Grapefruit can be red, pink or white and, while it is definitely known for its pucker power, can range from intense to mild in flavor. Regardless of the type you choose, grapefruit is known for its balance of tart and sweet, and is packed with a host of health benefits.
With a hefty dose of vitamins A and C in each juicy segment, grapefruit can help boost immunity and has even been found to lower blood pressure and be beneficial in lowering triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. And, because grapefruits are more than 90 percent water, adding them to your daily diet can also boost hydration.
Grapefruit is usually easy to find, too. Once available primarily during its growing season, which runs October through June, grapefruit now can be purchased year-round in most U.S. markets. When selecting grapefruit, regardless of variety, look for the heaviest fruits because they tend to be the juiciest. Grapefruit that is fully ripe, without green color on the skin and without soft spots, will likely taste best.
Grapefruit has long been a popular fruit eaten for breakfast, but keep in mind that, no matter which variety you choose, the potential of this versatile superfruit reaches far beyond the morning.
Possibly the most popular grapefruit variety — and one of the most widely available — is the red grapefruit. Although sometimes simply labeled as “red grapefruit,” there are several cultivars, or varieties, including Ruby Red and Rio Red, both of which top the grapefruit chart for sweetness. Generally, red grapefruit will be sweeter than pink or white grapefruit, although there will always be some exceptions. The rich scarlet color of the red grapefruit’s pulp comes from its high levels of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect the body against chronic diseases and environmental toxins.
“Red grapefruit are an excellent source of vitamin A,” says Jessica Randhawa, owner and head chef of The Forked Spoon, which features grapefruit as an ingredient in everything from cocktails to ceviche.
In addition to its sweet taste, red grapefruit tends to have a thinner skin than other types, maximizing the amount of tender, seedless fruit inside.
Rosy-colored pink grapefruit tastes similar to red grapefruit but offers a flavor parity that is unequaled among fruit of its kind, according to Randhawa.
“The right balance of sweet and tart is found in pink grapefruit. Their flesh is typically very juicy and not sour. Not only do they taste great, but these grapefruits are rich in vitamin C, fiber and vital antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene,” Randhawa says.
Although pink grapefruit — named for its blush-hued flesh — is typically not as sweet as red grapefruit, the complexity of their flavor profile makes them ideal for eating solo, adding to salads or even perking up plain water. Like red grapefruit, pink grapefruit is generally easy to find and is typically available year-round in most U.S. markets.
White grapefruit, unlike its red or pink cousins, has pale, yellow-colored flesh. It has a thin rind — thinner than most oranges, in fact — and ranges from a distinctive green to light yellow in color. As the fruit ripens, the rind shifts to a darker yellow. White grapefruit is sometimes referred to as “yellow” or “gold” grapefruit for the yellow shade of its ripe skin.
Cultivated less for its flesh and more for its slightly bitter juice, the white grapefruit is a familiar ingredient in sodas and mixed drinks. “White grapefruits are the least sweet variety,” Randhawa says. “However, they possess an intense flavor that is good for making juices and syrups.”
The white grapefruit’s prized bitterness comes from its high acid content and from the thick layer of albedo that lies between the peel and the flesh. Peel or cut into a white grapefruit and you’ll encounter its bright, intense and acidic scent.
Notable Grapefruit Varieties
Although grapefruit may be categorized as red, pink or white, there are dozens of cultivars and related fruits that can be difficult to distinguish from each other.
The white grapefruit is sometimes mistaken for the Oroblanco grapefruit. Although the two are both members of the citrus family and look very much alike, the similarities end when it comes to parentage and flavor. The Oroblanco and the white grapefruit are different species. The Oroblanco is part pomelo — a mild citrus fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia that can grow to the size of a watermelon — and part grapefruit.
“Oroblanco, which means ‘white gold’ in Spanish, has a thick rind, lemon-yellow skin and is almost seedless,” Randhawa says, but unlike the tart white grapefruit, the flesh of the Oroblanco “is juicy and sweet with little to no bitterness.”
Likewise, the melogold grapefruit is not a “true” grapefruit, but a cross between a pomelo and a grapefruit. It has pale, yellow-tinged, sweet-tart flesh and a green-tinged exterior.
Now That’s Interesting
The pomelo and grapefruit look and taste similar, but are different fruits. Widely considered the largest citrus fruit in the world, the pomelo (Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis) can grow to the size of a cantaloupe or watermelon. Native to Southeast Asia, the pomelo is a direct ancestor of the grapefruit. Pomelos, when crossed with sweet oranges, produced the first grapefruits.