What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Lemons?
I use lemons a lot in my cooking - lemon zest in risotto, a squeeze of lemon over an Asian noodle dish and even the occasional lemon drizzle cake as a treat. However, I always saw it as a flavouring or garnish, never something with nutritional value. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Lemons have been known as a health remedy for hundreds of years - most famously as a treatment for scurvy among sailors on the ships of early explorers. Most of us are not likely to get scurvy nowadays but lemons have a lot more to offer. Read on to find out what are the health benefits of eating lemons.
If you’ve ever fed a lemon slice to a baby (what, you haven’t? 57 million people agree that it’s hilarious) you’ll know that it’s hard to stomach. Lemons are known for their tart, acidic taste so they’re usually not eaten alone. However, some sweeter varieties are coming into vogue such as the Meyer lemon, but it can be hard to find. (source)
Lemon trees grow in warm, tropical climates. They have white flowers, for what it’s worth. The fruit is actually a type of berry with a tough rind. (source)
The Health Benefits of Eating Lemons
1. Lemons Boost Your Vitamin C
We all know that citrus fruits are high in vitamin C and lemons are no exception. One Lemon contains more than 50% of our recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Of course nobody is going to eat a whole lemon plain but using it in recipes can go a long way towards meeting your daily requirements. (source)
2. It May Lower Stroke Risk
Research from the American Heart Association has found that eating large amounts of citrus fruits - including lemons - may lower the risk of stroke in women. It’s possible that the risk could be reduced by up to 19%, depending on the quantity consumed. (source)
3. It May Prevent Asthma
Scientists are currently investigating the link between vitamin C consumption and asthma prevention. One study suggested that vitamin C can play a role in relaxing the airways and thus relieving asthma symptoms. (source)
4. It Increases Iron Absorption
Iron deficiency (anaemia) is one of the most common deficiencies in developed countries. The main symptom of anaemia is a debilitating and constant feeling of exhaustion. Eating foods rich in vitamin C - such as lemons - helps your body absorb as much iron as possible from your food. (source)
5. It Can Help Prevent Infection
Foods high in vitamin C help our immune system fight viruses and bacterial Most of us have heard of vitamin C to treat the common cold - the evidence is still insufficient to prove this but studies have shown efficacy against cholera and candida infections. (source 1, 2)
6. It Can Reduce Appetite
Lemon water is a favourite with dieters too. Many enthusiasts claim that it helps reduce hunger. Lemon, like most fruits, contains pectin - a type of fiber. Any type of fiber will fill out your stomach and help you feel fuller for longer.
I don’t think that the effect will be significant from just a small amount of juice, however. The volume of fiber consumed this way is minimal so it’s probably mostly the placebo effect at play here. (source)
7. It Protects Your Urinary System
Lemon is a diuretic, meaning that it increases production of urine. It also makes the pH of the urinary tract less favourable for bacteria. Both of these factors help prevent urinary tract infections. (source)
Additionally, lemons help keep your kidneys healthy. The citric acid in lemon juice can dissolve painful kidney stones. One study used lemonade successfully to treat hypocitraturic nephrolithiasis (a type of kidney stone). (source)
8. It Can Freshen Breath
Lemon water can help freshen your breath. Its antiseptic properties may kill off bad bacteria in the mouth. One study used lemon essential oil as a mouthwash with favourable results. (source)
9. It Boosts Your Potassium Levels
Lemons contain a healthy dose of potassium. Potassium is a vital element for human health. It’s involved in heart, nerve and muscle function. (source)
10. It Eases Inflammation
Lemon has been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects. One study used a pulp made of lemon to treat inflammation in lab animals. Symptoms were reduced by up to 73.5%. (source)
11. It May Help Prevent Cancer
Most fruits are rich in antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. A study on citrus fruit flavonoids found that they could reduce risk of esophageal cancer in particular. (source)
12. It’s Heart Healthy
There’s a lot of research showing lemon’s protective effect on the heart and circulatory system. One compound in particular, called “limonin” may reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol. (source)
13. It May Help Prevent Arthritis
The anti-inflammatory effects of lemons may play a part in protection against “inflammatory polyarthritis”, a type of rheumatoid arthritis. Participants with diets low in vitamin C-rich foods were three times more likely to develop arthritis than those with high vitamin C diets. (source)
14. It May Slow Skin Aging
Vitamin C is involved in the production of collagen - a protein that keeps the skin plump and supple. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that regular consumption of vitamin led to younger-looking skin and less wrinkles. (source)
15. Lemon Water Keeps You Hydrated
Lemon water is a great alternative to high-calorie sports drinks. It contains electrolytes such as potassium, calcium and magnesium to keep your body well hydrated.
There are so many different ways to add lemons to your diet. Here are some ideas:
- Make your own healthy salad dressing with lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings
- Add a slice of lemon to black tea
- Drink a glass of lemon water in the morning
- Add some honey or stevia to your lemon water for a guilt-free lemonade
- Squeeze lemon juice over fish dishes
- Bake chicken with lemon slices and olive oil
- Use lemon juice in sauces such as pesto or white sauce
If you suffer from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), consuming lemon might aggravate your symptoms. It depends on the individual person but if this applies to you, proceed with caution. (source)
Some lemons use additives such as wax to protect from bruising during transport. If you are going to consume the zest of the lemon, look for organic varieties to avoid these chemicals. (source)
Use fresh lemons if possible - bottled lemon juice has fewer vitamins and can contain unhealthy preservatives and additives. If you can’t use all of your lemons before they expire, cut them into halves and freeze them for later use.
You can’t really argue with the 15 facts above. The health benefits of eating lemons are undeniable. I’m going to try and find new, creative ways to add lemon to my diet. From tea to salad dressing to old reliable lemon water - the possibilities are endless!