When you think of grapefruit, what’s the first thing that jumps to mind? Diet food? Diet breakfast food? Fears of squirting yourself in the eye trying to eat it with a spoon? Grapefruit does have a reputation for encouraging weight loss, and it’s deserved, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Also, you never have to eat it for breakfast or with a spoon.
Fast and Furious
Have you heard of the Grapefruit Diet, aka the Hollywood Detox Diet? It’s a short-term semi-fast where you eat a bunch of grapefruit, take in around 800 calories a day, avoid complex carbs, and don’t exercise. That’s right, no exercising, because at 800 calories a day any exertion is likely to make you faint.
The diet first showed up in Hollywood in the 30’s, when fainting wasn’t a big deal, and reached fever-pitch popularity in the 70’s, when fainting still wasn’t a big deal. Few things could please me more than diets of this ilk going away forever, but no dice. Few actual pounds of fat are lost on the Grapefruit Diet, but plenty of water weight, tears and sanity are shed.
The Burning Question
The myth behind the diet is that grapefruit contains a fat burning enzyme which is somehow mega-activated by following a low-carb, low calorie diet. The truth, which isn’t nearly as exciting, is that there’s no such enzyme. What’s more, starvation, even when punctuated by the occasional grapefruit, is not an effective weight loss strategy. Most of the weight lost is water, and promptly returns to the hapless dieter as soon as normal eating resumes. However…
Actual scientists (picture them in white lab coats if it helps) demonstrated a link between grapefruit and weight loss. The Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at Scripps Clinic did a study where people who ate half a grapefruit before each meal lost an average of three and a half pounds over the course of 12 weeks, without making any other dietary changes. Neat, but why?
Why Grapefruit Really Works
Fabulously, there could be a combination of reasons for this. The first is obvious: grapefruits are full of bulky fiber which helps us feel full. Someone who’s just eaten half a grapefruit is going to be less ravenous than someone who hasn’t. And all that fiber has an interesting secondary effect: it gives grapefruit a very low glycemic index, and eating low GI foods helps control blood sugar levels. Well controlled blood sugar leads to better appetite regulation, and we all know what that means: fewer candy bars eaten feverishly in bathroom stalls at work.
When it comes to regulating blood sugar, grapefruit has another secret up its sleeve, or rather up its rind: naringin. It’s a flavonoid that helps us use glucose efficiently, and by efficiently I mean without splashing extra insulin around. It also acts as an antioxidant, lowers blood lipid levels, and can effect the absorption of some medications.
The fat burning enzyme is an urban diet legend, but grapefruit is an appetite control triple threat and a great way to help regulate blood sugar. In fact, it’s an all-around winner: fat free, vitamin rich, low calorie and high fiber. What a shame to never think of this awesome food outside of the context of breakfast, which is possibly the only time of day I’m not interested in eating it.
I enjoy snacking on grapefruit throughout the day, simply peeled and pulled into segments like an orange. The only equipment you need is a paper towel and something to discard the peel into. The strong, tart-sweet flavor refreshes me when I need it most, instead of overwhelming me at a time when I can barely cope with tying my shoes. If I did want it for breakfast, I’d opt for a mixture of grapefruit and orange chunks just to take the edge off.
Try these easy, healthy and delicious grapefruit recipes! Click the pic to visit the post: