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Eating Grapefruit During Pregnancy: Safety, Health Benefits And Risks

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Grapefruit is well-known for its nutritional and medicinal properties. The preferred breakfast choice of many, grapefruit is a cross between an orange and a pomelo. This citrus fruit is orange, pink, yellow, or white and tastes sour to semi-sweet. But can pregnant women eat this fruit? If yes, how much of it can they eat safely, and how will they benefit from it?

MomJunction will address these and many more questions in this article about grapefruit during pregnancy.

Is It Safe To Eat Grapefruit During Pregnancy?

Yes, grapefruit is considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. It is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich fruit that has a relatively higher nutrient density than fresh apple, banana, and peaches (1), and could be beneficial for pregnant women.

It contains the B complex vitamins, folate, fiber, calcium, and potassium, all of which are essential for you and the growth of the baby (2). The only thing you should worry about is how the fruit is grown: organic grapefruit varieties should be preferred, and the fruit washed properly before consumption. Unwashed produce may possibly contain harmful microbes, which could lead to foodborne illnesses.

Most people eat the fruit, while some prefer its juice.

Can You Drink Grapefruit Juice While Pregnant?

You can drink grapefruit juice only if it is pasteurized. Unpasteurized juices expose you to the risk of a possible bacterial infection that could be serious during pregnancy (3). However, this does not mean that processed and packed juices are 100% safe.

The consumption of juices in packaged bottles must be done cautiously, as they are made of concentrates that have almost negligible nutritional value. They may also have added sugars in them (4). While you prepare juice at home, remember not to strain it. This will ensure that you also get the fiber content of the fruit.

You can talk to a nutritionist before adding grapefruit juice to your diet. In any case, it is always advised to consume whole fruit over fruit juice.

Note: Grapefruit juice has been associated with drug interactions that could be lethal at times (5). Therefore, it is wise to consult with your doctor about your plans to have grapefruit juice if you are on medication.

If the doctor agrees, you could consume it as recommended. But how healthy is it for you? Find out about that next.

Nutritional Value of Grapefruit 

NutrientAmountRDA (per day)
Water90g
Energy39Kcal
Carbohydrate, by difference9.2g
Calcium, Ca9mg1000mg
Iron, Fe0.2mg27mg
Magnesium, Mg12mg360mg
Phosphorus, P15mg700mg
Potassium, K162mg2900mg (AI)
Sodium, Na1mg200mg (7-12 months)
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid38mg85mg
Folate, total10µg600 μg
Vitamin A, IU4402567IU

Source: USFDA (6), RDA (7)

Health Benefits Of Eating Grapefruit While Pregnant

Grapefruit has marked nutritional and therapeutic properties. Therefore, its consumption during pregnancy could be beneficial for the following reasons:

1. Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition that raises the risk of premature separation of the placenta from the uterus (before the baby is born), heavy bleeding, rupture of the liver, and in rare cases, death (8).

Grapefruit is believed to work effectively in controlling preeclampsia. The belief is based on the fact that grapefruit is a good source of potassium and flavonoids that could possibly help in regulating blood pressure. However, the clinical studies to mark the safety and efficacy of consumption of grapefruit or grapefruit juice to regulate blood pressure during pregnancy are sparse.

2. Insomnia

It is believed that grapefruit, when taken before bedtime, can possibly help relieve signs and symptoms of insomnia, which most pregnant women suffer from. However, some studies show that it is not grapefruit but the essence of the flowers that help overcome insomnia (9).

Be cautious, and do not consume grapefruit before bedtime. It has high amounts of vitamin-C that tend to make the system acidic and cause heartburn. This could worsen insomnia (10).

3. Cholesterol

As per a research paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, eating one cup of fresh red grapefruit (or a half cup of fresh grapefruit juice) can keep the heart healthy by managing the cholesterol levels. The red variety of grapefruit is considered to have higher antioxidant activity than the white variety (11).

Grapefruit is packed with antioxidants such as naringin and lycopene and has high fiber content. These nutritive properties are believed to help in managing cholesterol levels (12).

4. Healthy weight

Weight gain during pregnancy can be rapid or gradual. However, maintaining it within acceptable limits is crucial to have a concern free pregnancy.

