What’s So Great About Grapefruit?

grapefruitEver since the infamous Grapefruit Diet made its debut — back in the l930s to help starlets lose weight — grapefruits have been associated with weight loss. Fans claim it contains enzymes that help burn off fat. Some studies have shown that people who eat half a fresh grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice before each meal lose more weight than people who do not.

But not all studies have shown the same weight-loss benefit; and scientists can’t say if the weight loss was specifically due to the grapefruit or to filling up on a low-calorie food in general. Final word from nutritionists: Don’t look to the grapefruit to melt fat, but do look to this mouth-wateringly tart fruit for a host of other health benefits.

Great factor No. 1:

All grapefruits pack a hefty dose of vitamin C, with the red and pink ones providing a good dose of vitamin A, too. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, may speed wound healing, and has even been linked with wrinkle reduction. An equally essential nutrient, vitamin A promotes good vision, normal bone growth, and all-around good health.

Both vitamins work hard to keep our immune systems humming, which is especially important during flu season.

Great factor No. 2:

Grapefruit can help lower “bad” cholesterol. Numerous studies have shown that grapefruit eaters, particularly those eating red, had a notable drop in LDL cholesterol. While researchers can’t pinpoint why grapefruits have this affect on cholesterol, they do suggest its cholesterol-clearing fiber, high concentration of antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrients may all contribute to this heart-healthy benefit. More good news for your heart: Grapefruit appears to lower levels of triglycerides, another type of “bad” fat that can clog up arteries.

Great factor No. 3:

Grapefruit may lower blood pressure. Grapefruit, especially grapefruit juice, provides enough potassium to be included in the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, a healthy diet plan that was developed by the National Institutes of Health to lower blood pressure without mediation. Numerous studies suggest that boosting your potassium intake, while curbing salt and sodium, can significantly reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.  A grapefruit’s high vitamin C content may also reduce blood pressure, according to research that links vitamin C with this positive effect.

Not-so-great factor:

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can seriously interfere with some prescription medications. Because these interactions can cause potentially dangerous health problems, experts recommend you ask your pharmacist whether your medication interacts with grapefruit.

Grapefruit, Kale and Toasted Walnut Salad
Adapted from Health.com

1 bunch kale, rinsed
2 pink grapefruit
1 shallot
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2cup plain yogurt
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Remove the tough ribs from the kale; discard. Chop the kale leaves into small, bite-sized pieces and transfer to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the kale with a dash of salt and use your hands to massage the kale by scrunching up the leaves.

Peel and segment grapefruit, reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice for the dressing. Cut shallot in half, horizontally: mince half; slice other half into thin rings.

In small bowl, whisk together minced shallot, reserved grapefruit juice, lemon juice, yogurt, oil, salt and pepper. Add more oil if dressing tastes too tart.

Toss dressing with kale. Top with shallot rings, grapefruit, and toasted walnuts.

Helpful Tips

Select grapefruits that are firm, smooth, heavy for their size and yield to light pressure. The thinner the rind, the sweeter the grapefruit. Go for the imperfect-looking grapefruit with a discolored rind: they’ll be sweeter than those with uniform color. Store grapefruits at room temperature for up to a week or refrigerate for up to three weeks. Bring refrigerated grapefruits to room temperature for maximum flavor. Rinse grapefruits under cool water before you dig in.

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.