About 6 months ago, I made the decision to cut out as much sugar as possible from my diet, and it’s made a world of difference to my taste buds and to my digestive issues. I really didn’t realize how much sugar I had been consuming, between all the fruit, granola, and smoothies and snacks, not to mention outright sweets like ice cream (non-dairy of course) and gluten-free cookies. On the whole, I probably was still not eating as much sugar as the average American, but for someone with digestive issues like mine, I was eating way too much, as I soon discovered. I embarked on a 2-month journey to cut it all out as part of a strict anti-candidata diet. I even cut out Thai food and all fruits except grapefruit, raspberries and blueberries. As difficult as the first two weeks of withdrawal were, I discovered a really helpful fact – that sugar aggravates my digestive symptoms, namely the extreme bloating and lethargy – even when I’m being strict with avoiding my intolerances of gluten and dairy.
Nowadays, I limit my sugar intake without being overly strict about it (not allowing a bit of flexibility never seems to work well). Getting rid of most fruits has made me really appreciate the fruit I still do eat. Grapefruit, raspberries and blueberries all have a ton of nutritional benefits and are lower in sugar, but in my mind grapefruit takes the cake for overall health benefits. Here’s why.
- It’s low in calories / sugar. Grapefruit has a glycemic index of just 25. Compare that to apples (39), bananas (62), and raspberries (32).
- It’s got a ton of vitamin C, which is great for your immune system, heart health, eyes and skin. Vitamin C is also a strong antioxidant, making it a useful tool to help combat the formation of free radicals that cause cancer. One medium-sized red grapefruit contains about 20% more vitamin C than an orange.
- It’s great for blood pressure and heart health. The powerful nutrient combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, vitamin C and choline in grapefruit all help to maintain a healthy heart.
- It lowers cholesterol. Both white and red grapefruit can reduce blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and red grapefruit lowers triglycerides as well. Grapefruit contains pectin, a form of soluble fiber that has been shown in animal studies to slow down the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
- It’s high in potassium. High potassium intakes are associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones. Increasing potassium intake is also important for lowering blood pressure.
- It reduces the risk of cancer. In addition to vitamin C (see #2), red and pink grapefruit contain lycopene, which has been linked with a decreased risk of prostate cancer, and beta-carotene which lowers the risk of esophageal cancer.
- It helps re-balance your pH. Although grapefruit tastes acidic, it actually has an alkalizing effect on your body, which helps your body in many ways – it helps your digestive system, circulatory system, immune system, the list goes on.
- It aids in digestion. Because of its water and fiber content, grapefruit helps to prevent constipation and keep things moving along smoothly, if you get my drift.
- It’s hydrating. Did you know that grapefruit is one of the most hydrating fruits in the world? It’s made up of 91% water – just below watermelon – and full of important electrolytes. I guess that’s why I feel so refreshed every time I bite into one!
- It can aid in weight loss. Grapefruit can aid in weight loss by speeding up your metabolism and by lowering insulin, a fat-storage hormone. Also since it’s over 90% water it can help you feel full quickly.
So what if you’re not a fan of the tangy slightly sour taste of grapefruit? You can incorporate more grapefruit into your diet by including it in salads, juices and smoothies. You can also top your plain yogurt with sliced grapefruit and a little honey, and last but not least, you can throw it on the grill (of course peel and slice it first!) to get a little caramelization going.
Caveat: Grapefruit juice contains substances that can influence the absorption and metabolism of a number of drugs. If you drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruit and take prescribed medications, the effects of the drugs can be multiplied. In some cases, this can lead to serious medical problems such as kidney damage, gastrointestinal bleeding, bone marrow suppression in immunocompromised patients, respiratory failure, and even death. In other cases, drug effects can be reduced so you’re not getting as much of medication as you should. Here’s a list of some medications that grapefruit is known for interacting with. And for what it’s worth, my grandmother also says not to eat/drink grapefruit close to taking vitamins as it nullifies the effect of the vitamins.
I’ll leave you with a fun fact about grapefruit. The grapefruit was bred in the 18th century as a cross between a pomelo and an orange. They were given the name grapefruit because of the way they grew in clusters similar to grapes!