A few drops of lemon juice or a bit of lemon zest in your food, both sweet and savory, can change your dish completely.
Like all other citrus fruits, lemons are packed with vitamin C and have numerous health benefits. It contains essential vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds that have been in use since ancient times. To date, most home remedies for the common cold, cough, sore throats, and fevers use lemon to treat the infections.
Lemons, Citrus limon, is the vibrant, yellow edible fruit of the tree with the same name. They belong to the Rutaceae family and are native to the Southern part of Asia. These yellow fruits have a citrusy fragrance and tangy flavor that can elevate your dish to the next level (1).
In this article, we will explore the health benefits of lemon and the various ways of using it. Whether it is lemon water, lemon juice, lemon tea, or a concoction made from lemon, we will discuss it all.
Health Benefits of Lemon
Lemons are loaded with vitamin C, B-vitamins, fibers, and bioactive compounds such as flavonoids. Let’s take a detailed look at the ways it benefits our body:
1. Boosts Immunity
Lemon is a powerhouse of vitamin C. This helps boost immunity and can protect you from infections (2).
Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that can help in suppressing cough, sore throat, loosening chest congestion, and fever (3). Half a cup of lemon will give you 56.2 mg of vitamin C.
Lemon also contains a good amount of flavonoids such as hesperidin and hesperetin that scavenge the free radicals in the body and augment the antioxidant activity. It shows anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial activity, and antiparasitic activity that can boost your immunity (4), (5), (6).
2. Help Regulate your Blood Pressure
It is a well-known fact that lemon water works great in regulating blood pressure. Studies have shown that lemons help decrease the rigidity of the blood vessels and help maintain flexibility and softness (7). This can help prevent internal hemorrhage and lower the pressure in your blood vessels. The potassium in lemon helps control the blood pressure as well.
A study conducted amongst Japanese women in Hiroshima conclusively showed the significant effect of lemon and regular walking in reducing blood pressure (8).
3. Help Maintain the pH Level
The pH value of lemons is 2, which makes them acidic. It is mainly due to the high ascorbic and citric acid present in lemons. However, when lemon is fully digested and metabolized in the body, it turns alkaline. Therefore, it is believed to support the pH balance of the body that is most conducive to metabolic functions.
4. Help Improve Bone Strength
The alkaline pH is good for bones and lemon juice does just that. In addition to that, lemon also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C which help improve bone health. Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen that helps maintain bones and cartilage (9), (10).
Potassium helps neutralize metabolic acids that can conserve the body’s calcium storage. This ensures reduced calcium loss through urine (11).
5. Help give Relief from Stomach Problems
It is interesting to note the various ways by which lemon can help you deal with your stomach problems. Even though lemon is acidic, it promotes alkaline pH in the body once it is metabolized.
This can help absorb the aluminum hydroxide present in your antacid and can actually support it in dealing with acid reflux.
Lemon is believed to stimulate healthy digestion, increase gastric motility, and reduce constipation. It can also slow down the absorption rate of food thereby preventing blood sugar spikes (12). Taking lemon, especially lemon water is associated with liver health and is believed to flush out the toxins from the liver.
Lemon also reduces bloating and burping which can be a cause of excess gas production in your gut.
6. Help Control Body Weight
Drinking lemon water can help you keep yourself sufficiently hydrated. Studies infer that a good rate of hydration may boost your metabolism. It also increases your satiety thereby indirectly supporting weight loss (13).
In fact, several studies have supported the fact that lemon water on a calorie-restricted diet has helped lose weight faster. Some also contemplate that plant compounds in lemon may support weight loss (14).
Adding lemon to your diet can make you feel full for a longer period. The credit goes to the soluble fiber pectin, which expands in your stomach and gives you the feeling. This claim is supported by animal studies, however, the effect is yet to be established in humans.
7. Help Prevent Anaemia
Iron is in the form of heme-iron in animal foods which are very easy to digest. But plant sources contain iron in the non-heme-iron form that is not easily digestible by the human body.
The addition of vitamin C can help improve that and can successfully protect against diseases such as anemia. Studies have confirmed that high vitamin C and citric acid in lemon can help improve iron absorption from plant foods (15), (16).
8. Support Healthy Heart
Lemon can very well support a healthy heart via several mechanisms. Lemon contains plant compounds, hesperidin, and diosmin, which can lower cholesterol. Hesperidin can strengthen your blood vessels and help prevent atherosclerosis. Diosmin helps improve muscle tone and reduces inflammation of the blood vessels (17).
The fiber content of lemon can also significantly lower the risk for heart diseases.
The high vitamin C of lemon helps keep the blood vessels elastic and pliant for the blood to flow smoothly preventing the occurrence of harmful plaques and clots that can cause heart problems.
9. Can Prevent Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are small clumps of salts and minerals which are made from waste products like urine and get stuck to the inner linings of the kidney. They are pretty common and can cause a lot of discomfort in the body.
The citric acid in lemon can increase the pH of urine which makes it less favorable for kidney stone formation. It can also help increase urine volume which decreases the chances of mineral deposition (18), (19).
Several studies have been done to support this however results have been mixed. More research needs to be done in this regard.
10. Can Help Regulate Irregular Periods
Certain foods called emmenagogues can help stimulate blood flow in the uterus and the pelvic area. This helps prevent irregular periods and helps regulate your menstruation cycle. The cause for this irregularity can be anything starting from obesity to hormonal imbalance in the body.
