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Citrus paradise, or better known as the grapefruit, grows on a subtropical citrus tree belonging to the Rutaceae family. It is available today in a number of varieties distinguished by the colour of the fruit’s pulp, which can range from red, white, to hues of pink. The colouration is a result of pigmentation and the stage of ripeness. The fruit taste ranges from sharp acidic, to lightly bitter, and sweet or sour. The fruit can also be mildly fragrant, with the skin being totally yellow, or a hue of pink with yellow. Mercaptan, a terpene with sulfur, is among the materials responsible for the taste and fragrance of grapefruit.

Other than for consumption as a fruit, grapefruits are used in a number of commercial productions. Grapefruit juice is used for medicinal purposes against a large range of ailments. The seed extract is also orally consumed for its medicinal properties. Additionally, the extract is used as a facial cleanser, remedy against mild skin irritations, and a dental rinse for healthy gums.  Its oil is applied to the scalp to enhance hair growth, and to the skin for treating acne, oily skin, and muscle fatigue. In manufacturing, grapefruit seed extracts and oil provide a delicate scent in soaps, household cleaners, and cosmetics. In agriculture, the seed extracts are employed to destroy bacteria, fungus and moulds, preserve food, kill parasites in animal feed, and disinfect water. The peel of the fruit is used in aromatherapy.

History of Grapefruits

Griffith Hughes was the first person to describe the grapefruit in 1750, calling it the “forbidden fruit” of Barbados. Later in 1789, Patrick Browne noted that it was growing all over Jamaica, and he too described it as the “forbidden fruit” and also “smaller shaddock”. A number of botanists believe the fruit was the result of a natural breeding process between an orange and the pomelo (another citrus fruit that came to Barbados from Indonesia in the 17th century). In 1814, John Lunan described it as a variety of shaddock albeit significantly smaller. At around this time it was given the name of grapefruit, a reflection of the way in which the fruit hangs in clusters like grapes.

It was in 1823 that Count Odette Phillipe carried the fruit’s seeds to Tampa, Florida. Upon the fruiting of these initially planted grapefruits, the first generations of these newly developed seeds were passed around the neighbourhood. Initially the plants were grown merely for ornamental purposes. In 1870, John A. MacDonald became so enticed by a single grapefruit tree with it clusters of fruit he saw growing on a private property, that he purchased the entire crop. He then planted its seeds, thus establishing the very first grapefruit nursery on his property. George W. Bowen planted the very first grove using the seedlings from this nursery in 1875, and started to develop the fruit on a commercial basis. Eventually the commercial production of the grapefruit spread to other countries like Israel, South Arica, and Brazil.

Health Benefits of the Grapefruit

The grapefruit is an outstanding source of a number of phytochemicals that contribute to a healthy diet. Over the years a large portion of the populace has endorsed the fruit for its ability to burn fat. It is a good weight-loss diet food due to having less than one hundred calories and high, hunger quenching fibre content. Researchers at the Scripps Clinic in California, USA claim that by consuming half a grapefruit prior to each meal may help a person lose up to one pound a week, even when there are no other changes made in diet. Ken Fujioka, MD, the author of the study, claims that a compound found in grapefruits helps to regulate insulin and anything that lowers insulin aids in lowering weight.

Grapefruit is thought to be valuable in the treatment of influenza and malaria. The ‘naringin’ found in the fruit, and responsible for its bitter taste, helps to neutralize acidity, and is also thought to be a flavonoid with powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties, which enhance the immune system and protect against influenza. Additionally, it contains natural ‘quinine’, a substance with a history of treating malaria, along with arthritis, lupus and nocturnal cramps in legs.

Nootkatone is a highly valuable compound when it comes to extraction of aromatic substances, but more importantly it improves metabolism in the body resulting in greater levels of energy and endurance. Hence, grapefruits are good for fighting fatigue. Grapefruits also aid indigestion due to the high fibre and vegetative pulp content. The fruit improves the flow of digestive juices, thereby, easing bowel movement and regulating excretory system.

