5 Fruit Interactions with Medications: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

April 27, 2024 at 4:23 p.m.

...by Suzy Cohen

In the United States, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of the population takes prescription drugs, and there could be fruit interactions.

The polypharmacy increases with age and gets pertty scary! We see significant medication usage increasing significantly among older adults, especially those in long-term care facilities where they may take 15 different meds a day! I can verify this because I worked in this setting for 7 years as a Consultant Pharmacist, reviewing chart and medication profiles for all the residents. Among this medication-taking population, a surprising yet critical aspect of their efficacy and safety lies in something seemingly benign… our diet!

Specifically, certain fruits have been identified to cause fruit interactions with various medications, leading to potential adverse effects or diminished effectiveness. My article will now delve into five such fruits and highlight an important food interaction between a popular vegetable and a widely-used top-selling medication.

Introduction to Food-Drug and Fruit Interactions

Food-drug and specifically fruit interactions can significantly impact the effectiveness and safety of medications. While we often consider the potential side effects or interactions between different drugs, the foods we consume can also play a pivotal role. Certain compounds in foods can alter the way our bodies absorb, metabolize, or excrete medications, leading to an array of potential outcomes. Among these, fruits, due to their diverse biochemical makeup, are notable players.

1. Grapefruit: A Citrus to Watch

Grapefruit and certain other citrus fruits (such as Seville oranges) contain compounds that inhibit the action of CYP3A4 enzymes in the small intestine. These enzymes are crucial for the metabolism of many medications, including statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs), certain blood pressure medications, and some types of antihistamines. 

When these enzymes are inhibited, medication levels can rise in the bloodstream, potentially leading to an increase in side effects. For example, with statins, this could translate to a higher risk of muscle pain or damage, a known side effect of this medication class.

There is a fruit called a Pomelo which is similar to grapefruits, and it will act the same way as grapefruits, so be mindful of this. The reason is because it is similar in its biochemistry, it has the same compounds in it, and in high levels.

My recommendation: For medications that interact with grapefruit, it is often recommended to avoid grapefruit and similar citrus fruits entirely. The reason is that even small amounts of grapefruit can lead to significant increases in blood levels of certain medications, potentially causing serious side effects. 

Since the effect can last for more than 24 hours, simply taking your medication at a different time of day than you consume grapefruit is NOT an effective strategy. 

2. Bananas: Potassium Powerhouses 

Bananas are rich in potassium, a vital nutrient for maintaining heart health and proper muscle and nerve function. However, when taken with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), medications commonly prescribed for high blood pressure and heart failure, the potassium-sparing effects can lead to hyperkalemia.

This condition, characterized by elevated potassium levels in the blood, can cause dangerous heart rhythm problems if not monitored closely.

My recommendation: With high-potassium foods like bananas, moderation is key, especially for individuals taking ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).

These blood pressure medications can increase potassium levels in the blood, and adding high-potassium foods might lead to hyperkalemia.

Monitoring your potassium intake and regular blood tests can help manage this risk without the need for complete avoidance. It’s easy to monitor potassium intake, it’s a simple electrolyte blood test that tells you if you are high (hyperkalemia) or low (hypokalemia). While this may sound strange to you, hypokalemia (low) is much worse for the human body than high! So make sure that you’re familiar with the symptoms before an emergency occurs.

Bananas contain dopamine by the way, and dopamine is a neurotransmitter important, especially in Parkinson’s disease, gambling issues and much more. 

3.Pomegranates: Sweet but Potent

Pomegranates, like grapefruit, can affect the metabolism of medications by inhibiting the CYP3A4 enzyme. This fruit interaction can enhance the effects of blood pressure medications, statins, and others metabolized by this pathway, increasing the risk of side effects. Given the growing popularity of pomegranates and their juice, it’s essential to consider their potential impact on medication efficacy and safety.

My recommendation: Similar to grapefruit, pomegranates can affect the metabolism of certain medications. It’s hard to think of pomegranates that way because they are considered a heart-healthy fruit, so a fruit interaction comes as a surprise to most. While not always necessary to completely avoid pomegranates, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if moderation or avoidance is best, based on the specific medications you are taking.

4. Cranberries: Not Just for UTIs

Cranberries, particularly when consumed in large quantities or as juice, can interact with warfarin, a blood thinner used to prevent and treat blood clots. This fruit interaction can potentiate the effects of warfarin, increasing the risk of bleeding or bruising. Patients on warfarin are advised to maintain a consistent intake of foods and beverages that can affect warfarin levels and to monitor their blood thinning levels closely. This is not just a fruit, but it’s taken as a dietary supplement for UTI’s and bladder health.

My recommendation: For those on blood thinners like warfarin, it’s generally safe to consume cranberries in moderation. However, consuming large amounts of cranberries or cranberry juice can increase the risk of bleeding. Consistency is key; sudden changes in intake can lead to issues with medication efficacy. This fruit interaction probably only comes into play around the time of autumn and Thanksgiving.

5. Broccoli and Levothyroxine: A Crucial Interaction

While not a fruit, it’s important to include broccoli due to its interaction with Levothyroxine, a common thyroid medication prescribed for hypothyroidism. Broccoli, along with other cruciferous vegetables, contains goitrogens, substances that can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis and absorption. 

For patients taking Levothyroxine, consuming large amounts of raw (uncooked) broccoli may necessitate adjustments in medication dosage to ensure therapeutic levels are maintained. Additionally, if you have thyroid disease, I recommend you avoid excessive consumption of strawberries, peaches, cassava flour, or sweet potatoes. A little bit is fine, just not excessive amounts every day.

My recommendation: Moderation is important for people who take Levothyroxine (or any thyroid medication), who consume cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, etc. These foods (when raw) can affect how the body absorbs thyroid medication. This is also why I formulated a superfood green drink that is goitrogen-free called Yummy Greens. Anyone can take it, and it is thyroid-friendly in case you have hypothyroidism. 

What I find so confusing is how so many people do not know that there are fruit interactions and goitrogenic fruits in the most popular superfood green drinks! Too much of that can trash your thyroid hormone levels.

What about eating? Consistent consumption of a small amount of uncooked crucifers can allow for dosage adjustments, but it’s always better to consume these vegetables (which have tremendous nutritional value) in their cooked, sauteed or grilled form. Complete avoidance is not necessary unless advised by your doctor. 


In a nation where prescription medication use is prevalent, awareness of potential fruit interactions is essential. This awareness can prevent adverse effects and ensure medications perform their intended function without undue interference from our diet. 

Always discuss your dietary habits and potential food and fruit interactions with your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially when starting a new medication. Monitoring for any unusual symptoms or side effects when making dietary changes or consuming these fruits and vegetables can further safeguard your health and well-being.

Suzy Cohen has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.

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