Studies have shown that vitamin C-rich foods such as lemons can work as one and help reduce the onset of menstrual irregularities.
11. May Reduce Cancer Risks
Lemon has several anticancer activities. They can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, stop tumor growth in chronic leukemia, and increase the overall immunity by making you strong because of their strong antioxidant effect (20), (21).
Researchers think that the two plant compounds in lemon: D-limonene and naringenin, can very well have anticancer effects. However, further investigation will be needed to confirm this hypothesis (22).
One study showed that hesperidin and beta-cryptoxanthin present in lemon can prevent the growth of the malignant tumor. Most of these studies have been conducted in animals and further studies in humans are needed to be conducted (23).
How Effective are Lemon Essential Oils
Lemon essential oils are mainly obtained from the skin of the lemon. It is one of the most popular herbal remedies for nausea and vomiting and is a hot favorite amongst pregnant women (24).
The main components that are mainly present are monoterpenoids, such as D-limonene. These are also known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic effects.
The lemon essential oil can be applied to the skin in a diluted form or can be put in an oil burner or a diffuser and inhaled. It is a natural stress reliever and has been extensively in use in aromatherapy. It is also used as a natural analgesic.
Lemonade: The Most Popular Lemon Drink
Lemonade is a very popular way to incorporate lemon into your diet. It is a sweetened lemon-flavored beverage that contains lemon juice, water, and a sweetener.
This drink has all the benefits of lemon and is a great way to have them.
However, be careful of the sugar you put in. Excessive sugar can affect you adversely.
Common Lemon Drinks
The different drinks that contain lemons and are very popular are:
Lemon water is very much in craze these days. Most restaurants you go, serve lemon water with a few sprigs of mint that refreshes you, hydrates you, and gets your stomach ready for food. You may choose to have it a little warm if you wish.
You can either put a few slices of lemon cut and put in the water to make it lemon-infused or squeeze out the juice and mix it with water at room temperature. Be careful of this temperature as they alter the molecular structure of the lemon juice. It can compromise the benefits.
Honey Lemon Water
Lemon with honey is a great combination that has been an extremely popular way of starting the day across continents.
Some have it in the faith of losing weight while others take it to boost their immune system. The rich vitamin C works as a detoxifying agent and cleanses your body of harmful toxins.
It also hydrates you sufficiently and makes you feel full. The honey has a low glycaemic index and is a great way to energize yourself.
Lemon and tea, both are full of goodness, and taking them together elevates it to a different level. Not only does it taste great but they are a treasure trove of antioxidants, anti-aging properties, antibacterial properties, and anti-cancer activity that is replete with the goodness of lemon and tea.
You can either add freshly squeezed lemon juice into your tea or make a concoction of tea with dried lemon peels, it is just a great way to have it. You may also mix fresh lemon peel and steep it with your tea leaves.
All kinds of tea go well with lemon. It can enhance the flavor of green tea or can be a great pair combination with chamomile tea. You can also add a few drops to your oolong tea. Either way, they complement each other and bring out the health benefits.
A special mention here is lemon myrtle tea, which is a rich source of antioxidants and energy. Lemon myrtle, is a subtropical flowering plant that has a high citrusy aroma. Used in very small quantities, lemon myrtle is highly suitable to blend in teas.
Lemon juice is the juice of the lemon extracted from the pulp of the lemon fruit. Normally it is highly acidic and difficult to take without suitably diluting. It may also cause damage to the teeth enamel. In fact, a study has stated that lemon juice can cause more erosion than the common cola.
Therefore, it is better to have it diluted and drink as mentioned above or used in a dressing or dip.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Lemon
1. Is lemon safe during pregnancy?
Lemon is absolutely safe during pregnancy. When taken in moderation, not only it is safe but highly beneficial to the mother and her unborn child. Lemon is believed to provide respite from nausea and vomiting, two major complications that most women suffer from (25).
It also helps you keep hydrated, regulate your blood pressure, maintain your sugar level, and provide sufficient nutrients and antioxidants that are good for the body. Lemon contains folic acid which is good during pregnancy.
2. Can lemon juice increase heartburn?
Contrary to common belief, lemon juice does not increase heartburn. Moreover, lemon water is used as a home remedy to reduce the symptoms of heartburn.
Even though lemon juice is acidic in nature, it turns alkaline once it is metabolized in the body. Drinking lemon water, therefore, has the potential alkalizing effect which can bring respite from the acidity.
3. How do you use lemon balm?
Lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb from the mint family and has no direct relation as such with lemon fruit. These herbs are native to Asia, Africa, and Europe and have been used for their potential benefits in improving mood and cognitive function.
You can use lemon balm instead of lemon peel in recipes. It can nicely flavor your food.
4. Does lemon have any side effects?
Lemons are acidic by nature. Therefore, if taken in the concentrated form, it can corrode your teeth enamel. Though lemons are considered pretty safe, some people may be prone to allergies related to citrus fruits. Lemon juice can also cause skin irritation in some (26).
The Final Note
Lemon is very good for health and can be used in different manners for flavor and garnishing. They are a very high source of vitamin C and plant compounds with potential benefits.
Whether you put a dash of lemon juice on your soup or enjoy a glass of lemonade on a warm day, it refreshes you with the citrusy flavor and boosts your overall health.