Reminiscent of crimson poinsettia petals, segments of red grapefruit are a healthy way to celebrate the season. Red grapefruit contains the citrus compound nobiletin as well as lycopene, the latter imbuing the fruit with its distinctive ruby hue. Just in time for the New Year, two new studies tout the potential brain benefits of these phytochemicals, making red grapefruit a smart choice for overall health.

In one Japanese study, mice that had nobiletin mixed into their feed for four months had 56% less brain plaques (thought to harm neurons). The nobiletin-fed mice were also 35% less likely to exhibit memory paralysis — the kind of brain freeze we’ve all experienced when we can’t remember a name on the tip of our tongues. Lycopene — that other red grapefruit compound — was found to improve the viability of brain cells by 38%, in one petri dish experiment. While regular grapefruit has plenty of health perks, the red variety boasts 3,500% more vitamin A, 50% more fiber, and 60% more alpha linolenic acid (omega 3)!

Bonus: Beyond rejuvenating your brain, could red grapefruit rejuvenate your appearance? Perhaps — in the eye of the beholder, anyway. One study found that the scent of red grapefruit made observers guess women’s ages as 6 years younger than their real age.

Published December 1, 2011