Grapefruit 101 – The Basics


Grapefruit 101 – The Basics

About Grapefruit
Grapefruits are large citrus fruits related to oranges, lemons and pomelos. Their flesh can be white, pink or red (ruby). Their skin color is yellow, sometimes with a pinkish hue. Grapefruits can range from 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Some have seeds, while others do not. They are juicy, tart and tangy with an underlying sweetness.

Grapefruits were discovered in Barbados in the 18th century. Botanists believe they were a natural cross breeding between the orange and pomelo, a citrus fruit that was brought to Barbados from Indonesia in the 17th century. The resulting fruit was named “grapefruit” in 1814 in Jamaica. The name reflects the fact that it grows in clusters like grapes.

Grapefruit trees were planted in Florida in the early 19th century. They became a commercial crop later that century. Florida is still a major grapefruit producer in America, along with California, Arizona, and Texas. Other countries that grow grapefruits commercially include Israel, South Africa, and Brazil.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Grapefruits are an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. They also supply a lot of pantothenic acid, copper, fiber, potassium, biotin, and Vitamin B1. Like most plant foods, grapefruit also contains health-promoting phytochemicals. One fresh pink grapefruit provides well over half the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.

Immune Support. Being rich in Vitamin C, grapefruit supports the immune system, helping to fight symptoms and severity of colds and flu. This vitamin also helps to neutralize free radicals thereby reducing inflammation associated with asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. By reducing inflammation through its Vitamin C content, grapefruit can also help to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.

Lycopene. Red and pink grapefruits (but NOT white grapefruit) are rich in lycopene, a type of carotenoid. Lycopene appears to have anti-tumor effects through its capacity to fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells in their path. Antioxidants, such as lycopene, neutralize such harmful molecules, preventing damage such as inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Limonoids. Grapefruits are rich in phytonutrients called limonoids. This class of compounds fights tumor formation by sparking the liver to make toxic compounds more water-soluble so they can be excreted from the body. In laboratory tests, limonoids have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach, and colon.

Lower Cholesterol. Research studies have found that both white and red grapefruits lowered LDL cholesterol when grapefruit was added to the diet for a period of 30 days. Red grapefruit was found to be more than twice as effective at lowering triglyceride levels than white grapefruit. The researchers concluded that adding fresh red grapefruit could be beneficial for people with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. [IMPORTANT NOTE: Compounds in grapefruit are known to increase blood levels of several prescription drugs, including statins. If you fall in this category, it would be wise to have the blood levels of your medications monitored if you suddenly increase your intake of grapefruit.]

DNA Repair. A flavonoid, naringenin, that is concentrated in grapefruit has been shown to help repair damaged DNA in human prostate cancer cells, as published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age. With age comes cellular division. The more we age, the more times our cells have divided. With each division, there is greater chance for DNA mutations to happen. Repairing DNA is one of the body’s main defense mechanisms against developing cancer. Naringenin helps to restore damaged DNA, thereby lowering the risk of cancer.

Precautions. As mentioned in the section “Lower Cholesterol” above, if you are taking certain prescription drugs, you may need to consult with your doctor before increasing your intake of grapefruit juice. When combined with grapefruit juice, some drugs, including cyclosporine, calcium channel blockers, the antihistamine terfenadine, the hormone estradiol, statin drugs, and the antiviral agent saquinavir may become more potent. This is because compounds in grapefruit slow the normal detoxification processes in the intestines and liver, hindering the body’s ability to break down and eliminate these drugs.

How to Select Grapefruit
Choose grapefruits that are firm and feel heavy for their size. They should have plump, glossy skin. Grapefruits do not need to be uniform in color to be of good quality. Skin discolorations and small scratches do not affect the quality of the fruit.

Signs of age and decay include an overly soft spot near the stem end of the fruit. Areas that appear waterlogged should also be avoided when choosing grapefruits. Also avoid those that are overly wrinkled or rough.

How to Store Grapefruit
Store grapefruits at room temperature for up to a week, or up to three weeks in the refrigerator crisper drawer (set on low humidity, with the air vents open). Grapefruits are juicier when at room temperature, so it may be helpful to allow them to warm up before eating, if they were stored in the refrigerator.

How to Prepare a Grapefruit
Even though you very likely won’t be eating the peel, do rinse them off with cool water before cutting into your grapefruit. It’s important to rinse off any bacteria that may be lingering on the surface so you don’t transfer it onto the flesh that you will eat, when cutting into it with a knife.

