February was Grapefruit Month, and even if you missed it, it is still a great time to pay a little tribute to the virtues of this much-maligned fruit. It’s tangy, the citrusy flavor can serve as a reminder of the warm weather climates in which it grows, helping us get through the sluggish end of winter. Grapefruit health benefits offer plenty in the way of nutrition that helps with weight maintenance and will also help the body fight off the colds and assorted maladies that are so common this time of year.
Pink grapefruit provides 80 percent of your daily vitamin C needs in a typical serving of half the fruit, is proven to bolster the immune system, can detoxify the body, and even slow the growth rate of tumors. It is also chock full of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that has been found to lower the risk of both bladder and prostate cancer. And pink grapefruit provides you with 6 percent of the RDA of vitamin A, another valuable nutrient that helps maintain the health of the retina, particularly important for our vision in lower light.
Yellow grapefruit is no slouch, either, in the vitamin and nutrient department. Just under its more colorful cousin, the yellow grapefruit health benefits include 73.3 percent of your vitamin C quota for the day, as well as an impressive 23.7 percent of vitamin A.
In addition, grapefruit is a great choice for weight maintenance. And keep in mind that while 100 percent grapefruit juice will deliver nutrients to your body, it will not give you fiber. But as long as you eat the fruit rather than drinking the juice, you will get 0.8 gram of fiber, which fulfills nearly 6 percent of your recommended daily allowance. It is also high in pectin, which helps move things along in your digestive tract to both keep your bowel movements regular and lessen the amount of time potentially damaging fecal matter hangs around in the colon. In addition, that fiber will keep you feel satiated longer, while only serving up a mere 30 calories. And studies have shown that the pectin may be strongly anti-carcinogenic–particularly with regard to colon cancer.
Grapefruit has been found in numerous studies to confer disease protection as well. In a 2006 study, a team of researchers from universities in Israel, Singapore, and Poland split participants into three groups. All of them ate healthy, low-fat diets, but one group had a red grapefruit each day, another had a yellow grapefruit each day, and the third ate no grapefruit. Both groups of grapefruit eaters experienced reduced levels of total cholesterol as well as LDL, the “bad,” cholesterol. The red grapefruit eaters enjoyed the additional benefit of lowering their triglyceride levels too.
So, with all these health benefits, why has the media labeled grapefruit a danger? Simply put, grapefruit can enhance the risks already inherent in pharmaceutical drugs. Upwards of 85 medications have been found to interact with grapefruit. Those research and development departments at pharmaceutical conglomerates keep busy by constantly rolling out new drugs, so needless to say, the incidence of problems experienced by grapefruit eaters has risen in recent years. And, despite the known interactions, many doctors don’t think to ask patients if they eat grapefruit or mention that it is a contraindication.
Grapefruit itself is not harmful. Certain pharmaceuticals for pain, heart disease, schizophrenia, and cancer, on the other hand, have been found to be problematic when combined with grapefruit. The danger comes from the fact that grapefruit inhibits the CYP3A4 enzyme in the liver that helps the body metabolize the pharmaceutical. Therefore, the medication is much stronger as it enters the system, and its effects are magnified, sometimes to the point of causing an overdose.
But the key issue to remember is that the toxicity is inherent in the pharmaceutical drug, not the grapefruit. The problem, once again, is that grapefruit can enhance that toxicity–particularly that of statin drugs. If you are prescribed pharmaceuticals, it is essential to discuss with your doctor whether grapefruit is safe to consume for the duration of the medication. And if you are not taking any kind of prescription medicine, dig right into this citrus delight because, for most of us, grapefruit is nothing but healthy.