Tart and tangy with an underlying sweetness, grapefruit has a juiciness that rivals that of the ever popular orange and sparkles with many of the same health promoting benefits. Although available throughout the year, they are in season and at their best from winter through early spring.
Grapefruits usually range in diameter from four to six inches and include both seed and seedless and pink and white varieties. The wonderful flavor of a grapefruit is like paradise as is expressed by its Latin name, Citrus paradisi.
Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, a vitamin that helps to support the immune system. Vitamin C-rich foods like grapefruit may help reduce cold symptoms or severity of cold symptoms; over 20 scientific studies have suggested that vitamin C is a cold-fighter. Vitamin C also prevents the free radical damage that triggers the inflammatory cascade, and is therefore also associated with reduced severity of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. As free radicals can oxidize cholesterol and lead to plaques that may rupture causing heart attacks or stroke, vitamin C is beneficial to promoting cardiovascular health. Owing to the multitude of vitamin C's health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The rich pink and red colors of grapefruit are due to lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient. (PLEASE NOTE: Lycopene is only found in pink and red grapefruit. White grapefruit does not provide this carotenoid.) Lycopene appears to have anti-tumor activity. Among the common dietary carotenoids, lycopene has the highest capacity to help fight oxygen free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells.
Choosing to regularly eat lycopene-rich foods, such as pink grapefruit, and drink green tea may greatly reduce a man's risk of developing prostate cancer, suggests research published the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jian L, Lee AH, et al.)
In this case-control study involving 130 prostate cancer patients and 274 hospital controls, men drinking the most green tea were found to have an 86% reduced risk of prostate cancer compared, to those drinking the least.
A similar inverse association was found between the men's consumption of lycopene-rich fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, and guava. Men who most frequently enjoyed these foods were 82% less likely to have prostate cancer compared to those consuming the least lycopene-rich foods.
Regular consumption of both green tea and foods rich in lycopene resulted in a synergistic protective effect, stronger than the protection afforded by either, the researchers also noted.
Practical Tips: Get in the habit of drinking green tea and eating lycopene-rich foods.
Not all fruit juices are the same. They differ markedly in the variety of phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity, according to Alan Crozier, Professor of Plant Biochemistry and Human Nutrition, who, with colleagues at the University of Glasgow, evaluated 13 commercially available popular juices.
Concord grapes came out on top with the highest and broadest range of polyphenols and the highest overall antioxidant capacity. (The main components in purple grape juice were flavan-3-ols, anthocyanins, and hydroxycinnamates, together accounting for 93% of the total phenolic content.)
Other top scorers were cloudy apple juice, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice.
Results for the red grape juice were said to be equal to those for a Beaujolais red wine. Interestingly, however, white grape juice, mainly containing hydroxycinnamates, had the lowest total phenolic content.
The products analyzed were: Spray Classic Cranberry; Welch's Purple Grape; Tesco Pure Pressed Red Grape; Pomegreat Pomegranate; Tesco Pure Apple (clear); Copella Apple (cloudy); Tesco Pure Grapefruit; Tesco Value Pure Orange (concentrate); Tropicana Pure Premium Smooth Orange (squeezed); Tropicana Pure Premium Tropical Fruit; Tesco Pure Pressed White Grape; Tesco Pure Pineapple; Del Monte Premium Tomato.
Dr. Crozier's findings come shortly after those of the Kame project, which indicated that long-term fruit juice consumption can provide protection against Alzheimer's disease (Dai et al., Am J Med), and suggest that, since each fruit juice contains its own array of protective phenols, drinking a variety may offer the best protection. Practical Tip: "The message is to mix these juices during the week. That way you will get all the compounds with anti-oxidant activity. If you drink only one juice you risk missing out on the compounds in the others," explained Crozier.
Phytonutrients in grapefruit called limonoids inhibit tumor formation by promoting the formation of glutathione-S-transferase, a detoxifying enzyme. This enzyme sparks a reaction in the liver that helps to make toxic compounds more water soluble for excretion from the body. Pulp of citrus fruits like grapefruit contain glucarates, compounds that may help prevent breast cancer.
In animal studies and laboratory tests with human cells, limonoids have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. Now, scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have shown that our bodies can readily absorb and utilize a very long-acting limonoid called limonin that is present is citrus fruits in about the same amount as vitamin C.
In citrus fruits, limonin is present in the form of limonin glucoside, in which limonin is attached to a sugar (glucose) molecule. Our bodies easily digest this compound, cleaving off the sugar and releasing limonin.
In the ARS study, 16 volunteers were given a dose of limonin glucoside in amounts ranging from those that would be found in from 1 to 7 glasses of orange juice. Blood tests showed that limonin was present in the plasma of all except one of the subjects, with concentrations highest within 6 hours after consumption. Traces of limonin were still present in 5 of the volunteers 24 hours after consumption!