Grapefruits may be cut in half horizontally, then sectioned with a knife along the membranes. A spoon can then be used to remove the flesh. Grapefruits may also be cut into quarters so you can fold the peel back and release the flesh that way. Remove as much of the white pith in the process, since that is rather bitter. The sections can be cut as desired. They can also be eaten like oranges, peeling the grapefruit with a knife.

Here’s a video demonstrating ways to cut grapefruit, …

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Grapefruit
* Try a salad with red grapefruit sections, avocado slices, and slivered fennel on a bed of arugula and other salad greens. Top with a citrus or honey mustard vinaigrette dressing.

* Try a grapefruit salsa by combining chopped grapefruit sections, avocado, mango, chili peppers, lime and grapefruit juice, olive oil, and lots of chopped herbs (basil, cilantro, or mint). Use as a topping for fish, chicken, or for scooping up with bread or chips.

* Grapefruit picked earlier in the season will be tarter than those picked late in the season. They are at their peak season from early winter through Spring.

* Add grapefruit sections to a smoothie. Blend together 1 medium grapefruit (peeled and seeds removed), 1 large sweet apple, 1 large banana, 2 cups fresh spinach, about ½ cup milk of choice (or water or orange juice), 2 or 3 ice cubes, and ½ tsp fresh grated ginger (optional).

* Are you looking for a way to make grapefruit taste better without loading it with sugar? LIGHTLY sprinkle just a LITTLE salt on your cut grapefruit. Yes, salt. NOT a lot. Just a little will cut the sourness or bitterness, and actually make it taste sweeter.

* Try a simple citrus salad for a quick snack or dessert. Combine cut grapefruit and orange sections with some vanilla yogurt, and a drizzle of honey (optional). Give it a little stir and you’re done. You could dress it up more with a sprinkle of ground flax seeds and/or a little granola for crunch.

* Try adding grapefruit sections to your favorite morning oatmeal. Round it out with some coconut milk and a drizzle of honey, if you want the added sweetness. Top it with toasted walnuts for some added crunch.

* For something different, try broiled grapefruit. Cut the grapefruit in half (horizontally) and remove the seeds. Place cut side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle each half with 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Broil until the sugar has melted and started to bubble, about 3 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the grapefruit halves to cool just a bit. Enjoy while it’s still warm!

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Grapefruit
Basil, cardamom, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, mint, mustard, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, salt, tarragon, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Grapefruit
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, cashews, chicken, fish, hazelnuts, pistachios, pork, salmon, scallops, shrimp, sunflower seeds, walnuts

Vegetables: Artichokes (Jerusalem), arugula, beets, cabbage (i.e., napa), celery, celery root, chicory, chiles, cucumber, endive (Belgian), fennel, ginger, greens, jicama, kale, scallions, spinach, watercress

Fruits: Avocados, bananas, cherries, coconut, dates, kiwi, lemon, lime, melon, oranges, passion fruit, pears, pineapple, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur (wheat), farro, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, wild rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e., feta, Parmesan, ricotta), coconut cream, mascarpone, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, caramel, honey, maple sugar, maple syrup, mustard, oil (olive), soy sauce, sugar (i.e., brown, coconut, date), vinegar (i.e., champagne, rice wine, sherry, white wine), vodka, wine (i.e., sparkling)

Grapefruits have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Compotes, drinks (i.e., sparkling wine cocktails), granita, ices, salad dressings, salads (i.e., fruit, grain, green), sauces, smoothies, sorbets

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Grapefruit
Add grapefruit sections to any of the following combinations…

Arugula + olive oil
Arugula + hazelnuts + pomegranates
Avocado + salad greens + fennel
Honey + mint
Maple syrup + strawberries

Recipe Links

21 Delicious Ways to Cook with Grapefruit

Top 4: Grapefruit Recipes

29 Sweet and Tangy Grapefruit Recipes

14 Ways to Upgrade Your Grapefruit Game

Pink Detox Salad

32 Great Grapefruit Recipes

9 Grapefruit Recipes Better Than Just Dumping Sugar on Top

Grapefruit Smoothie Bowl

11 Unexpected Ways to Use Grapefruit

Broiled Grapefruit

Freekeh Tabbouleh with Grapefruit

Grain Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Dates, and Grapefruit

Ancient Grain Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

Grapefruit Grain Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Millet Salad with Grapefruit, Olives and Chickpeas

Farro and Spinach Salad with Grapefruit and Goat Cheese

California Wild Rice, Arugula, Grapefruit, Toasted Pecan Salad

Black Rice Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

Pink Grapefruit, Black Bean, and Rice Salad Recipe

Grapefruit-Coconut Oatmeal

Grapefruit Marmalade

Grapefruit Baked Oatmeal with Walnut Streusel



Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

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