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A bite of tart, a burst of tang and then a subtly sweet finish can only describe the grapefruit. It is widely known for being a low-calorie, diet-friendly fruit, but its wealth of vitamins, nutrients and powerfully protective plant chemicals make it beneficial for us all.

A relative newcomer among citrus fruits, the grapefruit wasn’t discovered until the 18th century in Barbados. Though its origins were a mystery for years, many historians agree that it is a natural hybrid of the sweet orange and pomelo (the largest citrus fruit, which is similar to, but sweeter than a grapefruit). As for its curious name, a Jamaican farmer named the large orbs “grapefruit” for the way they grow in grape-like clusters on the trees.

Citrus paradisi, the scientific name for grapefruit, is related to other members of the citrus family, including the orange, lemon and tangelo. The white, pink or red flesh of the grapefruit isn’t apparent from the color of the skin, which may be yellow or pinkish-yellow. Larger than most citrus, grapefruits are usually four to six inches in diameter, and may be seeded or seedless. Varieties include ruby red, white marsh and flame.

Long associated with weight loss, grapefruit studies have shown mixed results. A recent review of studies on the effectiveness of grapefruit consumption on overweight and obese individuals showed no significant difference between those eating grapefruit and those who did not. However, the analysis, published in a 2015 issue of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, showed a significant decrease in blood pressure. Regular grapefruit juice consumption also benefits arterial stiffness in middle-aged, post-menopausal women (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015), and adult consumption of grapefruit is associated with improved diet quality, including higher nutrient intakes of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber (Food and Nutrition Research, 2014).

Grapefruit is available in markets year-round, but its peak season is January through June. For the juiciest grapefruit, choose those that feel heavy and solid with a smooth, shiny skin. Store them at room temperature up to a week or refrigerated for six to eight weeks.

Slice in half and scoop sections with a spoon or a serrated grapefruit spoon to eat fresh, or peel and eat them in sections like an orange. Add grapefruit sections to salads for a bright tangy blast, or diced into salsa with peppers and cilantro. Juice grapefruit for a refreshing drink alone or mixed with seltzer, or try blending this tangy juice into vinaigrette for salads and vegetables.

Simple Citrus Fruit Salad

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1 grapefruit, sectioned

2 oranges, sectioned

1 small pineapple, cut into chunks

1 banana, sliced

1 apple, peeled and cut into chunks

1 pear, peeled and cut into chunks

Combine brown sugar and grapefruit juice in a large bowl. Add all fruit and toss gently to combine thoroughly. Let sit covered at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Per serving: 155 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 26 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 4 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 4 g fiber.

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