Grapefruit is a subtropical citrus fruit originating from Barbados. Originally called the "forbidden fruit" of Barbados, it's still regarded as one of the country's seven wonders. The fruit grows like a big bunch of grapes on the tree and it is believed this is where its name comes from. The grapefruit was first introduced into New Zealand in the mid 1800's from Australia. Several varieties are now grown in the subtropical climate of New Zealand's Far North. New Zealand grown grapefruit generally mature from May through to January, when they are available in abundance.
NZ Grapefruit: Available from July - December, with limited availability in June.
Pink Grapefruit: Limited imported availability from January - October
Grapefruit comes in a rainbow of colours and flavours, ranging from tart and intense, to sweet and mild. Commercial growers have been successful in improving the fruit's natural sweetness and reducing the number of seeds in recent years. The best grapefruit develops in areas with hot days and warm to hot nights, resulting in lower acidity and a higher sugar content. So if your earliest memories of grapefruit are tart or sour, you might be pleasantly surprised by the sweeter fruits available today.
1. White or yellow grapefruit
Yellow grapefruit, which is also referred to as white, is one of the most popular New Zealand grapefruit varieties. The firm yellow skin contains a pale yellow flesh with a deliciously tart taste. Did you know that pink and red grapefruits were bred from the white grapefruit?
2. Pink grapefruit
Pink grapefruit has a pale yellow skin with a pinkish hue. Cultivated to have a greater balance of sweetness and tartness, the pink flesh is extremely juicy and much sweeter than the yellow grapefruit
Did you know the pink colour in pink and red grapefruit comes from lycopene, a powerful cancer fighting nutrient also found in tomatoes?
3. Red grapefruit
Red grapefruit has a more orange toned skin, revealing a deep, vibrant red flesh and grapefruit juice. Like the pink grapefruit, its rich colour is due to high levels of lycopene. This fruit is smaller and sweeter than the pink and yellow varieties and has many health benefits.
The pomelo is the largest of all citrus fruits and one whole pomelo can weigh up to 1.5 kg. When ripe, these ball sized fruits have a pale green, thicker skin and its sweetness makes it perfect to eat in salads or desserts.
Buying and preparing grapefruit
Storing and handling grapefruit
Grapefruit should be stored at room temperature and washed before eating. The easiest way to eat grapefruit is to scoop the flesh out with a spoon, or cut into grapefruit slices or segments with a sharp serrated knife.
Grapefruit can be used in most recipes requiring the sharpness of citric acid. It's also delicious cut in half and eaten simply with a spoon. To cut through sour grapefruit, you can add something sweet or salty to it. Try adding brown sugar or honey and grilling to caramelise the sugars. Surprisingly, sprinkling salt onto it can also bring out the sweetness more.
Here are some of our favourite ways of eating and enjoying the health benefits of grapefruit:
- Add grapefruit segments to salads for colour and acidity. It perfectly complements avocado, beetroot, onion, watercress, spinach and pomegranate seeds.
Grapefruit pairs really well with salty cheeses like feta.
- In a fruit salad, mix grapefruit with sweeter fruits such as banana, strawberries and gold kiwi fruit.
- Make a marmalade and pair with lemon or oranges.
- Make a grapefruit curd and spread on hot toast, fold into cake icing or buttercream, or simply enjoy with vanilla ice cream.
- Replace the lemon in lemon meringue pie with tangy grapefruit.
- Add chopped segments to your hollandaise sauce and pour over freshly poached salmon fillets for a really special treat.
- Add to a smoothie with sweet pineapple, banana, strawberry and coconut milk.
- Drink grapefruit juice in place of orange as it contains 50% more vitamin C.
- Add grapefruit juice to a mimosa.
Nutrition and health benefits of grapefruit
Fresh grapefruit is one of the lowest calorie fruits with just 33 calories per 100g. It's a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants. Half a grapefruit, or 80g of tinned grapefruit counts as one five-a-day-portion. The antioxidants providing the most health benefits are Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Both prevent heart disease, cancers and macular degeneration of the eye. Lycopene prevents the development and progression of several cancers, especially prostate cancer. Did you know grapefruit is prized for its Vitamin C content and has 50% more Vitamin C than oranges?
Eating grapefruit regularly as part of a healthy diet can provide you with many health benefits:
Boost your immune systemVitamin C has antioxidant properties which is known to protect cells from harmful bacteria and viruses and studies have shown it helps with recovery from the common cold. Vitamin A helps protect the body against inflammation and promotes wound healing.
Weight loss health benefitsSome dietitians recommend eating grapefruit to help with weight loss. Fresh grapefruit consists of 90% water and has a generous fibre content. Enjoying half a fresh grapefruit before meals can make you feel full, so you'll eat fewer calories.
Blood pressure and heart health
Antioxidant rich citrus fruits like grapefruit, may have the ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Flavanones are anti-inflammatory and can reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure and protect heart health.
If you have high blood pressure and have been advised to reduce it, dieticians recommend eating just half a fresh grapefruit each day as part of a balanced diet.
Prevent insulin resistanceConsuming grapefruit may help control insulin levels, stabilising blood sugar and lowering your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Drinking a glass of grapefruit juice before bedtime has been found to help most with regulating the secretion of insulin in your body.
Kidney stonesConsuming grapefruit can reduce your risk of developing kidney stones and its high citric acid levels can even help to flush them out of your body.
Healthy skinVitamin C is often used in skin care products to improve skin texture, wrinkles and elasticity. Studies have also shown that an increased Vitamin C intake, through foods like grapefruit can also reduce the signs of ageing. So if you're concerned about the condition of your skin, drink a glass of grapefruit juice before bedtime and allow the Vitamin C and potassium to work its magic.
When's the best time to eat grapefruit?
The best time to eat grapefruit depends on your reasons for eating it.
Best eaten at breakfast and before the main meal of the day to boost metabolism and weight loss. This forms one of the main foundations of the grapefruit diet. For a sweet treat you can also eat it after meals in place of dessert. It can regulate appetite and keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is important if you're attempting to maintain a healthy weight.
If you need help with regulating blood sugar or improving ageing skin, grapefruit is best consumed just before bed.
When is grapefruit not good for you?If you've ever collected prescription medicines and noticed a message advising you to avoid grapefruit, you may have wondered why. Grapefruit contains compounds that may interfere with the absorption of some prescription medications, including blood pressure tablets and statins. To avoid such a medication interaction, you should avoid consuming grapefruit and grapefruit juice whilst taking these drugs, or speak to a healthcare professional for advice.
Enjoy fresh grapefruit and grapefruit juice
Take care of your family's immunity and enjoy grapefruit’s health benefits just by increasing your daily consumption, with a glass of juice or in a fruit salad.
Find out more about other seasonal fruits and vegetables here.