the key benefits of grapefruit is its high concentration of vitamin C, which plays an important role in the body's regular immune system function and improves the absorption of iron present in plant-based foods," explains Waddill. She adds that vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, which helps to heal wounds. Some research suggests that vitamin C may also help with the regeneration of other antioxidants within the body, including vitamin E.
Another major health benefit of grapefruit is they're comprised of flavonoids, which are shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Waddill says.
Pink and red grapefruit are also a source of the phytochemical lycopene—predominantly found in red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelon—that helps protect your skin from free-radicals.
Landry's all-time favorite way to eat this pink citrus fruit is to add some peeled grapefruit to a salad because "it adds a fresh, sweet-but-tart flavor." You can also use grapefruit juice on a salad as an ingredient in vinaigrette, which would pair well with avocado or feta cheese.
For breakfast, grapefruit is best enjoyed raw, or even broiled with a little honey or sugar sprinkled on top, says Waddill. She also recommends grapefruit as a topping for avocado toast or incorporated into fresh salsa.
Want more inspiration for grapefruit? Check out these healthy recipes.