Grapefruit is a low-calorie fruit that is nutrient-rich, especially vitamin-C. It has considerable fiber content too. All these properties make it a wise choice for weight management (6). However, the consumption must be moderate and in sync with the prescribed diet and lifestyle.

5. Heartburn and indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion are not uncommon during pregnancy. They are some of the possible symptoms of turbulent hormonal changes happening in the body. In addition, as the uterus grows, the other organs in the body are cramped for space, which could also lead to heartburn and indigestion.

Grapefruit contains D-limonene. D-limonene has gastric acid-neutralizing properties, and it also normalizes the peristaltic movement. These properties make it an effective choice to manage heartburn and indigestion during pregnancy (13). However, the time of consumption is important here. Grapefruit, if consumed raw or in juice form at night,   can possibly worsen the heartburn and indigestion.

6. Anemia

Mild anemia during pregnancy is not uncommon. But it can become severe if you do not include the right foods in your diet. Grapefruit, being rich in vitamin C, helps your body absorb iron and, therefore, can possibly reduce the risk of anemia (14). However, managing anemia during pregnancy needs a more wholesome approach than just including fruits rich in vitamin-C.

7. Asthma

Studies show that a diet rich in vitamin C can actually bring down the risk of developing asthma by developing the immune system. Considering that the baby’s development may be affected if the mom has asthma, its effective management is important (15). Grapefruit, with its abundant flavonoids and lycopene, could help in the management of asthma in pregnancy (16). However, scientific studies supporting this relation are limited.

8. Bone density

Some in-vivo studies show that regular consumption of grapefruit juice could help in maintaining bone density. This effect is attributed to the presence of limonoids present in red grapefruit, which has high antioxidant activity. This property of red grapefruit has shown to slow down bone turnover (17) (18).

9. Constipation

It is important to stay hydrated through your pregnancy, especially during the summer months. Grapefruit has higher water content when compared to other fruits (91%) and is rich in electrolytes, which makes it an effective natural remedy for dehydration (19). Also, the high dietary fiber in this fruit can make it beneficial in managing constipation.

10. Cold and flu

Cold and flu during pregnancy are not uncommon, especially because the immunity could weaken at this time. Therefore, important bioactive compounds, such as vitamin C, play a vital role in maintaining immunity. One hundered grams of raw grapefruit contains 38 mg of vitamin C.

This is believed to help maintain immunity during pregnancy (20). In addition, grapefruit has antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids that also help in supporting immunity (21).

11. Diabetes and sugar problems

Gestational diabetes is often associated with increased birth weight in the baby and other labor complications. Grapefruit has a low glycemic index and low glycemic load and is also rich in antioxidants that make it an ideal choice for managing gestational diabetes (22).

A clinical study showed that fresh grapefruit juice not only improves insulin resistance but could also help in weight management (23). Thus, grapefruit can be considered effective in managing glucose levels. However, its safety and efficacy during pregnancy are not known.

Although consuming grapefruit could prove helpful during pregnancy, there are certain limitations you should know about.

Risk Of Eating Too Much Grapefruit During Pregnancy

Although grapefruit is low in fructose, its excessive consumption may be harmful to the placenta and alter fetal growth (24).

Also, eating grapefruit is not recommended if you have –

  • Kidney or hepatic illnesses
  • Stomach or duodenal ulcers
  • Cystitis
  • A history of allergies

Grapefruit should not be eaten on an empty stomach or in combination with certain medications. Even otherwise, it is important to regulate the amount of grapefruit you eat every day.

How Much Grapefruit Is Safe During Pregnancy?

There is no known safe limit of intake for raw grapefruit, especially during pregnancy. The total fruit intake recommended per day during pregnancy is 2-4 servings (25). Therefore, keeping the moderation and variety principle in mind, you can have at least one serving of grapefruit a day.

Safe Ways To Include Grapefruit In A Pregnancy Diet

Grapefruit can be included in the following forms:

  • Fresh juices, smoothies or fruit salads or grapefruit topped yogurt
  • Healthy mocktails made with a combination of grapefruit with other fruits of your choice
  • Tea; the fruit’s skin can be brewed to make a rejuvenating drink that helps fight nausea.

