Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) is a tangy and succulent subtropical fruit that has a mild sweetness and is popular for its wide range of health benefits. This fruit, which is closely related to oranges and lemon, is mainly divided into three categories depending on the color of their flesh or pulp – pink, white and ruby. It has a pinkish yellow colored skin and the flesh is extremely juicy with a tangy flavor and semi-sweetness. Grapefruit was first discovered in the 18th century in the Barbados and today it is produced in countries like Brazil, Israel, South Africa and many parts of the United States of America.
Nutritional profile of Grapefruit
Grapefruit can be added as part of a healthy diet because it is a rich source of many nutrients and phytochemicals. It is very low in calories (42 calories per 100 grams), cholesterol and saturated fat. It is found to be a wonderful source of pectin, which is a dietary insoluble fiber. Grapefruit contains high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C. In addition, it contains moderate levels of vitamin E and B group of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and thiamin. It is also a good source of many flavonoid antioxidants such as naringin, naringenin, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and xanthin. Studies reveal that in addition to the flesh, the seeds are also high in antioxidants. Grapefruit is also an excellent source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Other mineral like iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium can be found in moderate amounts in this fruit.
Health benefits of Grapefruit
The consumption of fruits and vegetables have always been associated with a healthy body and reduced risks of diseases. Fruits like grapefruit are packed with high levels of nutrients and antioxidants that promote healthy and disease-free life. Some of the many health benefits of grapefruit are given below:
Grapefruit is a storehouse of vitamin C
Grapefruit contains very high levels of vitamin C, which is known to support and strengthen the immune system. Eating foods like grapefruit that are rich in Vitamin C is beneficial in preventing as well as reducing the severity of cold symptoms. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that helps in preventing the free radical damage that may lead to diseases like cancer and inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Free radicals may also cause the oxidation of cholesterol, which may lead to serious conditions like heart attacks or stroke.
Skin benefits of Grapefruit
The high amount of antioxidant vitamin C found in grapefruit is helpful in fighting damage of the skin caused by pollution and the harmful rays of the sun. It also fights off the free radicals and prevents oxidative stress on the cells, thus reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and other aging signs. Vitamin C stimulates the production of collagen that increases the elasticity of the skin and makes it look smooth and supple. Grapefruit also contains unique phytochemicals that help in promoting skin health as well as overall health. Naringin is a phytochemical found in this fruit that helps reduce the amount of toxins in the liver, which leads to healthier and beautiful looking skin. Grapefruit can also reduce inflammation and acne breakouts. There are many cosmetic products that make use of the healing properties of this wonderful fruit.
Hair benefits of Grapefruit
Foods rich in vitamin C, such as grapefruit are extremely important for the healthy growth of hair. A deficiency of vitamin C is often associated with dry and splitting hair, which may gradually lead to hair loss. The antioxidant properties of this vitamin prevent free radical damage to the hair and also help in strengthening the hair follicles. The extracts of grapefruit are found to have anti-microbial properties that help in preventing conditions like dandruff, itchiness and dry scalp. Massaging hair with grapefruit essential oil promotes healthy hair growth and leaves the hair looking lustrous and shinier. Spraying the hair with water containing a few drops of grapefruit essential oil after gives the hair a fresh and sweet fragrance.
Grapefruit for weight loss
Grapefruit is low in calories and is a godsend for people struggling to lose weight. Nutritionists and dieticians recommend the regular consumption of this fruit because studies have proven that eating grapefruit can help in losing weight considerably. It has been found that grapefruit has the ability to lower the insulin levels and so the sugars are converted into fuel instead of being stored as fat. A diet known as the grapefruit diet, which came into popularity during 1970s claimed that this fruit has the ability to burn fat. Additionally grapefruit has high water and fiber content which gives you the feeling of fullness, thus preventing overeating. This fruit also contains fat burning enzymes that help in removing the excess fat deposits, leading to weight loss.
