Related to the orange, the grapefruit is a larger, round citrus fruit which was named for the way it grows - in clusters like grapes. Grapefruits are more tart and tangy than an orange with just a hint of sweetness. In Latin, the grapefruit's name translates to "paradise."
The different varieties of grapefruit grow anywhere from 4 to 6 inches in width and can be seedless or with seeds. This fruit is mainly categorized by its color and can be called ruby, pink or white based on the color of the flesh.
Many modern diets call for consuming grapefruit to reduce the appetite and aid in the digestion and utilization of other foods. Grapefruit is very low in calories, making them a good choice for weight loss. Among the largest of the fruits available, some individuals think grapefruit is too tart to enjoy by itself. However, the pectin in grapefruit can help to prevent cancer, reduce bruising, prevent stroke and heart disease and relieve some cold symptoms. Grapefruit is also known to fight free radicals in the body.
This fruit was first discovered in 1750 in Barbados and is generally regarded to be the result from crossbreeding an orange and a pomelo (a citrus fruit brought to Barbados from Indonesia in the 17th Century).
Grapefruit had become an important commercial crop for Florida by 1880 and Florida is still a major supplier of grapefruits in the U.S. Texas, California and Arizona also grow grapefruit, as well as South Africa, Israel and Brazil.
Even though grapefruit is very low in calories, this fruit is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, flavonoids and water-soluble fibers. Phytochemical are also found in grapefruit, including lycopene, glucarates, and liminoids.
A typical serving of grapefruit (1/2 of an average-sized red or pink fruit) provides the body with just 42 calories, 0.1 gram of fat, 0.8 grams of protein, 10.7 grams of carbohydrates, 6.9 grams of natural sugars and 1.6 grams of fiber.
Recent research shows that the pectin found in grapefruit is very similar to that found in the pectin of other fruits. While a typical whole grapefruit contains about 7.5 grams of pectin, the research which recommends eating 15 grams of grapefruit pectin each day would have an individual consuming two grapefruits in order to lower the risk of heart disease by approximately 20 percent.
Consuming grapefruit also seems to normalize the hematocrit levels in people. (Hematocrit refers to the percentage of red blood cells in the bloodstream.) A low hematocrit level typically reflects the presence of anemia. High levels of hematocrit can be an indication of severe dehydration. High levels are known to be associated with heart disease because the blood has become too viscous. Naringin, a flavonoid found in grapefruit, promotes the elimination of old red blood cells.
Other research has shown that this flavonoid also helps to balance high levels of hematocrit. Alternative health professionals have long known that many of the natural compounds in herbs and other foods seem to impact the mechanisms which control balance in the body and aid in normalizing daily functions.
Grapefruit (particularly those with pink or red flesh) are also an excellent source for lycopene, a phytochemical which is important in the battles against cancer, macular degeneration and heart disease.
This fruit also contains other chemicals known to fight cancer: D-limonene inhibits the formation of tumors by promoting the growth of glutathione-s compounds in the liver, detoxifying agents. This enzyme works in the liver by helping to make toxins more water soluble so they can be excreted from the body.
Grapefruit also contains glucarates, compounds that help the body to eliminate excessive amounts of estrogen, possibly helping to prevent breast cancer.
A few people are allergic to citrus peels. However, citrus peels should never be eaten, whether an allergy is present in an individual or not.
People taking certain drugs should not consume grapefruit as it may interfere with the potency of the drug. Naringin found in grapefruit does not allow the body to break down certain drugs. If these drugs go unmetabolized, they remain in the body in much higher concentrations, thus allowing the risk for unwanted toxic effects.
Selecting and Storing
Good quality grapefruit is firm but a bit springy to the touch. Grapefruit seem heavy for their size. The skin does not have to be perfect in appearance from the outside, but if it appears to be soft or wilted or is green in color, it should not be eaten.
Another sign of decay in grapefruit is a soft spot at the stem end of the fruit. Grapefruits are juicier when warm, so some people prefer to store them at room temperature rather than refrigerate them. If stored in a refrigerator, grapefruit will keep for two to three weeks.
As with all fruits, the skin of the grapefruit should be washed before cutting to avoid transferring bacteria or allergens on the surface.
Serving Ideas for Grapefruit
Grapefruit can be eaten like oranges. However, other ways to serve grapefruit include:
- As a juice.
- Cutting up the sections and adding them to salads.
- By sprinkling the sections with maple syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon and then grilling.
- Making a salsa made of cilantro, chili peppers and diced grapefruit.
- Holford, P.(2004). The optimum nutrition bible. London : Piatkus
- Holford, P & Lawson, S. (2008). Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health. London : Piatkus
- Murray, M.T. et al.(2005). Encyclopedia of healing foods. London : Piatkus
- Yeager, S. & Prevention Health Books. (1998). The doctors book of food remedies : the newest discoveries in the power of food to cure and prevent health problems from aging and diabetes to ulcers and yeast infections. [Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale
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