Can Pregnant Women Eat Grapefruit? Is It Safe or Good?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Many women want to eat more fruits and vegetables to increase their nutrient intake during pregnancy. It’s understandable if you find yourself checking if grapefruit is safe during pregnancy. It’s also a super common craving!

The good news is that grapefruit is perfectly safe during pregnancy. However, as always, good food safety habits should be applied before consumption. You should always wash grapefruits before cutting them – to prevent the transfer of bacteria.

I’ll walk you through grapefruit safety, the benefits of grapefruit while you’re expecting and what craving it might mean.

Can You Eat Grapefruit During Pregnancy? Is It Safe?

Grapefruit itself is safe during pregnancy but you should still be cautious when prepping it. This article is about grapefruit in general, but the same should be applied to all different kinds of grapefruit – and there are plenty of them!

Common grapefruit varieties include:

  • Red Grapefruit
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • White Grapefruit
  • Pomelo
  • Star Ruby Grapefruit
  • Flame Grapefruit
  • Lavender Gem Grapefruit
  • Duncan Grapefruit
  • Marsh Seedless Grapefruit
  • Oro Blanco Grapefruit
  • Melogold Grapefruit
  • Thompson Grapefruit
  • Sweeties Grapefruit

The main concern with any kind of grapefruit is hygiene. According to the CDC, raw fruit and vegetables are the most likely cause of many instances of foodborne illnesses.

Grapefruit, and grapefruit juice, contain antimicrobial compounds and are fairly acidic with an approximate pH level of 3. While this makes the fruit itself and the juice a harsh environment for microbes to survive, it doesn’t mean grapefruit can’t suffer from contamination (source: Foodborne Pathogens and Disease).

The main issue with grapefruit is when the skin is not washed properly. You might wonder why, since you probably weren’t planning on eating the skin! The issue occurs when grapefruit is cut, because the bacteria transfers from the skin to the fruit itself.

This happened in 2011 when a listeriosis outbreak was traced back to melons. The bacteria was on the skin of the melons but then transferred onto the fruit when it was cut up (source: CDC).

Even though grapefruit grows on trees, if they’re picked when they’ve fallen onto the ground, they may have been in contact with soil which is where bacteria such as E. Coli and toxoplasma gondii come from (source: NHS). Again, the issue here is with the skin.

To keep your grapefruit safe, buy it as fresh as possible and cut away any bits that may have gone “off.” Wash it under clean running water, rather than soaking it. Make sure to give it a final rinse after cutting. Learn more in our how to wash vegetables when you’re pregnant guide.

The good news is that a safe grapefruit is a healthy grapefruit – more on this below.

freshly harvested grapefruit

Is Grapefruit Good for Pregnant Women? The Benefits

Grapefruit is low in calories, fats and sugars but is loaded with nutritional benefits.

100 grams of red or pink grapefruit contains 23% of your daily vitamin A requirements. Vitamin A is important during pregnancy to help your baby grow in the uterus. It is linked to the development of skin cells, the eyes, and the alveoli in the lungs.

A portion of this size also contains a generous 52% of your vitamin C needs (source: Nutrition Data). Vitamin C also helps your baby grow and develop in the uterus but has benefits for expecting mothers too.

Vitamin C can help absorb iron (which keeps away anemia) and can help boost the immune system and collagen production. As your immune system is compromised in some areas when you’re expecting, Vitamin C is important.

Consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin C (and zinc) have been linked with shortening the length of the common cold, and can both reduce occurrences and improve the outcomes of illness such as diarrhea infections and pneumonia (source: Karger). Bear in mind, that grapefruit does not contain zinc (source: Nutrition Data).

Grapefruit has also been linked with relieving constipation – which is common during pregnancy. Grapefruit and citrus fruits are a source of fiber. Fiber has been found to help alleviate symptoms of slow-transit constipation (source: CAMPH).

100 grams of grapefruit contains 1.6 grams of fiber, which is 6% of the daily recommended amount (source: Nutritionix).

Citrus fruits, including grapefruit, also contain naringenin. Naringenin is a flavanol that has been linked with increasing fluid in the colon, which causes a laxative effect when constipated. Note that this is mostly based on animal studies, and more research on humans is needed (source: International Journal of Molecular Medicine).

Fresh red grapefruit juice being poured into a glass

Can I Drink Grapefruit Juice When Pregnant?

Grapefruit juice is safe during pregnancy if it’s been pasteurized.

You can drink unpasteurized grapefruit juice if you clean and juice a grapefruit yourself, and drink it straight away. It may also be a better choice overall, because many commercial juices are high in sugar and can contain artificial sweeteners.

100 grams of unsweetened grapefruit juice contains 38 calories and 8.8 grams of sugar (source: Nutrition Data). A sweetened serving of the same size contains 46 calories and 11 grams of sugar (source: Nutrition Data).

If you are buying pre-prepared grapefruit juice make sure it has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized juice can be listed as “unfiltered” and be contaminated by bacteria. The good news is that the FDA requires that unpasteurized juices be clearly labeled as so and carry a warning label (Source: CANR). So when out shopping, check the label.

Farmers markets or ‘freshly squeezed’ juice is likely to be unpasteurized and more prone to contamination, so bear this in mind, and only choose pasteurized juice until baby has been born.

Why You Might be Craving Grapefruit when Expecting

Grapefruit is a very common craving. While some people believe that craving grapefruit or citrus may be a sign of vitamin C deficiency or a cold, this is not backed up by any scientific evidence.

If you’re craving grapefruit, it is not an indication of illness or malnutrition (source: Frontiers in Psychology). Cravings are just a part of pregnancy as changing hormones can alter what foods we want and don’t want to eat.

There are also theories that cravings may be influenced by culture, changing hormones, or active ingredients in the foods you can find yourself craving. However, there is no definitive answer for why you might be craving grapefruit – or anything else for that matter (Source: FiP).

Learn more in our craving citrus article here.

grapefruit essential oil in a bottle

Is Grapefruit Oil or Grapefruit Seed Extract Safe in Pregnancy?

Grapefruit oil is derived from real grapefruit as it is extracted from glands in the peel of grapefruits, whereas grapefruit seed extract is a byproduct of juice production. It is made from seeds, pulp and added vegetable glycerin. It is often used as a fragrance in household products.

Any supplements, oils or extracts containing grapefruit should be taken with caution as grapefruit is known to interfere with many types of prescription medication (source: Mayo Clinic). There’s also very little information about grapefruit oil or extract during pregnancy, so it’s best avoided in anything other than food amounts (source: WebMD).

Bear in mind that essential oils should not be ingested. Essential oils are typically diluted by a carrier oil, such as coconut oil.

Some studies have linked grapefruit essential oil with fighting off certain fungal strains in people with weakened immune systems, which may be beneficial during pregnancy (source: Virulence).

One study found it was linked to having antimicrobial effects against the MSRA bacteria (source: Elviser). A test tube found that it may help to prevent stomach ulcers caused by the H. Pylori bacteria. However, it is not clear if topical use has the same effect (source: Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy).

Due to the lack of information on anything other than grapefruit as a food, it’s probably better to wait until your baby is born before using grapefruit oils or extracts- and even then, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor.

I hope this article was helpful and you feel better about consuming grapefruit while you’re expecting, and helps you enjoy your grapefruit safely. You might also be interested in why you’re craving citrus, too.