Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Lemons (Including Lemon Water)

Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Lemons (Including Lemon Water)

Lemon is a citrus fruit rich in vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits. Lemon juice has been linked to improving heart health, boosting the body’s immune system, and improving iron absorption. Because of the acidic nature of lemon water or lemonade, it can also help to dissolve kidney stones.

The juice of one lemon is very low in calories and contains up to half of your daily recommended intake (RDI) of vitamin C. However, it is not just lemon juice that has many benefits to your health. The flesh and lemon zest also have benefits because they contain fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

The benefits of lemons and lemon zest are also due to polyphenols and flavonoids. These beneficial plant compounds have been linked to giving protection against chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.

In this article, I will examine scientific research into the medicinal uses of lemons. You will also find out how to get the benefits of this delicious citrus fruit and make your own lemon water at home.

Lemon Nutrition Facts

Lemon is a healthy, delicious fruit with a sharp tangy taste and it contains plenty of vitamins and nutrients.

Depending on the size of the lemon, the juice of one lemon contains between 20 mg and 30 mg vitamin C. This means that drinking lemon juice with warm water in the morning can give you between 35% and 50% of your vitamin C daily requirements (RDI).  (1, 2)

One lemon contains about 5 g of carbs mostly in the form of soluble fiber and simple sugars.

The United States Department of Agriculture states that the nutritional value of one serving of raw lemon without the peel (58 g) is: (3)

  • 17 calories
  • 1.6 g dietary fiber
  • 5.4 g carbohydrate
  • 13 IU vitamin A
  • 30.7 mg vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • 6 mcg folate
  • 80 mg potassium
  • 15 mg calcium
  • 5 mg magnesium
  • Traces of iron, zinc, and sodium

Apart from having nutritional benefits, pure lemon juice also contains powerful antioxidants.

Health Benefits of Lemons

Lemons are good for helping to boost your health and strengthen your immune system. A study about citrus fruits such as lemons found that their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties have a protective effect on the body. (4)

All types of lemons are extremely versatile and can be used in many ways to enhance your health. Lemons have been used for medicinal properties since ancient times. They have been cultivated in China and India for about 2,500 years.

Let’s look in more detail at how you can benefit from the healing and medicinal uses of lemons and lemon juice in your daily diet.

Lemons Help to Boost Your Immune System

Lemon is an amazing citrus fruit that strengthens your immune system and helps keep you healthy because it contains vitamin C.

A healthy immune system is essential to prevent infections like the cold and flu. Studies into the effects of vitamin C in boosting your immunity have revealed that it has a protective effect.

For example, researchers found that increasing vitamin C intake (which is found in lemons) can reduce the duration of the common cold. It was found that vitamin C improves your immune system in general. Vitamin C in lemon juice can also help to reduce symptoms of allergies. (5)

The positive effects of vitamin C on your immune system were also shown to prevent many other infections. A study from 2006 found that vitamin C reduces inflammation and builds up resistance to infection. The study showed that taking vitamin C with zinc can reduce the severity of respiratory tract infections as well as pneumonia and diarrhea. (6)

You can find more helpful advice on how to stay healthy in my article on natural ways to boost your immune system.

Lemons Have Antioxidants That Can Help Protect Against Heart Disease

One of the benefits of consuming lemon zest is that it can help to protect against cardiovascular disease and heart disease.

There are a number of reasons why lemon is a great fruit to keep your heart healthy. For example, scientific research has revealed that lemon peel contains plant chemicals like flavones and polyphenols. These chemicals help to reduce inflammatory responses, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. (7)

To get the heart benefits from the zest of lemon peel, some people grate lemon peel into their lemon water drinks.

The reason why regularly drinking lemon juice can help your heart is due to its vitamin C content. One cohort study on over 120,000 men and women over a 14-year period found that those whose diets consisted of vitamin C-rich fruits (such as lemons) and green leafy vegetables had lower instances of heart disease. (8)

Please read my other article on how to greatly lower your risk of having a heart attack.

