Tired of Oranges? Grapefruit Is Full of Vitamin C, Too (and Many More Healthy Benefits)

This pink citrus fruit packs in a lot of nutrition with all its delicious tartness.

You already know citrus fruits like grapefruit can add a delightful acidity and punch of flavor to everything from cocktails to baked goods to salads. Eating fresh, whole grapefruit has many nutritional benefits, too, making it a smart choice to enjoy on its own for breakfast, as a snack, or even for dessert.

The good news? Drinking grapefruit juice also reaps healthy benefits—as long as it's 100 percent real grapefruit juice. Fun fact: Grapefruit juice is considered one of the most nutrient-dense juices compared to other non-fortified, 100 percent juices.

Grapefruit (and 100 percent grapefruit juice) are nutrient-rich options that can help you achieve the recommended 2 cups of fruit per day, says Mary Waddill, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and product compliance and nutrition analyst with Whole Foods Market based in Austin, Texas. (By the way, according to the USDA, about 80 percent of Americans do not meet their daily recommendations for fruit.)

So there are pros and (minor) cons to consuming grapefruit either way: whole or juiced. The benefit of eating the whole fruit is that you'll get more fiber. That said, drinking 100 percent grapefruit juice may provide slightly more flavonoids, due to the processing of the peel into juice.

"When you juice a fruit, you'll get most of the nutrients but lose nearly all of the fiber," says Matthew Landry, PhD, RDN, and a registered dietitian nutritionist and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine based in Palo Alto, California. But if you blend a fruit like a grapefruit (as in a smoothie) instead of juicing, you maintain that fiber, which helps you digest nutrients and sugars more slowly. "The absence of fiber can lead to spikes in blood sugar," he adds.

slices of oranges and grapefruit on a colorful background
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Who Shouldn't Eat Grapefruit?

Grapefruit can alter enzymes in the body, which affects how medications are processed before they're eliminated, according to Landry. Medications that most commonly interact with grapefruit include cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

"However, not all drugs in any one class usually have an interaction, so a doctor can help you select an alternative medication," he adds. If you're worried about a possible interaction, speak with your doctor before adding grapefruit to your diet.

3 Top Health Benefits of Grapefruit

It's an excellent source of vitamin C.

Like most fruits, grapefruit is low in calories, containing about 60 calories per one-half of a medium grapefruit (around 154 grams). It also has about 2 grams of dietary fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins C and A.

"One of the key benefits of grapefruit is its high concentration of vitamin C, which plays an important role in the body's regular immune system function and improves the absorption of iron present in plant-based foods," explains Waddill. She adds that vitamin C is required for biosynthesizing collagen, which helps to heal wounds. Some research suggests that vitamin C may also help regenerate other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin E.

It's rich in flavonoids.

Another major health benefit: Grapefruit is comprised of flavonoids, which are shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

It has free radical-fighting properties.

Pink and red grapefruit are a source of phytochemical lycopene—predominantly found in red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelon—that helps protect your skin from free radicals.

The Best Ways to Enjoy Grapefruit

Landry's all-time favorite way to eat this citrus fruit is to add some peeled pink grapefruit to a salad because "it adds a fresh, sweet but tart flavor." Try using grapefruit juice on a salad as an ingredient in vinaigrette, which pairs well with avocado or feta cheese.

For breakfast, grapefruit is best enjoyed raw, or even broiled with a little honey or sugar sprinkled on top, suggests Waddill. She also recommends grapefruit as a topping for avocado toast or incorporated into fresh salsa.

Want more inspiration for grapefruit? Check out these healthy recipes.

Grapefruit and Feta Fregola Salad
Fregola is a small, toasted pasta from Sardinia. We also call for Israeli couscous which is very similar and just as delicious. This salad, tossed with quick-broiled onions, fresh grapefruit, briny feta, and irresistible hazelnuts will be on your dinner rotation all winter (and beyond!). Get the recipe: Grapefruit and Feta Fregola Salad. Greg DuPree

Grapefruit and Feta Fregola Salad

Similar to couscous, fregola is somewhere between a grain and a pasta, with a nutty flavor that pairs beautifully with tart grapefruit slices and tangy feta.

Get the recipe.

Grapefruit Salad with Vanilla Syrup and Yogurt
Christopher Testani

Grapefruit Salad With Vanilla Syrup and Yogurt

Enjoy this bright salad for breakfast or a snack, with Greek yogurt adding protein, and the grapefruit and green apple providing a punch of tartness.

Get the recipe.

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Sources
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  1. USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Accessed November 23, 2022.

  2. Institute of Food Technologists, Exploring the Health Implication of Citrus Flavonoids. Accessed November 26, 2022.

  3. Bailey DG, Dresser G, Arnold JM. Grapefruit-medication interactions: forbidden fruit or avoidable consequences?CMAJ. 2013;185(4):309-316. doi:10.1503/cmaj.120951

  4. FDA, Grapefruit juice and some drugs don't mix. Accessed November 26, 2002.

  5. FDA, Raw fruits poster. Accessed November 26, 2022.

  6. NIH, Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C - fact sheet for health professionals.

  7. Panche AN, Diwan AD, Chandra SR. Flavonoids: an overviewJ Nutr Sci. 2016;5:e47. doi:10.1017/jns.2016.41

  8. Imran M, Ghorat F, Ul-Haq I, et al. Lycopene as a natural antioxidant used to prevent human health disordersAntioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(8):706. doi:10.3390/antiox9080706

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