Grapefruit are like a splash of sunshine on a cold winter day. Just break open the peel and the fresh, tangy aroma fills the air. Inside, the juicy flesh is full of mouth-watering goodness. From the peel, to the pulp, and each individual grapefruit section, grapefruit are packed with health-boosting benefits.

They grow on trees in clusters like grapes, from where their name, grapefruit, was derived. Grapefruit are in season right now, during the winter months, and at their peak for flavor and also an economical buy. To pick a juicy, ripe grapefruit, select fruit that feels heavy for its size and has a firm skin.

Although the majority of grapefruit is eaten with a spoon or as a juice, you may want to consider eating them as you would an orange. Eating the grapefruit sections that include the membrane gives you up to 50 percent more fiber. Since grapefruit contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, you’re getting significantly more of the fiber that helps with digestive health, making you feel full longer, helping to regulate blood sugars and lowering cholesterol.

An average large grapefruit provides only 100 calories and is a nutrition powerhouse with numerous good-for-you benefits. Listed below are five health benefits from grapefruit:

• Heart: soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Red grapefruit have been found to also help lower triglycerides.

• Immune system: grapefruit are an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps promote a healthy immune system to fight infections, and may help shorten the duration of colds.

• Weight loss: because of the high water content and fiber, grapefruit help you feel full longer.

• Cancer protection: grapefruit naturally contain limonoids, lycopene (found in red and pink varieties) and other antioxidants that have been found to lower the risk of certain cancers.

• Skin: vitamin C helps with collagen production, important to keep skin supple and young-looking. Lycopene, found in pink and red grapefruit, has been found to also offer protection from sun damage to skin.

A word of caution for people who are on prescription medications: you need to consult with your physician about potential interactions of compounds found in grapefruit with any medications you may be taking.

Citrus Salad

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

• 1 (10-ounce) bag mixed lettuce greens

• 2 blood or navel oranges, peeled and sectioned

• 2 pink grapefruit, peeled and sectioned

• 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

• 1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted

• 1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese

• 1/4 to 1/3 cup light balsamic vinaigrette

Directions:

Prepare salad, place lettuce on chilled serving platter or in large salad bowl. Top with orange and grapefruit sections, onion, almonds and cheese.

Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to evenly coat greens.

-- Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.