Lemons are quite a popular fruit, so they might very well already be part of your regular diet. But are you fully aware just how healthy they really are, and the many ways they are benefiting your body? If you already include lemon in your cooking, congratulations! You are doing your body some major favors. If not, read on to find out how lemons can take your health to the next level.
Lemons are a citrus fruit that grow on lemon trees. They are very sour so are rarely just eaten alone as a whole fruit, but are often used in beverages (lemonade being the most popular), and in cooking. Lemons contain high levels of vitamin C, along with other key plant compounds, minerals and fiber.
Plain and simple, lemons provide impressive health benefits such as lowering your risk of heart disease, preventing anaemia and kidney stones and even preventing certain types of cancer. They are quite low in calories, provide minimal protein (about 1 gram per lemon), almost no fat, and roughly 10 grams of carbohydrate.
You also might have heard a buzz around lemon water, specifically (essentially lemonade without the sugar, just lemon mixed with water), which can be a refreshing and detoxifying beverage to include in your daily routine, especially first thing in the morning. First, let’s take a closer look at the specific (and impressive) health benefits of lemon.
Lemons Support Heart Health
Lemons provide almost 51 mg of vitamin C, which is over 50% of the DRI (daily recommended intake). Studies have shown that eating foods rich in vitamin C supports heart health by reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke (1). Aside from vitamin C, other studies suggest that the fiber and plant compounds found in lemons also reduce your risk factor for heart disease (2), and can also reduce blood cholesterol levels when consumed over a period of 4 weeks.
Lemons Promote Weight Loss
If weight loss is your goal, it might come as a nice surprise that incorporating lemon into your diet can help control your weight for several reasons. One, the type of fiber specifically found in lemons is called pectin, which increases your feelings of fullness by expanding in your stomach. This alone can reduce your overall calorie intake and help with cravings. Animal studies have also found that the polyphenols in lemons (one of their plant compounds) can work to prevent weight gain (3).
Lemons Can Prevent Kidney Stones
Unfortunately, some people are predisposed to kidney stones and often get them repeatedly (although this can also be attributed to a high carbohydrate and sugar diet). Kidney stones are small, crystallized stones of waste products that accumulate in the kidneys, and can be extremely painful to pass. Fortunately, the citric acid in lemons and lemon water work to increase the pH (acidity level) of urine and overall urine volume, which makes a less desirable environment for kidney stone formation (4). Just 4 ounces of lemon juice per day (which can be mixed with water) will effectively prevent the formation of kidney stones in those who have had them in the past. Whether or not lemonade has the same effect is still up for debate, as the sugar content might undermine the preventative effects of lemon.
Lemons Promote Healthy Digestion
Lemon are high in soluble fiber (pectin, as discussed above) which has been linked to many health benefits. One of the main health benefits is improved gut health and digestion when the entire lemon is eaten. This can be accomplished by including an entire lemon into a smoothie or juice (in a high power blender), and including lemon rind and pulp in your cooking, along with the juice. Soluble fiber also works to slow the digestion of sugars and starches, potentially supporting more balanced blood sugar levels (5).
Lemons Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
It is well known that a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables is linked to lowered cancer risk (6). While further studies are needed, some experts believe that certain plant compounds in lemons and other citrus fruits especially work to reduce your risk of developing cancer. While this health benefit isn’t completely confirmed, including lemon in your diet to support cancer prevention certainly can’t hurt.
Drink Lemon Water First Thing in the Morning
Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning before food (or coffee!), can be a great way to start the day. While lemon itself has not actually been shown to support detox (although this myth is widely propagated in the nutrition world), water in general helps to eliminate waste and promote healthy bowel function, and adding lemon to water also gives you the many benefits listed above. Drink one glass of room temperature or warm water with lemon upon waking.
Including lemon and lemon water as often as possible in your diet can seriously boost your health. Since lemon is acidic, if you are drinking it often in water, you might want to consider using a straw and/or rinsing your mouth afterwards so as to avoid potential damage to tooth enamel. With that in mind, drink up!