Limonin's bioavailability and persistence may help explain why citrus limonoids are potent anti-carcinogens that may prevent cancerous cells from proliferating. Other natural anti-carcinogens are available for much less time; for example, the phenols in green tea and chocolate remain active in the body for just 4 to 6 hours.
The ARS team is now investigating the potential cholesterol-lowering effects of limonin. Lab tests indicate that human liver cells produce less apo B when exposed to limonin. Apo B is a structural protein that is part of the LDL cholesterol molecule and is needed for LDL production, transport and binding, so higher levels of apo B translate to higher levels of LDL cholesterol.
Grapefruit contains pectin, a form of soluble fiber that has been shown in animal studies to slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. In one study, animals fed a high-cholesterol diet plus grapefruit pectin had 24% narrowing of their arteries, while animals fed the high-cholesterol diet without grapefruit pectin had 45% narrowing.
Both blond and red grapefruit can reduce blood levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and red grapefruit lowers triglycerides as well, shows a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Israeli researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem first tested the antioxidant potential of blond and red grapefruits and then their cholesterol-lowering potential in humans. The test tube research showed that red grapefruit contains more bioactive compounds and total polyphenols than blond, but both grapefruits are comparable in their content of fiber, phenolic and ascorbic acids, and the flavonoid, naringinen, although red grapefruit contains slightly more flavonoids and anthocyanins.
In this recent study, participants added either red grapefruit, blond grapefruit or no grapefruit to their daily diet. The results indicated that both types of grapefruit appeared to lower LDL cholesterol in just 30 days: total cholesterol by 15.5% in those eating red grapefruit and 7.6% in those eating blond grapefruit; LDL cholesterol by 20.3% and 10.7% respectively; and triglycerides by 17.2% and 5.6% respectively. No changes were seen in the control group (those that didn't eat any grapefruit).
Both red and blond grapefruits both positively influenced cholesterol levels, but red grapefruit was more than twice as effective, especially in lowering triglycerides. In addition, both grapefruits significantly improved blood levels of protective antioxidants. Red grapefruit's better performance may be due to an as yet unknown antioxidant compound or the synergistic effects of its phytonutrients, including lycopene.
In response to this rapid and very positive outcome, the researchers concluded that adding fresh red grapefruit to the diet could be beneficial for persons with high cholesterol, especially those who also have high triglycerides.
One caveat, however: Compounds in grapefruit are known to increase circulating levels of several prescription drugs including statins. For this reason, the risk of muscle toxicity associated with statins may increase when grapefruit is consumed. (See our Individual Concerns section for more information.)
Want to reduce your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones? Drink grapefruit juice. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when women drank 1/2 to 1 liter of grapefruit, apple or orange juice daily, their urinary pH value and citric acid excretion increased, significantly dropping their risk of forming calcium oxalate stones.
Not only are grapefruit rich in vitamin C, but new research presented at the 228th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society provides two more reasons to drink grapefruit juice: protection against lung and colon cancer.
In humans, drinking three 6-ounce glasses of grapefruit juice a day was shown to reduce the activity of an enzyme that activates cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. In rats whose colons were injected with carcinogens, grapefruit and its isolated active compounds (apigenin, hesperidin, limonin, naringin, naringenin, nobiletin) not only increased the suicide (apoptosis) of cancer cells, but also the production of normal colon cells.
Researchers also confirmed that grapefruit may help prevent weight gain by lowering insulin levels.
Naringenin, a flavonoid concentrated in grapefruit, helps repair damaged DNA in human prostate cancer cells (cell line LNCaP), reports a lab study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
The risk of prostate cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the U.S, increases with age since the older we become, the more times our cells have divided and the greater the chance for DNA mutations to occur. DNA repair is one of the body's primary defense mechanisms against the development of cancer since it removes potentially cancer-causing mutations in cells.
Naringenin helps restore health to damaged DNA by inducing two enzymes that repair DNA during the replication stage. These enzymes, 8-oxoguanine-DNA glycosylase 1 (hOGG1), and DNA polymerase beta (DNA poly beta), are both involved in the DNA base excision repair (BER) pathway.
The scientists in this study exposed cell cultures to 80 micromoles per liter, an amount we cannot achieve by consuming grapefruit since research indicates that only between 2 and 15% flavonoids in the food we consume are absorbed in the GI tract, and plasma concentrations after eating flavonoid-rich foods range from 0.5 to 1 micromole per liter.
Fortunately, however, the researchers also demonstrated that the concentration of naringenin inside the cells that was needed for its beneficial effects was only 5% of the amount in the medium, and this amount is physiologically achievable in our tissues.
