by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Many of us grew up with citrus foods being part of the holiday season. I remember not only getting tangerines, pomegranates, and oranges in my stocking but also nuts in their original packaging. Today we wouldn’t dream of putting nuts in their shells and a hammer in the hands of most children.
Grapefruit was another fruit that seemed to be reserved for the fall, and today I know that new crop grapefruit from Florida and Texas are harvested in the fall like apples in the Northwest.
Grapefruit’s bitterness can make it hard to love. Folks cover it in sugar or mix it with other fruits just to get it down. History tells us Americans were once urged to sweeten grapefruit with salt. Oh, the horror! Ad campaigns from WWI and WWII tried to convince Americans “Grapefruit Tastes Sweeter With Salt!” as a 1946 ad for Morton’s in Life magazine proclaimed. The pairing, these ads swore, enhanced the flavor.
So does salt make grapefruit taste sweeter?
Grapefruit and salt do have a history – But, it was more publicity to boost revenues then science in 1946. Today there’s science to back this anecdotal claim.
Grapefruits are relatively new – a hybrid formed from the spontaneous union of two foreign transplants — the Javanese pummelo and the East Asian sweet orange — in Barbados in the middle
of the 18th century. First grown commercially in Florida at the end of the 19th century, grapefruit quickly went from being a novelty to being a daily necessity and made fortunes for farmers.
Tart and tangy with an underlying sweetness, grapefruit has a juiciness that rivals that of the ever popular orange and sparkles with many of the same health promoting benefits. Although available throughout the year, they are in season and at their best from winter through early spring.
Grapefruits usually range in diameter from four to six inches and include both seed and seedless and pink and white varieties. The wonderful flavor of a grapefruit is like a paradise as is expressed by its Latin name, Citrus paradisi.
Early 20th century cookbooks and recipes in magazines offered an abundance of ways to use grapefruits in sweet confections, as well as in savory-sweet salads. But the most common option was the one still familiar today — at breakfast, chilled, sliced in half, sprinkled with sugar.
The salted grapefruit had its fans. In 1911, an Iowa woman calling herself “Gude Wife” wrote into the “The Housemother’s Exchange,” a national advice column, to recommend salting grapefruits. “Salt neutralizes the bitter taste as well as the acidity,” she advised. Others wrote in to back up this endorsement. “I think you will find that many Southerners always salt their grapefruit,” wrote “M.B.L.” from Philadelphia. “I am sure that if you once try it you will agree with me that it is good.” Salting citrus fruit remains a practice in the Southwest and Southeast.
Grapefruit does the kidneys good.
Want to reduce your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones? Drink grapefruit juice. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found when women drank 1/2 to 1 liter of grapefruit, apple or orange juice daily, their urinary pH value and citric acid excretion increased, significantly dropping their risk of forming calcium oxalate stones.
In a 2006 study, participants added either red grapefruit, blond grapefruit or no grapefruit to their daily diet. The results indicated that both types of grapefruit appeared to lower LDL cholesterol in 30 days: total cholesterol by 15.5% in those eating red grapefruit and 7.6% in those eating blond grapefruit; LDL cholesterol by 20.3% and 10.7% respectively; and triglycerides by 17.2% and 5.6% respectively. No changes were seen in the control group that didn’t eat any grapefruit.
So push the pie and sweets to the side and grab some of those wonderful citrus fruits we used to enjoy as kids instead. You know back when we were full of energy and stuff!
To your good health in the holiday season.