Lemons Help to Lower Blood Pressure

Eating raw lemons or drinking lemon juice can help treat high blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

The citric acid content of lemon juice has been shown in trials on humans to have an anti-hypertensive effect. Researchers examined both the effect of lemon juice and lemon peel and found that taking lemon daily had a significant effect in lowering blood pressure. The effects of reducing blood pressure to normal levels were boosted with walking daily. (9)

Find out in this article, what else you can do to get your blood pressure down to be within the normal range.

Lemons Can Help to Reduce Cholesterol

Drinking lemon juice with warm water is good for you because it can help to lower levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in your blood.

From various studies, there seems to be a number of reasons why lemons have a beneficial effect in reducing cholesterol. For example, a study into the effect of vitamin C supplementation showed that taking 500 mg per day of vitamin C is enough to lower LDL cholesterol (or, “bad” cholesterol) in a 4-week period. (10)

However, it is not just the vitamin C content that is beneficial for treating high cholesterol. Flavonoids like diosmin in pure lemon juice also have a cholesterol-lowering effect in trials on mice. (11)

Interestingly, a study from 2016 on people with high cholesterol levels found that consuming lemon juice and garlic helped to lower blood cholesterol. Researchers discovered that combining 20 g of garlic and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice helped to significantly lower cholesterol in an 8-week period. The research revealed that the combination of lemon juice and garlic was more potent than just the ingredients on their own. (12)

Learn about more lifestyle changes that can lower cholesterol without the use of drugs.

Consuming Lemons May Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

Because lemon has therapeutic elements that strengthen your heart and lower blood pressure, lemon juice may lower your risk of having a stroke.

Research carried out in Japan on over 2,000 adults found that a vitamin C deficiency was connected with incidences of stroke. (13)

To help avoid suffering a stroke, please read my article on 10 life-saving tips to prevent stroke.

Drinking Lemon Water Can Prevent Kidney Stones

Lemons are also good for treating kidney stones and preventing new ones from forming in your kidneys.

Many doctors recommend drinking about 5 tablespoons of diluted lemon juice a day to prevent kidney stones. Urologists even found that the lemon juice remedy was just as effective as potassium citrate in preventing recurrence of painful kidney stones. (14)

The science behind the reasons why lemon water treats kidney stones is due to the increase in urinary citrate. Also, drinking 2 or 3 glasses of lemon water a day can help to increase urine volume which helps to flush toxins and mineral deposits from the kidneys. (15, 33)

Learn in this article how to use apple cider vinegar to treat kidney stones.

Lemons Improve Iron Absorption

If you suffer from iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia, you should drink lemon juice regularly with meals to help increase iron absorption in your intestines.

Many plant-based sources of iron like green leafy vegetables contain the type of iron called non-heme iron. This is poorly absorbed by the body and could lead to an iron deficiency if you don’t eat meat or seafood (which contains heme iron).

Researchers recommend consuming fruits rich in vitamin C such as lemons along with iron-fortified cereals and plant-based iron sources. This results in a higher bioavailability of iron – the amount of iron that can be absorbed by the body. (16)

In fact, some reports say that you can increase the bioavailability of iron from food by 7% by taking vitamin C. It may be difficult to get enough vitamin C daily by drinking lemon juice to increase iron absorption (the study recommended taking 1,500 mg vitamin C per day). However, lemon juice will boost your vitamin C intake and also give you many other health benefits. (17)

In this article, find out about other ways to increase your iron levels.

Lemons Benefit Your Skin

Lemon juice contains powerful compounds that can give your skin a better complexion and reduce the chances of having acne.

Lemon juice has an antibacterial effect and can be used to cleanse your skin from pimple-forming bacteria. In one study, cleansing the skin with lemon juice resulted in fewer acne pimples. Researchers mixed 4 parts water with 6 parts pure lemon juice to create a skin cleanser. This was enough to help prevent more spots from forming. (18)

Lemon juice is also a natural astringent and can help to reduce the appearance of large red pimples.

