All About Grapefruit: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Types, and More

Medically Reviewed
a halved grapefruit which has many nutritional benefits
Grapefruit contains filling fiber, which may help you lose weight.Dobranska Renata/Stocksy

Next to the orange, grapefruit is one of the most popular citrus fruits in the United States. Known for its combination of bitterness and slight sweetness, this fruit is versatile when in salads, fruit medleys, and other recipes. Perhaps more important is its nutritional profile, which includes disease-fighting antioxidants. Read more about the grapefruit and its potential benefits and side effects.

What Is Grapefruit Exactly, and Where Does It Come From??

Whether you eat grapefruit for breakfast or turn to it for a refreshing snack, this bittersweet-tasting citrus fruit is a staple in many American households. It belongs to the?Rutaceae?family, known for their edible fruit and aromatic leaves.

The grapefruit goes by the scientific name?Citrus paradisi.

Grapefruit, like other citrus fruits, grows on trees. They tend to grow in more tropical climates, and the trees grow best in sandy soil. The trees have dark green leaves and can grow up to 20 feet tall. The fruit they yield looks nothing like a grape: It has a yellow or blush rind with pulp that may be yellow, a very light pink, or a darker, deeper red. Each cluster on the tree produces more than 12 to 20 grapefruits at a time.

Grapefruit trees are now grown across the United States, but the modern grapefruit we know today is thought to have evolved from a hybrid version from Jamaica. It was popularized in the West Indies before making its way to the United States.

It’s thought that the first commercialized grapefruit in that country was grown in Florida after enjoying a brief status as a novelty plant.

Today, it can be found in other subtropical climates, including Texas, Arizona, and California.

Grapefruit was popularized as a diet food in the 1970s. As a result, grapefruit grew exponentially in popularity across the country. Some reports suggest that metropolitan New Yorkers selected grapefruit as the fourth-most popular fruit and vegetable in the early 1980s.

Grapefruit Nutrition Facts: Calories, Carbohydrates, and More

Here is the nutritional information for a 1 cup serving of whole grapefruit sections with juice:

Nutritionally speaking, grapefruit is popular for its vitamin C content, and is on the list of healthy fruits recommended by?the U.S. Department of Agriculture's?MyPlate?guidelines. Ounce for ounce, it ranks third behind oranges and lemons among the highest fruit sources of vitamin C.

What Are the Health Benefits of Grapefruit? A Look at What the Research Suggests

Like other citrus fruits, such as oranges and tangerines, grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. This water-soluble nutrient is important for:

  • Effective protein metabolism
  • Wound healing
  • Collagen?maintenance to reduce signs of premature aging
  • Nerve communication and muscle movement
In considering these basic body functions, the National Institutes of Health recommends that most adults get between 75 and 90 mg of vitamin C per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need even more than nonpregnant women, but not more than 90 mg. Because vitamin C is water soluble, any excess amount that your body doesn’t need is removed via urine, which may be possible after eating one grapefruit.

Getting enough vitamin C is also important to help prevent long-term health issues. Research has shown vitamin C may play a role in fending off certain?types of cancer,?cataracts, and heart disease. It may also help support your immune system and decrease the likelihood of?a cold.

Are Grapefruits Good for Weight Loss?

During the 1970s, the “grapefruit diet” began making headlines in the United States and gained a reputation as a good way to lose weight. While it's now regarded as an ineffective type of?fasting diet, people who have tried this eating approach use it for the purpose of losing 10 pounds or more in a short amount of time.

On the grapefruit diet, you eat large quantities of grapefruit and grapefruit juices in an effort to burn more fat.

But like other fad diets, the grapefruit diet isn’t proven to be safe or effective. While grapefruit is a healthy food choice, eating too much of any one food won’t provide your body with the variety of nutrients it needs. Too much grapefruit can also cause?gastrointestinal?reactions, such as diarrhea or nausea, due to its high vitamin C content.

While eating grapefruit alone won’t help you burn more fat, research does show that including grapefruit in your diet can help you shed excess pounds. For example, one small randomized control trial found that participants with obesity who ate half a fresh grapefruit before each meal for 12 weeks lost an average of 1.6 kilograms (kg), or about 3.5 pounds (lb), compared with a control group who lost 0.3 kg, which is less than 1 lb.

According to one theory, this may be thanks to an ingredient in grapefruit called nootkatone. A past study found that nootkatone stimulated energy metabolism in a mouse model.

?Metabolism is the group of processes by which the body uses energy or burns calories; the faster your metabolism, the more calories you’ll burn both during rest and while exercising.

These findings show the potential weight loss effect of grapefruit, and how this fruit can complement a healthy diet. (Keep in mind, though, that this is just a theory, and further research is needed to determine exactly how grapefruit may lead to weight loss.)
Also, a 1 cup serving of grapefruit has 2.5 g of fiber, making it a good source of the nutrient.

Fiber-rich, low-calorie foods like grapefruit can help aid weight loss efforts by keeping you feeling full longer, compared with empty-calorie foods like sodas and cookies, which can leave you hungry.

