How many grapefruits should you eat a day? That depends on a few different factors, including what your current health is like and how healthy you’re trying to make it. But it’s important to know exactly how many grapefruits you should be eating in order to get the most out of them.
Grapefruits are well-known for their numerous health benefits. Many have even called grapefruit as a natural wonder drug due to the fact that you get so much health benefits in just these little fruits. However, not all know that how many grapefruits should you eat a day.
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.
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
- Paradise Navel
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.
Grapefruit Nutrition Facts: Calories, Carbohydrates, and More
Here is the nutritional information for a 1 cup serving of whole grapefruit sections with juice:
- Calories: 76
- Total fat: 0.2 grams (g)
- Carbohydrates: 19 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.5 g
- Protein: 1.6 g
- Sugars: 16.8 g
- Calcium: 28 milligrams (mg)
- Iron: 0.1 mg
- Magnesium: 21 mg
- Phosphorus: 18 mg
- Potassium: 340 mg
- Zinc: 0.2 mg
- Vitamin C: 77 mg
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.
Before grabbing a grapefruit, understand its power
Grapefruit looks sweet and friendly, but you might have heard it possesses powers far beyond those of ordinary produce.
Some of that reputation is fact, and some is myth.
Facts first: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, half a medium grapefruit has only 41 calories and nearly half a day’s recommended supply of vitamin C.
“In addition, it’s a reasonable source of potassium,” which is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure, said Karen Collins, a registered dietitian in western New York who specializes in cancer prevention and heart health.
Grapefruit also is laden with natural plant compounds called phytochemicals, specifically flavonoids, which studies show can help fight stroke and heart disease. Pink and red grapefruit are good sources of beta carotene (a source of vitamin A) and lycopene, an antioxidant “cousin” to beta carotene that has been linked to lower stroke risk. One cup of red or pink grapefruit sections has as much lycopene as a medium 4-ounce tomato.
That’s all good. But grapefruit’s reputation for interfering with some medications is well-deserved.
It particularly affects certain anti-cholesterol statin drugs, as well as some medicines used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and even allergies. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can cause too much or too little of a drug to stay in the body. Too much drug increases the risk of side effects; too little means the drug may not work as well.
If you enjoy grapefruit or grapefruit juice and take such medications, there’s no need to panic, Collins said. But talk with your pharmacist or health care provider to clarify what’s safe. They might be able to switch your prescription to something unaffected by grapefruit, or even advise you to simply watch the timing of when you eat it.
In the past, grapefruit has been the very symbol of a “diet” food. Here’s where its reputation drifts into the realm of fable.
“The things that are not true are that grapefruit has some kind of magical power, or contains some kind of fat-burning enzyme, that you’re going to eat it and burn calories while you’re sleeping,” Collins said. Studies have found grapefruit provides no special boost to weight loss.
Even so, grapefruit’s tartness encourages people not to gulp it in a rush but to slow down, letting them feel full with relatively few calories, “and that is exactly an approach that research does support as the kind of eating pattern that helps people reach and maintain a healthy weight,” Collins said.
The classic way to enjoy grapefruit—splitting it and eating with a spoon—is OK, she said. (Be sure to rinse it before you cut: Otherwise, the knife might push bacteria on the skin through the entire fruit.)
But if you peel it like an orange and eat it by the section, you get added benefits from the membranes.
“Those membranes are rich in a type of dietary fiber called pectin, which is what we would call a viscous fiber,” Collins said. “And that is the type of fiber that can help lower (bad) LDL cholesterol and seems to be what they call a prebiotic that helps to nurture the healthy bacteria in our gut.”
For the best flavor, don’t chill it.
“It’s actually recommended that if you’re going to be eating grapefruit within the week to just store it at room temperature,” she said. It can keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, but it will taste better if you let it return to room temperature before serving.
She recommends trying it in a salsa, with chopped bell peppers and cilantro. “That adds a really nice, very crisp and refreshing kind of flavor like, say, on fish.” She also thinks the sections work great on a green salad. “You can combine it with avocado, and that’s kind of a classic.”
And if you’re in the habit of taking it with a sprinkling of salt or sugar?
First, she suggests, try it plain. “The grapefruit of today is really not necessarily the grapefruit of 30 years ago, and many of them don’t have as bitter a taste.”
Although most Americans already consume too much sodium and sugar, a tiny sprinkle of salt on half a grapefruit or a bit of brown sugar on a slice you stick under the broiler is “a drop in the bucket” compared with other choices you could make, Collins said.
“If you’re saying a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar makes it so you enjoy that grapefruit compared to a doughnut that has eight teaspoons of sugar in it, I would take the grapefruit.
