Some researchers place the discovery of grapefruit in Barbados in the 18th century, and suggest that grapefruit was a natural mutation of a tropical fruit called the pomelo. Still other theories hold that grapefruit was developed from a cross between an orange and a shaddock, a citrus fruit with thick skin, many seeds, almost no juice, and a very sour taste. Either way, seeds of the grapefruit eventually made their way to Florida in the 19th century.
While the original Florida grapefruit was likely much less palatable than the grapefruit of today, over the years growers have continued to hybridize the grapefruit to bring out the qualities that the public is looking for. A century ago, the seedless grapefruit was developed and since then sweeter, less-bitter varieties have been developed.
Types of Grapefruit
Flame, Marsh, Lavender Gem...Here's a guide to some of the grapefruit varieties you may find in stores and farmers' markets.
White, red, and pink grapefruit are rich in vitamin C and fiber. As with many fruits and vegetables, the darker or more intensely colored the fruit or vegetable, the higher the nutrient content. The pink and red colors found in grapefruit contain beta carotene and lycopene, two carotenoids with antioxidant properties.
Like the fresh fruit, grapefruit juice is an excellent source of vitamin C. Just 1 cup has 94 milligrams, over 100 percent of the RDA. However, when you choose the juice over the fruit, you miss out on the benefits of fiber. The fiber in grapefruit juice contains pectin, a type of soluble fiber that may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
A prevailing myth circulating over the years is that grapefruit contains an enzyme that digests fats and burns them away, leaving you svelte and trim. In truth, grapefruit contains no fat-burning enzymes, and is hardly a miracle weight-loss food. However, it is tangy and low-calorie—a good food for people attempting to maintain their weight.
For a full listing of nutrients, see Grapefruit in the National Nutrient Database.
How to Choose the Best Grapefruit
Look for round, smooth fruits that are heavy for their size: They will be the juiciest.
The grapefruit-drug effect
Grapefruit juice appears to inhibit an enzyme in the small intestine that helps to metabolize a number of medications. When some people take one of these drugs along with grapefruit juice, they end up with a higher concentration of the drug in their bloodstream. This increases the risk of side effects and, in a few cases, can cause serious reactions.
The problem doesn’t occur in all people and, strangely enough, not with all types of grapefruit juice. The problem is most likely to occur when the drugs are ingested at the same time as the grapefruit juice. It’s unclear whether whole grapefruit has the same effect.
Grapefruit can affect the metabolism of many drugs, including some that lower cholesterol or high blood pressure, as well as certain drugs that treat anxiety, HIV, and prevent organ rejection after a transplant. If you are taking a prescription drug and you also eat grapefruit or drink its juice, check with your doctor or pharmacist about the latest information on drug-nutrient interactions.
7 Recipe Ideas for Grapefruit
Grapefruit is a traditionally invigorating way to start a day, but it can also be a wonderful accompaniment to a salad, a nutritious midday snack, or even a low-calorie dessert.
Published August 28, 2015