You were probably thinking chocolate for Valentine’s Day, but since red grapefruits are so amazing for you, maybe you could throw some in the festivities. After all, it is national grapefruit month, and they are pretty red inside! Their powerful nutrients boost the immune system, fight cancers with gusto, decrease the risk of heart disease, and even give us an edge in the battle to lose weight. Named by how they grow in clusters like grapes, this deliciously tart yet sweet fruit may be a much-needed health reprieve for your body after gorging on Super Bowl and Valentine goodies.
Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, helping our bodies to fight diseases. Vitamin C-rich foods may reduce the severity of cold symptoms. Grapefruit is also an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and a good source of pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, copper, choline, and vitamin B1.
Due in large part to the phytochemicals lycopene and liminoids that it contains, red grapefruit is a powerful anti-cancer food. The reddish-pink color is due to lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient. Lycopene appears to battle tumors. Of all the carotenoids, lycopene has the highest ability to help fight compounds that damage cells. Choosing to eat lycopene-rich foods such as pink/red grapefruit on a regular basis may significantly reduce men’s risk of developing prostate cancer, according to research published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The phytonutrient liminoid in grapefruit also fights cancer. These liminoids inhibit tumor formation by helping a detoxifying enzyme to form and make toxic substances easier for the body to eliminate. In citrus fruit, limonin appears to be absorbed easily and lasts over 24 hours. Other natural cancer-fighting compounds, like the phytonutrient phenols in green tea and dark chocolate, only remain active for about 4 to 6 hours. It’s possible that this increased ability of liminoids to be absorbed and to fight longer explains why they help prevent cancerous cells from growing to help fight many types of cancers.
Next, heart health. The fiber, potassium, lycopene, vitamin C and choline in grapefruit work synergistically to help maintain a healthy heart. Grapefruit appears to significantly lower blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and especially triglycerides. The soluble fiber, pectin, abundant in grapefruit, has been reported to slow down the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup. Even the risk of stroke is lower in grapefruit eaters. Add lower blood pressure from the potassium in grapefruits to this list and you have a heart-healthy food!
In terms of weight loss, grapefruit isn’t a miracle diet food as some fad diets tout, but it can give you a weight loss edge and help your insulin to be more effective. A study by the Scripps Clinic in San Diego found those who ate half a grapefruit prior to each meal lost 3.5 pounds, while the placebo group only lost about half a pound over 12 weeks. They also reported a significant improvement in insulin resistance.
Many battling their weight are struggling in part because more insulin is needed to do the same job. More insulin can put our body in fat-forming mode, making it harder to keep those pounds off. Type 2 diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome (defined as having any three of the following: high triglycerides, high fasting blood sugar levels, abdominal fat, high blood pressure, or low HDL cholesterol) often suffer from insulin resistance.
Medication Interaction Warning:
Always check the label on your prescription medications to see if grapefruit is counterindicated. Because of some of grapefruit’s binding abilities, it can cause medications to pass from your gut to your blood faster than usual. Grapefruit should be avoided with certain medications like statin drugs, some psychiatric medications, and calcium blockers.
Take advantage of the grapefruit season and eat red grapefruit this month for February’s Healthy Challenge. At the very least, help your body recover from our food celebrations this month by indulging in red grapefruit! To get started, try my Citrus Avocado Salad or broil a sectioned red grapefruit half topped with a bit of real, maple syrup until bubbling. Yum!