By Dr. Wendy Bazilian, SpaWeek’s Food and Wellness Expert

By John Steven Fernandez from Toronto/Valparaiso, Canada/Chile (Grapefruit Splash) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By John Steven Fernandez from Toronto/Valparaiso, Canada/Chile (Grapefruit Splash) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you follow nutrition news, surely you’ve seen many headlines lately about grapefruit’s potential drug interactions — with more than 85 prescriptions. And this is not one of those nutrition myths, either. It IS serious—ranging from mild to potentially life-threatening.

The warning is because of the way that certain enzymes in grapefruit interfere with the metabolism and breakdown of certain drugs. One of the interactions includes making a drug more potent (thus technically increasing the prescribed dosage of your medication) and leading to a build-up of the medication in the blood that can reach dangerous levels. Other harmful interactions include breathing difficulties or even muscle tissue breakdown and serious kidney problems. If you or a loved one takes any medications, check with your physician if there is a potential interaction with grapefruit or any other food.

But (and this is important) aside from these cases, there’s no reason for the average person to avoid eating grapefruit. Grapefruit is still a great fruit for the millions of us that are not taking interacting medications. Here are three reasons why:

1. It’s Packed With Nutritients
Grapefruit provides vitamin C and other plant-nutrients that provide antioxidant functions to the body to help maintain and protect our health. In fact one-half of a grapefruit contains 100% of the daily recommendation of vitamin C for a mere 60 calories. What’s more, the pink varieties of grapefruit also provide over a 1/3 of your daily vitamin A—a nutrient that is essential for healthy vision, immune system function and beautiful, healthy skin.

2. It’s Versatile in the Kitchen
I know what you’re thinking… that ol’ standby of half a grapefruit with a sprinkle of sugar and a spoon. It’s the quintessential “dieter’s breakfast.” But grapefruit is actually much more versatile. Try it:
• In a morning smoothie—tones down the sweetness
• In segments in a spinach salad—adds a pop of color and makes the other ingredients sparkle
• In a salsa with other fruits—if you have tried a mango or peach salsa, try throwing in some grapefruit to add color and pop
• With avocado—many ways! My husband and I like to make small baked tortilla chip snacks (or passable hors d’oeuvres) stacking a small piece of avocado, a half segment of pink grapefruit, and a thin 1-inch julienne of yellow pepper on top. It’s so easy, so pretty, and so tasty. Crunchy, smooth, juicy and flavorful.
• In marinades for fish and poultry
• In fish tacos with the cabbage slaw (yes, I live in Southern California!)
• Broiled in halves with honey and sliced almonds (or as dessert, try it with bruléed sugar!)
• It pairs nicely with dark chocolate, too!

3. It Promotes Heart Health
Consuming more fruits and veggies in general has been associated with protecting a healthy heart, helping maintain or manage healthy blood pressure, preserving and boosting the immune system and helping with healthy weight management. Research has shown grapefruit consumption to be linked to heart healthy effects including lower total cholesterol, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, higher HDL (good) cholesterol and healthy levels of triglycerides. Plant chemicals in citrus fruits, in particular a flavonoid called naringin in grapefruit, is thought to help protect the brain tissue and may help reduce inflammation in the body. More research needs to be done, but many scientists believe these compounds, along with others, may help protect cognitive health as we age. And many studies have associated vitamin C with a healthy and vital immune system. What’s more vitamin C has been shown to be associated with better body fat distribution and this nutrient is essential to maintaining healthy, beautiful skin.

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About the author: Wendy Bazilian is a doctor of public health, registered dietitian and freelance writer in San Diego. She is also the Nutrition Advisor at the renowned Golden Door and Co-owner of Bazilian’s Health Clinic with her husband and business partner, Dr. Jason Bazilian. Dr. Wendy is author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale). Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.