Aside from their bright colors, sweet tastes and appealing fragrances, citrus fruits – grapefruits, lemons and oranges – are tremendously beneficial for health. This is because the fruits are loaded with antioxidants such as vitamin C, flavonoids, beta-carotene, lycopene, and a heart-healthy soluble fiber called pectin.
Red Grapefruits Help Reduce LDL Cholesterol Numbers and High Triglyceride Levels
Israeli researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem tested grapefruits for their cholesterol-lowering potential. The study participants added grapefruit to their daily diets. The results indicated a reduction in total cholesterol levels by 15%, LDL “bad” cholesterol by 20% and triglycerides by 17%. There were no changes in the control group, who did not consume the grapefruit.
Another study published in the medical journal, Circulation, found that grapefruit prevents plaque build-up in the arteries (atherosclerosis) in animals with high cholesterol levels. This study showed that the soluble fiber pectin was the primary agent responsible for slowing down the progression of plaque-build up. The animals fed a high-cholesterol diet plus the grapefruit pectin had only 24% narrowing of the arteries, while the animals fed the high-cholesterol diet without pectin had 45% narrowing.
In addition to the vitamin and fiber content, grapefruit contains a powerful flavonoid called naringenina. This flavonoid has been shown to lower both triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as prevent plaque-build up.[3-4]
Oranges & Lemons Improve Cholesterol Numbers Naturally
Citrus fruits contain a nutrient within their peels and oils called d-limonene. In particular, oranges and lemons are loaded with d-limonene, which gives these citrus fruits their pleasant scent. In fact, d-limonene is often used in soaps, perfumes, lotions and environmentally-friendly household cleaning products due to its appealing aroma. But, aside from the fragrance, consuming d-limonene can have a plethora of health benefits:
- Dissolves gallstones as it is an excellent solvent of cholesterol
- Both prevents and fights certain types of cancer
- Relieves indigestion symptoms and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Decreases blood pressure and lowers blood lipid levels (triglycerides)
To achieve the health benefits, eat at least one of these citrus fruits each day and try to rotate consumption of each fruit:
- Fresh whole grapefruit is always better because you get the auxiliary nutrients as well as the fiber. But the research does show that the juice is believed to be equally beneficial, and one cup of fresh grapefruit is roughly equivalent to half a cup of juice. If you choose to drink the juice, be sure to check the nutrition label as certain brands of juice are full of sugar. If possible, buy organic, unsweetened grapefruit juice.
- Since most brands of orange juice and lemonades are loaded with sugar, eat a whole orange or lemon instead of drinking the juice.
Be cautious with consuming grapefruits, as they can potentiate the effects of certain medications, including blood pressure medications (calcium-channel blockers) and the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. This is because grapefruit blocks a special enzyme in the wall of the intestines making it easier for the medications to get into the body, thereby raising the amount of the drug in the blood stream. Having high amounts of medications in the blood can be very dangerous and lead to severe side effects such as increased muscle toxicity or very low blood pressure. If you take any prescription medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist before eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice. You can also click here to see if your drug interacts adversely with grapefruit.
Originally published in 2012, this post has been updated.