Grapefruit is heart healthy
Eating grapefruit or drinking its juice has been found to help in protecting the heart and preventing heart disease. It contains dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants – a powerful combination of nutrients that supports the health of your cardiovascular system. Studies conducted by Israeli scientists from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem found out that the regular consumption of grapefruit can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by lowering the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), triglycerides and total cholesterol. By lowering the cholesterol levels, grapefruit prevents its accumulation in the blood stream, which in turn prevents atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Just like cholesterol, high blood pressure is considered to be another factor that can lead to heart problems. Research indicates that grapefruit may increase the flexibility of blood vessels and thus aid in lowering high blood pressure. Grapefruit contains good amounts of potassium that combats the effects of sodium. Since potassium is a vasodilator, it helps in widening the blood vessels, as a result of which blood can flow smoothly and easily, thus preventing high blood pressure.
Grapefruit fights against cancer
Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber and antioxidants, all of which contribute to lowering your risk of cancer. The pink and red colored varieties of grapefruit contain lycopene, which is a carotenoid phytonutrient. Lycopene is found to have the highest capacity to fight off the dangerous free radicals when compared to the common dietary carotenoids. According to a study published in the Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the regular consumption of foods rich in lycopene may help in significantly reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer in men.
Limonoids are phytonutrients found in grapefruit that have the ability to inhibit the formation of cancer cells by stimulating the production of a detoxifying enzyme known as glutathione-S-transferase. The flesh of grapefruit also contains compounds called glucarates that may help in preventing breast cancer. New research have found that grapefruit juice can help protect against lung cancer and colon cancer. Drinking three 6-ounce glasses of grapefruit juice daily has been found to lower the functions of an enzyme that may trigger the cancer causing chemicals known as carcinogens. Animal studies have revealed that the active compounds in grapefruit such as apigenin, limonin, hesperidin, naringenin, naringin, and nobiletin are capable of inducing cell death (aptosis) of cancer cells while at the same time they also stimulated the production of new colon cells.
Grapefruit for digestive health
Grapefruit contains high amounts of fiber and other nutrients that help your digestive system function at its optimum best. According to studies, grapefruit helps in improving the insulin levels in the blood. Insulin is a digestive hormone that is important for sugar metabolism and hence improved levels of this hormone can boost your digestive health. The high fiber content of this fruit helps prevent constipation and other digestive problems by promoting regular bowel movements.
Grapefruit for diabetics
Grapefruit is a nutrient rich fruit with low calories and low glycemic index, which makes it a healthy choice for people with diabetes. Because of the low glycemic index, grapefruit does not produce a significant effect on your blood glucose levels. According to a study published in the March 2006 issue of “Journal of Medicinal Food”, eating half a grapefruit before each meal may be helpful in regulating your blood sugar levels. Fresh grapefruit was found to improve the insulin levels and insulin resistance two hours after eating.
Grapefruit for improved vision
The red and pink varieties of grapefruits contain high amounts of beta carotene that are important to improve vision and to keep the eyes healthy. It also contains good amounts of Vitamin A and many flavonoid antioxidants. These anti-oxidants not only promote eye health but also prevent age related disorders like cataract and macular degeneration.
Grapefruit for preventing kidney stones
Drinking grapefruit juice daily can help in reducing your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, women who drank half to 1 liter of grapefruit, orange or apple juice on a daily basis, experienced an increase in their citric acid excretion and urinary pH value, which helped in significantly lowering their risk of developing calcium oxalate stones.
The health benefits offered by grapefruit is numerous and almost unrivaled by any other fruit. It is jam packed with essential nutrients that can make a positive impact on your health. The distinctive health benefitting and disease fighting properties of grapefruit has earned it the name of “fruit from the paradise”, especially among fitness fanatics and health conscious individuals. Drinking the juice of grapefruit daily for breakfast is refreshing and it will also help kick start your day with high energy that will last throughout the day. If you are on any medication, make sure to check with your doctor before including grapefruit in your diet as some compounds in this fruit are found to interact with certain medications.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Aleph, Flickr - Deb Schultz