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Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Grapefruits were discovered in Barbados in the 18th century. Many botanists think the grapefruit was the result of a natural cross-breeding that 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 is arranged when it grows—as it hangs in clusters, just like grapes. 

Grapefruits are categorized as white, pink or ruby. This terminology does not reflect their skin color, which is either yellow or pinkish-yellow but, rather, describes the color of their flesh. 

Although available throughout the year, grapefruits are in season and at their best from winter through early spring. Florida is a major producer of grapefruits, as are California, Arizona and Texas. Other countries that produce grapefruits commercially include Israel, South Africa and Brazil.  

Nutrient Profile: Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and vitamin C. It is also a good source of pantothenic acid, copper, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin and vitamin B1. Grapefruit also contains phytochemicals, including liminoids and lycopene.  

Health Benefits:

  • Excellent Source of Vitamin C: Vitamin C has been shown to support the immune system, reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions and promote cardiovascular health. 

  • Antioxidant Support: Pink and red grapefruits contain lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient (it is not present in white-flesh grapefruits). Lycopene has anti-tumor activity and can help fight oxygen-forming free radicals, which can damage cells and cellular DNA. In addition, the juice of grapefruits contains many other beneficial compounds with antioxidant activity. 

  • Cholesterol Lowering: In a recent study, it appeared that both red and white grapefruits positively influenced cholesterol levels; however, red grapefruit was more than twice as effective, especially in lowering triglycerides.    

Selection and Storage:  A good grapefruit doesn't have to be perfect in color. It can have discoloration and scratches. Signs of decay that will translate into poor taste include an overly soft spot at the stem end of the fruit and areas that appear watersoaked. The fruits should be heavy for their size, which usually indicates a higher concentration of juicier flesh. Grapefruits should be firm, yet slightly springy when gentle pressure is applied. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened grapefruit. 

Since grapefruits are juicier when they're slightly warm, 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. 

Grapefruits should be rinsed under cool water before consuming (even though you will probably not be eating the peel) since cutting into an unwashed fruit may transfer dirt or bacteria that may reside on the skin's surface to the edible flesh.  

Individual Concerns: Check with your healthcare practitioner about consuming grapefruit juice if you are taking pharmaceutical drugs. Certain medications (statins, cyclosporine, calcium channel blocker drugs, terfenadine, estradiol, saquinavir) may become more potent when combined with grapefruit juice. There are compounds in grapefruits that interfere with an intestinal enzyme which partially metabolizes and eliminates drugs as they are absorbed. This inhibition results in less drug being eliminated and thus allows more of the drug to enter into the bloodstream.

Recipe Suggestion: Here's a wonderful kale, avocado, and grapefruit salad with dijon grapefruit vinaigrette, from Katya at Littlebroken.

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