Don’t Give Grapefruit to Loved Ones as a Holiday Gift—Or to Anyone, Ever

What to eat, drink, buy, and think during that special time of year
Dec. 10 2012 5:30 AM

Grapefruit Is Disgusting

Why you shouldn’t give it to your loved ones as a holiday gift. Or to anyone, ever.

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In fact, grapefruits got their common name from the way they cluster on the tree like a bunch of grapes. They did not, it is worth noting, get their name because they taste like grapes, which are delicious. In fact, a grapefruit tastes more like a bad-tempered orange soaked in kerosene, like a pack of stale Warheads rehydrated in vinegar, like a sock filled with battery acid. Grocers and grapefruit vendors describe grapefruits as “tangy,” “sharp,” and—rather poetically—“full of sunshine,” but this is laughable. Have you ever seen a grocer actually eat one?

3. It’s plotting to murder you.

The compounds in grapefruit inhibit an enzyme in the intestine from metabolizing certain substances. These substances include drugs that regulate blood pressure (Nitrendipine), high cholesterol (Lipitor), heart arrhythmia (Cordarone), and depression (Zoloft). If you eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice within three days of taking such drugs, your body fails to process the medications as it should, and you can experience side effects resulting from higher levels of the drug in your system. The bottom line? Grapefruit is trying to kill us.

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What, then, accounts for our national grapefruit worship? Why do we lie to ourselves about its suitability as a holiday gift? Why do we continue to tolerate the sourness, the mess, the mechanical impossibility of consuming grapefruit without a prissy specialized spoon that belongs, perhaps, in jokes about Mitt Romney’s table settings, but not in real life?

Apparently it’s crammed with Vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and a possibly cancer-preventing antioxidant called lycopene. Never mind that the list of fruits with more Vitamin C than grapefruit takes care of half the produce aisle: papayas, strawberries, oranges, clementines, tangerines, kiwis, guavas, and cantaloupe, for starters. Or that you can get way more calcium and fiber simply from eating a bowl of cereal with milk. Or that the tests demonstrating the cancer-fighting properties of lycopene were inconclusive.

Experts once thought grapefruit contained a mysterious enzyme that dissolved fat, but that theory was debunked in 2011 by a study from—of all people—the Florida Citrus Department. “There is no evidence that grapefruit has fat-burning enzymes, nor is it a magic bullet for weight loss,” Connie Diekman, the past president of the American Dietetic Association, has said.

Meanwhile, diet gurus loved grapefruit because they believed it required more energy to digest than it actually contained. In other words, eating grapefruit burned calories! It was exercise!  

Unfortunately, the “negative calorie” label is problematic on its own—and even if it weren’t, it’s unclear that grapefruit would fit the bill. While grapefruit does boast a low glycemic index, its effect on weight loss is fairly weak, according to one 2004 study from the Scripps Clinic.

More importantly, many unpalatable or impracticable things can help people lose weight, including eating woodchips or wrestling bears. That doesn’t mean we eat woodchips or wrestle bears, although I’d honestly consider doing both before fake-smiling my way through another grapefruit half over Sunday brunch.

So please, if you were even remotely thinking about shipping a box of grapefruit to someone you love for the holidays, kindly desist. Offloading a box of grapefruit on someone you hate, however—at least the revenge will be sweet.  

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