Grapefruits are good for diabetics. Consumption of grapefruit brings down the amount of starch in the body, thereby regulating sugar levels in the blood. A glass of grapefruit before bedtime aids insomnia. The chemical ‘tryptophan' is associated with making one sleepy after consuming a big meal, and is also present in grapefruits.  Grapefruit membranes are full of pectin, a soluble fibre that helps to lower cholesterol.

Nutritional Value

Grapefruits are jam packed with nutrients. They have over 60 phytonutrients, with many flavonoids. This class of antioxidants is believed to fight allergies, infections, heart disease, ulcers, and cancer. Exact nutritional value of grapefruits varies with the variety of the fruit (pink, red or white), with the pink and red varieties having greater amounts of vitamin A, full range of B vitamins (except B-12) and folic acid. A half grapefruit supplies more than 50% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin C. Just one cup of fresh grapefruit provides 1 gram of protein, 3 grams of fibre, and between 17 to 22 grams of carbohydrates. Additionally, it contains calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Individuals on synthetic man-made drugs have to proceed with caution when it comes to regular use of grapefruits. It contains elevated levels of the flavonoid naringin which rejects such drugs. The flavonoid is a useful substance under normal conditions. It recognizes foreign composites that should not be present in the body and thus deals with them as toxins.  It also treats the synthetic drugs as toxins and halts their metabolism, leaving them in the body and enhancing the risk of toxic poisoning. For people not using any medications, grapefruit is a very healthy fruit to use on a regular basis. However, for those on medication, it is best to consult a doctor before using grapefruit regularly.

How to Use a Grapefruit

It is best to first wash grapefruits under cool water to remove any dirt or pesticide deposits. Even in cases where the peel is not going to be consumed; cutting unwashed fruit can transfer dangerous substances into the flesh.  Grapefruits may be eaten like oranges, or they can be sliced horizontally into halves and the flesh scooped out with a spoon. Alternatively, they can be sliced vertically, and the skin peeled off with fingers or a knife.

Segments of the fruit may be added to green or fruit salads.

The juice of grapefruit is very refreshing on its own or when mixed with other juices.

It is used in jams, desserts, marmalades and jellies.

Its peel is candied and is a vital source of pectin used in preserving other fruits.

As a matter of course grapefruit is a breakfast fruit.  It's traditionally cut in half with the individual sections loosened using a special grapefruit knife and the pulp is spooned out of the shell. It can be sweetened with either brown sugar or honey. For additional benefits, cinnamon or nutmeg may be sprinkled on top. It can also be used as an appetizer before dinner; again served by separating the fruit in two halves horizontally, sweeten lightly, broiled, and served hot with a maraschino cherry on top.

The peel oil is commonly used as flavouring in soft-drinks after removing half of the monoterpenes.  Nootkatone is the major component of the outer peel.  It is extracted and added to powdered grapefruit juice to enhance the flavour of the reconstituted juice. Naringin is extracted from the inner peel and used in bitter “tonic” beverages, ice creams, and chocolates. It is also converted to a sweetener that is roughly 1,500 times as sweet as normal sugar.

Clinical Trials

According to a new study, a glass of grapefruit juice allows patients to get the same advantage from anti-cancer medicines as they would if they consumed three times as much of the drug on its own. This will help reduce the cost medicines over long term use.

In another study, it was found that nanoparticles obtained from grapefruits can be used to deliver drugs to specifically targeted locations. This technique can prove to be an inexpensive mode of making customized treatments. Currently they are being tested in clinical trials for safety in colon cancer patients.

About Andy Williams

In a processed food culture, simply eating may not be enough. Dr. Andy Williams is a scientist with a strong interest in Juicing and how it can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive in modern society. You can subscribe to his free daily paper called Juicing The Rainbow and follow him on Facebook orTwitter.

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