A cross between an orange and a pomelo, grapefruits are a sweet yet sour citrus fruit with a bit of a complicated history. On one hand, there are many science-backed reasons to consider making grapefruit a regular part of your diet. This low-calorie subtropical fruit offers a hodgepodge of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are great for your body. Fiber-rich and large in size relative to other fruits, grapefruit can be a healthy option to satisfy your appetite, balance your gut, manage your weight, and support your metabolism.
On the other hand, grapefruit has been the focal point of a few controversial fad diets and, in some cases, it is known to have a potentially adverse effect when eaten in conjunction with certain prescription medications. Do the benefits outweigh those risks? We spoke to dietitians to better understand everything there is to know about this fruit. And before we can talk about the benefits, we need to understand why some say that grapefruit isn’t necessarily the power fruit it’s often made out to be.
Are grapefruits actually good for you?
Although grapefruits are a low-calorie fruit that is also incredibly nutrient-dense, virtually every food has at least some potential drawbacks. Oftentimes in the case of produce, this comes down to how it is preserved and prepared after being harvested. For instance, many grapefruit fruit cups and canned grapefruit products are flavored with added sugars, which can detract from the raw fruit’s nutritional value.
The health benefits of certain foods can also be exploited via fad diets promising near-instant weight loss solutions that seldom deliver meaningful, healthy long-term results. That is the case with the Grapefruit Diet (aka the Hollywood Diet), which was popularized in the 1930s and still has proponents today. The diet relies largely on the claim that grapefruit burns fat more quickly than other foods. But there is little evidence to establish that, and while grapefruit is certainly nutritious, it’s not actually blessed with magical fat-burning properties.
Grapefruit can have an effect on certain medications, too.
“Grapefruit interacts with many drugs, which can cause too much or too little of the drug in our body,” says Nicole Lindel, RD, an outpatient gastrointestinal dietitian, and consultant at Everly Health. “For example, grapefruit can block the action of enzymes needed to break down certain cholesterol-lowering medications such as Lipitor.”
Other medications that might interact with grapefruits include statins (medications to lower cholesterol), anti-anxiety drugs, corticosteroids, and antihistamines. So, if you love a good grapefruit but also take a prescribed medication like one of the above, you should speak to your doctor about whether it’s safe to incorporate it into your diet.
The benefits of eating grapefruit
Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, the benefits of eating grapefruit are extensive. To help us identify some of the science-backed reasons to love this fruit, we took a deep dive into the research behind how eating grapefruit can affect your body, including reaching out to registered dietitians and other experts for more insight.
Keep reading to find out about the ways in which this superfood can benefit your body—and for even more revelations about what can possibly happen when you add more citrus into your diet, be sure to check out I Drank Lemon Water Every Morning for 30 Days & Noticed These 5 Life-Changing Effects.
These tart pink delights provide a powerful dose of vitamin C. Just 100 grams of fresh red or pink grapefruit yields over 30 milligrams of this vitamin. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that “one whole, medium grapefruit provides you with 100% of your daily requirement for vitamin C,” and this mighty antioxidant helps enable your immune system to defend against harmful bacteria and viruses that can make you ill. Research published via Nutrients assessing the correlation between vitamin C and immune system functionality also reveals that increased vitamin C intake can even help treat respiratory and systemic infections, which impact your respiratory system and bloodstream, respectively.
Gabriela Barreto, MS, RD, CDN, a sports dietitian for women, points to research that indicates how consuming grapefruit might help with insulin resistance. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food had shown that when participants consumed half a grapefruit prior to a meal, compared to grapefruit juice and a placebo, they saw a reduction of two-hour postprandial post-meal glucose levels as well as an overall reduction in insulin resistance.
A standard cup of grapefruit has roughly 300 milligrams of potassium per serving, which is almost as high as the potassium in a banana, the poster child of potassium-heavy foods.
“Potassium’s role in the body includes serving as a major electrolyte to help maintain fluid balance and hydration, maintaining heartbeat, muscle contraction, and nerve function, and moving fluids in and out of cells such as waste products,” says Barreto.
Additionally, potassium can help to reduce blood pressure in those with hypertension, making it an even better choice.
As you already know, grapefruit has a large amount of vitamin C per serving and as a result, can help increase collagen production. As you age, collagen production tends to decrease, so adding grapefruit to your diet may help your body generate more.
“Collagen makes up about 30% of bone structure, a large amount of tendon and ligament tissue, and is important for skin and blood vessel structure,” says Barreto.
If you’re looking for foods that help keep your heart healthy, grapefruit is a great option. “Grapefruit supports heart health thanks to its high fiber, potassium, and antioxidant content,” says Breanna Woods, MS RD, registered dietitian and nutrition lead for Blogilates.
Barreto adds that studies like this one from the National Library of Medicine have found an association between grapefruit intake and decreased risk of coronary heart disease, acute coronary events, and ischemic stroke.
Now, we’ve already established that grapefruit has not been proven to speed fat loss. But it is a filling, low-calorie food, which means it can help you maintain a calorie deficit, making it an excellent tool for weight loss. Woods notes that grapefruit is high in fiber, which can help keep you feeling satisfied for longer which may be good for weight loss.
A single grapefruit has nearly 64% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C for adults, according to Barreto. That said, vitamin C can help with iron absorption due to its high vitamin C concentration.
“Iron is important for moving oxygen through the bloodstream via red blood cells to bring oxygen to cells,” says Barreto.
A previous version of this story was published on June 7, 2022. It has since been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, further research, and updated contextual links.