Grapefruit: Superfood shocker!

Summer is finally here in the UK and we have had a lovely week of sunshine as the temperatures reached record-setting levels. BBQs have been dusted off and put to good use and every supermarket is full to bursting with fresh summer vegetables on display among ripe punnets of peaches, nectarines and berries. Every conversation seems to veer towards holiday plans and how to stay cool and with impeccable timing, the media is helpfully focusing on superfoods and bikini diets to ensure we all get ‘beach body ready’. But like the ‘superfood’ trend, itself, the foods elected to superfood status grow and wane in popularity as they are outdone by other, even more ‘super’ foods. The competition among superfoods is great and the stakes are high because just a bit of bad press can cause a superfood giant to rapidly fall from grace, re-joining the super bad guys.

This recently happened to the former ‘superfood’ heavyweight, grapefruit. Grapefruit was once thought of as being a pretty ordinary fruit—not as flashy or as well-liked as its orange cousin although still a common staple of many breakfast tables. Sliced into half and sitting in a bowl, it was easy to overlook unless it was dressed up with a cherry in middle. However, once it was widely heralded during the 1970’s as a fat-burner in the media, it became popular enough to have a diet named after it, cementing its superfood status. But last week, the downfall began.

First, the Channel 4 programme, Superfoods: The Real Story, exposed grapefruit’s fat-burning reputation as being completely exaggerated, making it ineffective in helping people lose weight. Although the programme did not dispute the fact that grapefruit does contain a fat-burning bioflavonoid, AKA naringin, in order to get its full effect ,you would need to eat 40 grapefruits in one sitting. This would be a mammoth feat for any Nutribullet on the market and at 5000 calories, this fat-burning smoothie can only be described as being self-defeating.

With grapefruit’s reputation in tatters, things have now hit rock bottom for the citrus outcast as grapefruit has been implicated in a study that has shown that its consumption increases the risk of skin cancer. And this is not just any study but one that involved over 100,000 American health professionals who were studied for 30yrs and recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, hardly a journal of tabloid fodder. The study found that there was an association between the consumption of citrus fruits containing high levels of the chemical compound, psoralen, which absorbs ultraviolet light, and the risk of melanoma. Fresh grapefruit came out tops among all citrus fruits for showing a 41% increased link of melanoma for those consuming >3 grapefruits a week. With that kind of results linking grapefruit to the big C, it is no wonder that many fans do not think it is looking so ‘super’ anymore.

So as it stands, grapefruit may not be the super fat-burner it was supposed to be and now it is named and shamed above all other citrus in a cancer study. Does this mean that grapefruit’s membership of the superfoods élite should be revoked? Well no and then, yes.

It goes without saying that if you only take the headline of the study associating grapefruit with cancer at face value, it sounds like a sensationalist tabloid. And because this study is published in a trusted peer-reviewed journal, reading only some selected excerpts that are reported in the wider media could cause many to add grapefruit to the group of cancer-causing dangers to avoid. However, the study did not actually show that grapefruit caused cancer and there may be many reasons why they found an association of increased risk. For example, differences in the characteristics and lifestyles of the participants, who were all health professionals, compared to the general population may have influenced the findings. Even the authors of the study concluded that further research was needed to confirm their results. So it’s a big no to losing its superfood membership.

But then it’s an even bigger yes to leaving the ‘superfoods’ brand for good and starting its own label of super foods because in reality, ‘superfoods’ and ‘superfruits’ don’t actually exist. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, they are all ‘super’ and solid evidence has shown us that they play a major role in keeping us healthy and decreasing our risk of developing heart disease, stroke and many cancers. So rather than concentrate on a selected number of nominated ‘superfoods’ it’s much more important to just work on upping your intake. So don’t be distracted by the bragging rights and celebrity of goji berries, pomegranate and new kid on the block, goldenberries. Continue to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and keep enjoying your grapefruit, maybe even with a cherry in the middle.

And now for the recipe…Of course it is going to include grapefruit! This Grapefruit & ginger salad dressing is very simple and quick to make. We ate it in a Tuna, avocado and mango salad but the dressing would also work really well with turkey or chicken.

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