The Effects of Eating Too Much Grapefruit
Eating too much grapefruit mixed with certain prescriptions can lead to kidney failure.
A stronger immune system, lower cholesterol levels and even weight loss are just a few of the benefits of grapefruit. This citrus fruit and its juice are rich in antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals. Eating too much grapefruit is unlikely to cause side effects other than digestive discomfort. However, certain compounds in grapefruit can interact with prescription and OTC drugs, putting you at risk for kidney failure and organ damage, as reported by the FDA.
Nutritional Benefits of Grapefruit
This tropical citrus fruit is known for its high content of vitamin C and antioxidants. It’s surprisingly low in calories and can be used in a multitude of recipes, from fresh juices and smoothies to desserts and savory dishes.
Depending on your preferences, you can make broiled grapefruit with cinnamon, high-protein cookies with grapefruit, roasted salmon with grapefruit sauce, pink grapefruit sorbet and other delicious treats. You can even add grapefruit to quinoa salad, pie or homemade energy bars.
But, what makes grapefruit so special? First of all, it has only 65 calories per serving. One serving of apples, by comparison, boasts 84 calories. Watermelon has 84 calories per serving, too. Grapefruit is lower in calories than most fruits, making it ideal for dieters.
One serving of grapefruit is 5.4 ounces — that’s enough to fill you up and curb hunger. The fiber in this fruit will further suppress your appetite and help reduce your daily food intake. Grapefruit also provides more than half of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C, keeping your immune system strong. A single serving contains:
- 65 calories
- 16.4 grams of carbs
- 1.1 grams of protein
- 0.2 grams of fat
- 2.5 grams of fiber
- 10.6 grams of sugars
- 53 percent of the DV of vitamin C
- 10 percent of the DV of vitamin A
- 10 percent of the DV of beta-carotene
- 5 percent of the DV of folate
- 4 percent of the DV of potassium
- 3 percent of the DV of magnesium
Grapefruit juice is just as healthy, offering large doses of flavonoids, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and citric acid. Surprisingly, the peel is a powerhouse of nutrition too, according to a review published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in January 2016.
Researchers have found that dried grapefruit peel is chock-full of polyphenols, flavonoids and other bioactive compounds. These chemicals fight oxidative stress and modulate neuronal activities, such as mood, cognition and brain plasticity.
The above review points out that fresh grapefruit peel is higher in naringin compared to dried peels. This flavonoid has been studied for its beneficial effects on the liver.
An April 2018 review featured in the World Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that naringin protects the liver from oxidative damage and may help in the treatment of liver disease through the regulation of lipid metabolism and cholesterol oxidation, despite its low bioavailability. More studies are needed to confirm its therapeutic potential, however.
Are There Safety Concerns?
Grapefruit detox plans, grapefruit juice diets and liver cleansing protocols are all the rage nowadays — not to mention the popular grapefruit diet, which has been around for decades. Despite its health benefits, grapefruit isn’t a cure-all and should not be treated as such. In fact, it can do more harm than good when consumed in large amounts or along with certain drugs.
First of all, grapefruit is high in citric acid, a naturally occurring compound that gives citrus fruits their sour taste. As the Cleveland Clinic points out, citrus fruits and citrus juices may cause heartburn or make it worse. If you eat too many grapefruits, you may experience chest pain, burning in the throat and chest, acidic or bitter taste in the mouth and other heartburn symptoms.
This fruit might not be the best choice for people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This gastrointestinal condition affects 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. About 40 percent of sufferers have mild IBS, while 25 percent report severe symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. Bloating, gas, stomach pain and altered bowel behaviors are all common symptoms.
As the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research notes, citrus fruits may cause digestive problems in some IBS sufferers. These foods can irritate the stomach and worsen your symptoms.
Additionally, grapefruit is rich in fiber. When consumed in excess, this nutrient may cause bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain and decreased appetite. It can also bind iron, zinc, magnesium and other minerals, leading to nutrient deficiencies. Grapefruit alone is unlikely to cause these problems, but if your diet is already high in fiber, it may cause digestive distress (when consumed in large amounts).
Grapefruit Can Interact With Medications
According to the NHS, grapefruit and prescription drugs are a deadly mix. Furanocoumarins, a group of chemicals in this fruit, can cause some medications to enter your body faster, increasing the risk of side effects. Grapefruit juice, lime, pomelo and other citrus fruits contain these chemicals, too. A March 2013 review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) confirms these findings.
The review authors state that one whole grapefruit or 6.7 ounces of grapefruit juice is enough to increase drug concentration in the bloodstream. For example, taking calcium inhibitors with grapefruit juice may cause toxicity in the kidneys.