For many years, grapefruit has been a staple for people looking to lose weight—it’s satisfying, low in calories, and full of nutrients like vitamins. Known to be extremely acidic, however, grapefruits contain furanocoumarins that actually keep your stomach from performing some of its regular functions. That doesn’t sound like a good thing! So is this sour fruit a good thing to keep on your countertop, or should you ditch the grapefruits for other options in the Paleo lifestyle?
An originally sub-tropical fruit, grapefruits are the product of a unique process called natural hybridization—when two species of plants get crossed and create a new sub-species. In this case, the grapefruit’s parents were from Asia: the pomelo and the sweet orange. The new species took up residence in Barbados and the surrounding area, branching into the multiple varieties we know today (Ruby Red, Star Ruby, etc).
Grapefruits have been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, improve blood pressure, and add a healthy dose of vitamins (A, C) and other nutrients that are difficult to get in sufficient quantities (like biotin). However, as mentioned previously, the chemicals in grapefruit inhibit stomach acid from doing its job. Does that mean that grapefruits are really great or not so much? It can be hard to tell.
What do the Paleo gurus say?
Alison Ver Halen says: “You can…obtain benefits from eating grapefruit. It is low in sugar and high in anti-oxidants, both of which are beneficial. Just don’t go eating piles of them on a daily basis, and always go for the whole fruit instead of the juice whenever possible. The fruit has beneficial fiber to lower blood sugar and feed your gut bacteria, whereas store-bought juice is likely to have added sugar.”
Loren Cordain says: “Given…the possibility of increased sugar in juices, my suggestion instead would be to eat grapefruit whole instead, as we recommend with other fruit and vegetables when following a Paleo diet. Moreover, careful chewing has been shown to stimulate the release of 2 intestinal peptides which decrease appetite and food intake. This indicates more benefits for you to actually eat a grapefruit, instead of drinking the juice.”
So is grapefruit Paleo?
Yes, but be cautious.
Grapefruits themselves are a great source of nutrients, and they can be tasty and a convenient snack. However, the reason that grapefruits are sometimes considered “dangerous” is because of the furanocoumarins mentioned earlier that inhibit gut function. This doesn’t affect your day-to-day stomach health; the only time this will really be important is if you are taking medications. Grapefruit is known to interact with a large number of medications, so always check to be sure that you can consume grapefruit if you are taking any medicines, either prescribed, over-the-counter, or herbal. You can find a rather extensive list of medicines that interact with grapefruit here. Do some research and ask your doctor before adding grapefruit to your diet; otherwise, you may be neutralizing your medicine as you take it.