If you have sensitive skin, you may need to use a natural acne skin cleanser that is gentler. Please see this article to learn about ways to get rid of acne naturally.

Lemon Juice May Help Treat Sun Spots

Lemon juice can improve hyper-pigmentation and help to lighten age spots. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C which boosts your skin’s health and the citric acid content helps to treat uneven skin tone.

The international Journal of Molecular Sciences reports that lemon extracts are powerful skin lightening agents. (34)

You can find more detailed information in my article on how to use lemons to treat sun spots and uneven skin.

Lemon Juice is Anti Bacterial

Adding the juice of one or 2 lemons to a spray bottle can be used as a natural disinfectant for surfaces around the house.

The antimicrobial properties of lemon juice mean that you can use it to get rid of viruses and bacteria from surfaces. A study published in 2015 found that spraying surfaces with lemon juice can kill off viruses like the norovirus that can result in gastroenteritis. Researchers concluded that lemon juice could be a practical natural disinfectant against many bugs that cause stomach infections. (19)

Some people wonder if lemon juice can purify water. It seems that in theory, adding lemon juice to water can help to kill off some germs but not all of them. Some scientists observed that a 2% concentration of lemon juice can kill off some bacteria. However, the alkalinity of the water and number of bacteria can mean that lemon juice isn’t a safe way to disinfect water. (20)

Lemons May Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms

If you have diabetes, taking one or 2 lemons a day along with the peel could benefit you and reduce your symptoms of diabetes.

Research carried out in 2013 found that polyphenolic compounds in lemon peel can help to reduce insulin resistance. The research found that citrus flavonoids help to reduce inflammatory responses and increase insulin sensitivity. (21)

Due to its vitamin C content, lemon juice may also control blood glucose levels. (22)

Please read this article to find out about other foods that can help to control type 2 diabetes.

Lemon Juice on Your Scalp Can Help Treat Dandruff

Citrus fruits like lemons are rich in natural antimicrobial properties that can help to treat dandruff and stop your scalp from itching so much.

An itchy scalp and flaky skin could be a sign of a fungal infection that causes dandruff. Research has shown that that extracts from lemons and citrus fruits have antifungal properties. Many people use citrus extracts to treat dandruff. Also, the acidic substances in lemon juice can lower the pH levels on your scalp to relieve itching. (23)

You can create a hair mask using only 2 ingredients that are known to get rid of dandruff: lemon and yogurt. You can add honey to the mask or a few drops of carrier oil (such as almond oil) to prevent dryness of the hair. Just wash and rinse your hair, then rub the mask into the scalp, and leave for 10-15 minutes. You may apply this mask 2-3 times a week.

Please see my article to learn how to get rid of dry itchy scalp using lemon juice and other natural ingredients.

Lemons Can Help You Lose Weight

Some people say that lemon can burn fat. Whether that is true or not, drinking a glass of natural lemon juice every day can certainly help you lose weight faster.

Plant chemicals found in lemons have an anti-obesity effect when used in studies using rats. Scientists noticed that polyphenols in lemon seemed to suppress appetite and also boost liver metabolism. The result was that the chemical compounds helped to limit body weight gain and prevent fat accumulating.  (24)

It is difficult to know if these chemicals in lemons would have a similar fat-reducing effect in humans. However, a randomized controlled trial on humans found that taking lemon peel powder did help to control fat accumulation and improve metabolism. The researchers found that lemon peel extract had a positive effect in reducing obesity. (25)

Lemon water can help to lose weight by increasing your fluid intake which can help to reduce appetite. Also, swapping healthy lemon juice drinks for sugary sodas will help to reduce your calorie intake.

Lemons May Improve Your Digestion

The soluble fiber content of lemons and lemon peel can help to get your digestion working properly.

Research published in 2016 found that lemon peel has some dietary fiber in it. This fiber from lemon peel, researchers say, helps to boost digestion and improve nutrient absorption in the intestines. However, to improve your digestive health with lemon water, it’s important to drink the pulp along with the grated lemon peel. (26)

Drinking lemon water regularly also improves your digestion because it naturally increases the amount of fluids you drink. Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy on WebMD says that lack of fluids or dehydration is a common cause of constipation. (27)

Lemons May Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Powerful medicinal compounds in lemons and lemon peel have been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer. Also, research in lab test tubes has shown that lemon extracts can kill off cancer cells and stop tumors from spreading.