Unlike many other cancers, prostate cancer is slow growing initially and often remains undetectable for a long time. Enjoying grapefruit regularly may be one way to prevent its progression by promoting the repair of damaged DNA in prostate cells, thus preventing them from becoming cancerous.
The grapefruit is a large citrus fruit related to the orange, lemon and pomelo. Grapefruits are categorized as white (blond), pink or ruby. However, this terminology doesn't reflect their skin color, which is either yellow or pinkish-yellow, but rather describes the color of their flesh.
Grapefruits usually range in diameter from four to six inches, with some varieties featuring seeds while others are seedless. The wonderful flavor of a grapefruit is like paradise, just as its Latin name Citrus paradisi connotes. It is juicy, tart and tangy with an underlying sweetness that weaves throughout.
Grapefruits have a rather recent history, having been discovered in Barbados in the 18th century. Many botanists think the grapefruit was actually the result of a natural cross breeding which occurred between the orange and the pomelo, a citrus fruit that was brought from Indonesia to Barbados in the 17th century.
The resulting fruit was given the name "grapefruit" in 1814 in Jamaica, a name which reflects the way it's arranged when it grows—hanging in clusters just like grapes.
Grapefruit trees were planted in Florida in the early 19th century, although they did not become a viable commercial crop until later that century. Florida is still a major producer of grapefruits, as is California, Arizona and Texas. Other countries that produce grapefruits commercially include Israel, South Africa and Brazil.
A good grapefruit doesn't have to be perfect in color. Skin discoloration, scratches or scales may affect the appearance of a grapefruit, but they do not impact the taste or texture quality.
Signs of decay include an overly soft spot at the stem end of the fruit and areas that appear watersoaked. These forms of decay usually translate into poor taste—a flavor that is less vibrant and more bitter than a good quality grapefruit.
The fruits should be heavy for their size as this usually indicates that they feature thin skins and therefore a higher concentration of juicier flesh. Those that have overly rough or wrinkled skin usually tend to be thick skinned and should be avoided.
Grapefruits should be firm, yet slightly springy when gentle pressure is applied. While chilled grapefruits do not have an apparent fragrance, those kept at room temperature should have a subtly sweet aroma. Grapefruits can be purchased throughout the year although the height of the season ranges from winter through early spring. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened grapefruit.
At WHFoods, we encourage the purchase of certified organically grown foods, and grapefruit is no exception. Repeated research studies on organic foods as a group show that your likelihood of exposure to contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals can be greatly reduced through the purchased of certified organic foods, including grapefruit. If you are shopping in a large supermarket, your most reliable source of organically grown grapefruit is very likely to be grapefruit that displays the USDA organic logo.
Since grapefruits are juicier when they're slightly warm rather than cool, store them at room temperature if you are planning on consuming them within a week of purchase. If you will not be using them within this time period, store them in the refrigerator crisper where they will keep fresh for two to three weeks.
If you'd like even more recipes and ways to prepare grapefruit the Nutrient-Rich Way, you may want to explore The World's Healthiest Foods book.
Check with your healthcare practitioner about consuming grapefruit juice if you're taking pharmaceutical drugs. Certain pharmaceutical drugs combined with grapefruit juice become more potent. Compounds in grapefruit juice, including naringenin, slow the normal detoxification and metabolism processes in the intestines and liver, which hinders the body's ability to breakdown and eliminate these drugs.
These interactive drugs include the immunosuppressent cyclosporine and calcium channel blocker drugs, such as felodipine, nifedipine and verapamil. Other drugs whose bioavailability is enhanced by grapefruit juice are the antihistamine terfenadine, the hormone estradiol and the antiviral agent saquinavir.
Research also indicates that individuals taking statin drugs should avoid grapefruit. Grapefruit increases the amount of statin drug that reaches the general circulation in two ways. First, grapefruit contains a compound called naringenin, which inactivates an enzyme (cytochrome P450 3A4) in the small intestine that metabolizes statin drugs. Secondly, grapefruit also inhibits P-glycoprotein, a carrier molecule produced in the intestinal wall that would normally transport the statin drug back to the gut. The end result of these two mechanisms is that much more of the statin drug enters the systemic circulation than would normally be the case, leading to a build up in statin levels that can be quite dangerous, and may trigger a rare but serious statin-associated disease called rhabdomyolysis. Rhaddomyolysis affects muscle tissue, usually causing temporary paralysis or weakness, unless the muscle is severely injured.
Grapefruit, pink, fresh
|vitamin C||44.03 mg||59||25.8||excellent|
|pantothenic acid||0.36 mg||7||3.2||good|
|vitamin A||59.33 mcg RAE||7||2.9||good|
|vitamin B1||0.05 mg||4||1.8||good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%