Common Questions & Answers

Does grapefruit burn belly fat?
While some research has indicated grapefruit’s positive metabolic effects, there’s no evidence that grapefruit alone helps you burn belly fat (or fat at all for that matter). A grapefruit-only diet isn’t safe, and there’s no proof that any diet will help you spot-reduce body fat. If you’re concerned about your weight, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist about a balanced diet and exercise plan tailored to your specific needs.
Is grapefruit a better source of vitamin C than other citrus fruits?
Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, but it contains just slightly less vitamin C than oranges. A 1 cup serving of grapefruit has 79 mg vitamin C, while the same serving size of oranges offers about 98 mg, according to the USDA.
Is grapefruit good for your skin?
Grapefruit is added to many over-the-counter beauty products as both an antioxidant-rich extract and for its citrusy scent. It may also be good for your skin by helping to prevent free radical damage. You’ll want to avoid applying pure essential oils to your face though — make sure you dilute a few drops in a carrier oil first.
What’s the difference between grapefruit oil and grapefruit extract?
Much of the difference between grapefruit essential oil and grapefruit extract starts with the way they're processed. Essential oils go through more rigorous processing than grapefruit extract, in which they’re converted to therapeutic strength. Grapefruit essential oil is used in massages, yoga, mindfulness activities, and aromatherapy. Grapefruit extracts, on the other hand, are used as supplements for your health. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor before you use grapefruit oil or extracts.
Can I eat grapefruit or use grapefruit products if I’m taking medications?
This all depends on the exact type of medication you take. Grapefruit (in whole and juice form) and its extracts and oils can interact with certain prescription drugs. It may also interact with over-the-counter medications, such as certain antihistamines.

What Are the Different Types of Grapefruit?

The pulp of the grapefruit varies between shades of pink and red.

Generally, the darker the pulp, the more antioxidants the grapefruit tends to contain.
There are at least 10 known varieties of grapefruit, including:

  • Ruby Red
  • Redblush
  • Sweetie
  • Triumph
  • Duncan
  • Thompson
  • Foster
  • Paradise Navel
  • Marsh
  • Oroblanco
Grapefruit is also a popular fruit for juicing because it’s high in water.

Grapefruit juice may be a more convenient way to obtain some of the nutrients from the fruit without having to deal with the rind and pulp. Be aware, though, that some types of commercialized grapefruit juice may contain added sugars. And the juice does not contain the beneficial fiber that the whole fruit does.
Some people use grapefruit seed extracts and essential oils with the hope of treating medical ailments. For example, grapefruit flower extract is sometimes used for?insomnia, while grapefruit leaf essential oils are used for?antibiotic?benefits.

But research backing these claims is limited. Also, essential oils are stronger and more processed than extracts. Health experts don’t recommend ingesting essential oils.

How to Select and Store Grapefruit for the Best Quality and Taste

Select fully ripe grapefruit that’s free of bruises and cuts. A yellow (or pinkish) rind indicates that your grapefruit is fully ripe.

You can keep the fruit at room temperature for up to a week. Refrigeration can help extend the life by an additional week or two.

How to Eat Grapefruit, and Some Recipe Inspiration

Grapefruit is a typical breakfast food; the fruit is cut in half and the pulp is eaten with a spoon.

Some people sprinkle sugar on top to balance out the sour taste, but this can reduce the healthiness factor of your fruit. If you?must?sweeten your grapefruit, try no-calorie stevia instead of sugar. Grapefruit is also sometimes used to make jellies, marmalades, and syrups.

If you’re tired of your normal grapefruit routine, check out the recipes below for some inspiration.

Other Uses for Grapefruit: Does the Fruit Have Beauty Benefits?

The high antioxidant content of grapefruit has led to the manufacturing of beauty products that contain small amounts of the fruit. Antioxidants are thought to help your skin by reducing free radical damage that can lead to premature aging, which shows up on the skin as wrinkles, sagging, or dullness.

Grapefruit is also used in the farming industry, primarily for pigs and cattle. Some people also use the wood from grapefruit trees for firewood, furniture, and flooring.

Potential Side Effects and Health Risks of Grapefruit, Including Medication Interactions

Vitamin C, a key nutrient in grapefruit, isn’t typically toxic in large amounts. But exceeding the recommended intake on a daily basis for a long period of time may be associated with tissue damage.

As mentioned, consuming high levels of vitamin C can lead to diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and other minor gastrointestinal issues.

Grapefruit, grapefruit juice, and related oils and extracts can also interact with certain medications. This is due to grapefruit’s natural ability to block an enzyme important to the absorption of medications, called CYP3A4. When you drink grapefruit juice with your medication, for example, the medication won’t work as it ought to.

Here are some of the medications that may negatively interact with grapefruit:

Talk to your doctor if you take any medications or supplements before consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice. It’s also possible that grapefruit may interact with?birth control. While it doesn’t make birth control less effective, it can interact with the medication and increase your risk of side effects, such as nausea and breast tenderness.

Additional reporting by Laura McArdle.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Grapefruit: Tree and Fruit. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  2. Grapefruit. Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products. June 29, 2018.
  3. Basic Report: 09111, Grapefruit, Raw, Pink and Red and White, All Areas. United States Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
  4. Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. March 2, 2018.
  5. Youdim A. Diets. Merck Manual.
  6. Murase T, Misawa K, Haramizu S, et al. Nootkatone, a Characteristic Constituent of Grapefruit, Stimulates Energy Metabolism and Prevents Diet-Induced Obesity by Activating AMPK. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism. August 2010.
  7. Weight Loss: Feel Full on Fewer Calories. Mayo Clinic. January 20, 2017.
  8. Essential Oils: Poisonous When Misused. National Capital Poison Center.
  9. Ming-Chiu O, Yi-Hsin Y,?et al. The Composition, Antioxidant, and Antibacterial Activities of Cold-Pressed and Distilled Essential Oils of Citrus paradisi and Citrus grandis (L.) Osbeck. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. November 22, 2015.
  10. Grapefruit Juice and Some Drugs Don’t Mix. United States Food and Drug Administration. June 16, 2018.
  11. Grapefruit and Birth Control. Drugs.com. February 20, 2018.
  12. Basic Report: 09200, Oranges, Raw, All Commercial Varieties. United States Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
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