Here are a few grapefruit recipes that you may try when you are pregnant.

Grapefruit and peach salad

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 2 large peaches, ripened
  • 1tbsp agave nectar
  • ½tsp orange blossom water
  • 10 mint leaves, fresh
  • 50g pistachio nuts, finely chopped

How to:

  1. Combine agave nectar and orange blossom water in a small bowl.
  2. Remove the skin and pith of the grapefruit and cut it into slices.
  3. Slice the peaches and remove the pith.
  4. Mix all of these in the bowl.
  5. Add the mint and sprinkle chopped pistachios before serving the salad.

Preparation time – 5 minutes

Servings – 2

2. Grapefruit green smoothie:

You will need:

  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and deseeded
  • 1 sweet apple, peeled and cored
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 large banana, ripened
  • 1-2 cup unsweetened almond milk, orange juice, and water
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1/2tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (optional)

How to:

  1. Add all the ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until you get a smooth and creamy consistency.
  3. Add more liquid or ice if it is too thick. Add apple or banana to sweeten.

Preparation time – 10 minutes

Servings – 2

If you still have concerns about grapefruit consumption, check with your doctor before including it in your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Does craving grapefruit during pregnancy tell something about a baby’s gender?

According to old wives’ tales, craving sour foods such as grapefruits can indicate that you are carrying a boy. However, it is just one of the ways to guess the sex but not a reliable gender prediction method.

2. Is grapefruit seed extract safe during pregnancy?

Though grapefruit is safe during pregnancy, its seed or even fruit extract is not proven to be safe. The grapefruit seed extract is toxic to skin fibroblasts (cells within the dermis layer) and is best avoided.

Grapefruit is healthier and safer when compared to other fruits, but do not overindulge in it to keep yourself and your baby safe. Talk to your doctor before using grapefruit to deal with the ailments or health conditions mentioned earlier.

Has this super fruit helped you or anyone you know during pregnancy? Tell us about it and share any grapefruit recipes you know in the comments section.

References:

1. Mary M. Murphy et al.; Consumption of grapefruit is associated with higher nutrient intakes and diet quality among adults, and more favorable anthropometrics in women, NHANES 20032008; National Center For Biotechnology Information
2. Grapefruit Health & Nutrition; Florida Department of Citrus
3. Pasteurized or unpasteurized juice – what’s the difference?; Michigan State University
4. Sandra B. Procter and Christina G. Campbell; Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
5. Does grapefruit affect my medicine?; NHS
6. Grapefruit juice, pink, raw, (SR Legacy, 167774); Food Data Central; USDA
7. Micronutrient Needs During Pregnancy and Lactation; Oregon State University
8. High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy; Medline Plus; U.S National Library of Medicine
9. Grapefruit; Purdue University
10. 12 Foods That Sabotage Sleep; AARP
11. Red Grapefruit Appears To Lower Cholesterol, Fight Heart Disease; Science Daily
12. Grapefruit, the Great Fruit; University of California
13. Sun J; D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
14. Lynch SR and Cook JD; Interaction of vitamin C and iron; National Center For Biotechnology Information
15. Minerbi-Codish I et al.; Influence of asthma in pregnancy on labor and the newborn.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
16. Banafshe Hosseini et al.; Effects of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption on Risk of Asthma, Wheezing and Immune Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis; National Center For Biotechnology Information
17. Deyhim F et al.; Grapefruit juice modulates bone quality in rats.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
18. Orange, Grapefruit Juice For Breakfast Builds Bones In Rats; Science Daily
19. Hydrate with water and food; Michigan State University
20. Vitamin C in the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold; Pharmacy Review; National Center For Biotechnology Information
21. Seema Zargar et al.; Potentiating and synergistic effect of grapefruit juice on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of aripiprazole against hydrogen peroxide induced oxidative stress in mice; National Center For Biotechnology Information
22. Grapefruit; Defeat Diabetes Foundation
23. Fujioka K et al.; The effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
24. High-fructose diet during pregnancy may harm placenta, restrict fetal growth; Washington University School of Medicine
25. Diet During Pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association
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