What’s on the table at your weekend brunch? My family and I always include a side of fresh fruit. We enjoy the classics — ripe, juicy cantaloupe with cottage cheese or a bowl of cubed watermelon, pineapple, and melon. But my all-time favorite has to be grapefruit. I love scooping out wedges of sweet, tangy pulp with a serrated spoon (and sprinkling the top with a little salt if it’s too tart). And good news for all my fellow grapefruit lovers: This sweet treat is packed with antioxidants, which have therapeutic effects on our skin. Talk about healing from the inside out!
Curious about the ways in which grapefruit benefits our skin, I reached out to Dr. Jerry Bailey, certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractic, and functional medicine physician at Lakeside Holistic Health. Dr. Bailey is a big fan of this citrus, and not just because of its delicious flavor and pretty color. (And if you’re worried about mixing grapefruit with medications, stay tuned. Bailey has answers for that, too.)
Grapefruit contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients.
“Grapefruit is a super force source of bioactive compounds such as vitamins, carotenoids, fiber, and phenolic compounds,” says Bailey. Most of us know what vitamins and fiber are, but what about the other two?
Carotenoids are the pigments in plants that give our fruits and vegetables bright, exciting colors. They also act as antioxidants in the body and can help reduce inflammation from free radicals (reactive molecules in the body that can damage cells). Phenolic compounds are plant substances, and the term refers to many nutrients in our fruits and veggies. These include flavonoids (plant compounds with antioxidant properties, like quercetin), tannins (bitter compounds with anti-inflammatory properties), and more.
Bailey states that grapefruit contains polymethoxyflavones (PMFs), flavanones, and glycosylated flavanones. Those three names are a mouthful, to say the least! The important part to remember is that they are powerful phenolic compounds. “[They] are strongly associated with strong therapeutic properties,” Bailey says. Those therapeutic benefits include:
- Relieving or preventing allergy symptoms
- Reducing the formation of plaques in the arteries
- Lowering inflammation
- Preventing the growth of harmful microorganisms
- Preventing the activity or development of cancer
- Reducing the chance of blood clotting in veins or arteries (thrombosis)
- Protecting the heart from heart disease
- Vasodilatory, meaning these nutrients may help widen blood vessels
This isn’t to say that grapefruit will heal symptoms such as allergies, heart disease, or blood clots. Instead, evidence shows that this fruit’s nutrients may reduce your risk of these ailments.
Why Grapefruit May Boost Your Skin’s Health
Bailey states that some of the best nutrients in grapefruit for skin health are naringin (a potent flavonoid) and hesperidin (a beneficial flavanone, which is a type of flavonoid). “The high levels of naringin in grapefruit have anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, lipid-lowering, and antioxidant activities — all super beneficial in reducing skin damage,” he says. “Hesperidin … has been shown to exert a wide range of therapeutic effects such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties also significantly beneficial to the skin.”
On a molecular level, Bailey says that naringin, hesperidin, and other antioxidants in grapefruits significantly reduce damage caused by certain free radicals. (Remember: Free radicals are reactive molecules that can damage cells.) They also “restore mitochondrial enzyme activity, increasing energy production and healing,” he adds. (Mitochondria are tiny proteins inside of cells that help transform sugar into energy. Healthy mitochondria usually equate to healthy cells, and healthy cells are the key to youthful-looking skin.)
“These bioactive/biotherapeutic antioxidants significantly help the skin to heal and regenerate,” Bailey adds.
But doesn’t grapefruit interact with medications?
Technically, grapefruit doesn’t interact with medications, but it can have an effect on them. “Grapefruit does not interact directly with your medication,” says Bailey. “It binds to an enzyme (CYP3A4) in your intestinal tract and the liver, which affects the absorption of certain medications. As grapefruit blocks the enzyme, it becomes easier for the medication to pass from your gut to your bloodstream. The levels will rise faster and higher than normal in your blood. In some cases, these increases can be dangerous, leading to increased side effects or even death.
“Medications such as calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure and angina), statins for cholesterol, immunosuppressants, benzodiazepines (for anxiety, insomnia), and other neurological and psychiatric medications can be boosted in their effects on the body. Some of these medications will actually be affected very little by grapefruit, so check with your doctor to be sure you have a safe medication if you want to take in grapefruit.
“An interesting sidebar — for men who are taking Sildenafil (Viagra) for erectile dysfunction issues; it appears that grapefruit may increase the absorption of this medication thus improving the benefits. However, don’t just go out and guzzle a large amount of grapefruit juice to boost the benefits as it can increase headaches, flushing, or lower blood pressure too quickly. Always check with your physician first before trying to take in any grapefruit juice or whole fruit.”
Will the juice give you the same skin and health benefits as whole grapefruit?
Though you may be tempted to pour yourself a cup of grapefruit juice, Bailey says it’s best to eat the whole fruit (leaving the peels for other endeavors, such as dried peel tea, candied peels, you name it). “Preferably, you would eat the grapefruit whole versus juicing it,” he says. “This way, you get the fiber and other nutrients that you wouldn’t get in juice form. A single grapefruit a day is perfectly acceptable for intake.”
So, what’s the best way to eat it? However you like it, really! Bailey enjoys eating halved grapefruit with a sprinkle of sea salt or peeling and eating it like an orange. “I also blend it in with other fruits (apples, bananas, star fruits, kiwis, oranges) and vegetables (carrots, greens, beets, celery) for a potent antioxidant and flavonoid rich drink,” he adds. “That allows for multiple servings in one big glass — think five to six vegetable and fruits all in one shot!”
And if you’re thinking of taking supplements to get the above-mentioned antioxidants, it’s best to skip it. “Often companies try to create supplements of these, [but] it is best to get these active compounds in foods, like grapefruit,” Bailey recommends. “After which, simple supplementation of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and antioxidants can add additional support. Food is our medicine.”
With Bailey’s advice in mind, I picked up a few more grapefruits at the grocery store this week. I can’t wait to indulge in this delicious, sweet treat in the morning — and reap its benefits!