This juicy winter gem is bursting with health benefits

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If it’s been a while since you ate a grapefruit, you may be surprised by how much you enjoy the winter citrus. “Grapefruit is an acquired taste, and it develops as we get older, “says Dan Richey, CEO of Riverfront Groves/Riverfront Packing Co. in Vero Beach, Fla. “Children prefer oranges because they’re sweeter, but adults appreciate grapefruit’s tart flavor.”

Over the years, grapefruit has picked up a bad rap as a fad-diet food. “But most of the reason why the grapefruit diet worked is that the fruit is so low in calories, “says Jennifer Iserloh, a private chef, known as the Skinny Chef, in New York.” When you’re eating foods that fill you up and are low in calories, you’re going to lose weight. “

Iserloh offers plenty of other reasons why grapefruit should be part of a healthful diet. Besides a generous dose of vitamin C and lycopene, grapefruit contains folate and also potassium, a mineral that plays a vital role in heart, kidney, muscle, and digestive functions.

Florida produces most of the world’s grapefruit, which reaches its flavor peak from January to March. External scars don’t indicate poor quality, but look for smooth-skinned fruit with a round, not sunken, shape, advises Richey. White grapefruit have the same sugar content as pink or red, although people tend to perceive the darker-fleshed fruit as sweeter, Richey adds. And since grapefruit stay fresh in the fridge for more than four weeks, you can have them on hand throughout the winter to snack on or to slip into the following recipes.

Weighty Matters

Grapefruits may all look the same, but they’re not. Those that feel heavy in your hand will be the ripest and juiciest.

How to Supreme a Grapefruit

One challenge in cooking with grapefruit is peeling away the thick pith beneath the skin and the bitter membrane that surrounds the pulp. The solytion is a culinary technique called supreming. Here’s how to do it:

1. Trim ends all the way to juicy flesh.

2. Stand fruit upright, and remove peel and pith with knife, following the curve of fruit from top to bottom. (A small, serrated paring knife works best.)

3. Holding fruit over a bowl, cut sections along membranes as if you were slicing out a wedge, releasing them one by one.

4. Set supremes aside, and squeeze membrane “skeleton” over bowl to release any remaining juice.