According to the journal Gastric Cancer, a review of 14 medically-researched articles has revealed that a high intake of citrus fruits such as lemon helps to reduce the risk of stomach cancer. (28)

Isolated compounds from fractionated lemon seed extracts have shown that they have anticancer potential. In some clinical trials, these extracts were effective in preventing breast cancer. (29)

Another clinical trial from 2000 showed that consuming lemon peel could have a protective effect against skin cancer. In this study, it seemed that it was the peel of lemons that had the beneficial effect against human cancers, not the lemon juice or pulp. (30)

Of course, more research has to be done to see how lemon and extracts of lemon can be used effectively in cancer treatment.

Lemons for Teeth Whitening – What Does Science Say?

You can even use lemon juice along with baking soda as a natural toothpaste to whiten teeth. Some people mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and add the juice of half a lemon to clean their teeth.

Does science back up claims that lemon juice and baking soda make a good tooth-whitening toothpaste?

A review of 5 clinical studies revealed that baking soda is an effective natural ingredient at removing plaque from teeth. Baking soda is a natural antibacterial ingredient and can help to prevent gum disease. (31)

Can you use a lemon to whiten teeth? Of course, lemon is a naturally acidic plant. A study published in 2015 found that the acidic nature of lemon juice has the potential to weaken tooth enamel. However, the study also noted that apple juice and orange juice can also affect the integrity of tooth enamel. It is also important to note that the research involved soaking a tooth in undiluted lemon juice for 7 days. (32)

So, when used infrequently, occasionally adding lemon juice to baking soda to help whiten your teeth may not have any negative result on your oral health.

Lemons Can Help Detox Your Body

Drinking a glass of lemon water every day may help to rid your body of toxins due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

The citric acid content of lemon juice prevents the negative consequences of oxidative stress. Scientists found that lemon contains therapeutic properties that have an antioxidant effect on the brain and liver. The medicinal properties of lemon also helped reduce inflammation damage. (33)

Lemon Water

There are many health benefits to mixing the juice with a glass of water and drinking it. Regularly drinking lemon water can help in the following ways:

  • Lemon water aids digestion
  • Gargling with lemon water can help to get rid of a sore throat
  • Drinking natural lemon juice gives your body a large dose of vitamin C and other nutrients
  • Lemon water can help to destroy free radicals in your body

How to Make Lemon Water For Detox and a Better Health

  1. Wash 2 large lemons, cut in half, and squeeze the juice.
  2. Mix the lemon juice with 1 quart (1 liter) of water.
  3. You can also grate the skin of the lemon (lemon zest) and add it to the water (but it can be quite bitter).
  4. Drink a glass of warm lemon water 2 times a day to get the best health benefit.

Please read this article to find out more about the benefits of drinking lemon water.

If you are interested to learn more on how to cleanse and detoxify your body, you can find more useful information in my e-book The Detox Guide.

How to Select and Store Lemons

1. Choose fully ripened lemons that contain the most antioxidants (preferably organic lemons). They should have a full yellow color, as those that have green tinges have not fully ripened.

2. Choose lemons that are heavy for their size as it means that they have thin skin and more flesh and juice. They should have peels with a finely grained texture without wrinkling, soft patches and dull coloring.

3. Lemons will stay fresh for about one week if kept at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. You can store the lemons in the refrigerator where they will keep for about four weeks.

4. Lemon juice can also be stored for later use. Place freshly squeezed lemon juice in ice cube trays until frozen.

Lemon not only aids digestion, but is also one of the best foods to cleanse your liver and encourage the production of bile, allowing your liver to flush out toxins much easier.

Related: Types of Limes: Varieties of Lime Fruit from Around the World (With Pictures)

What Are the Benefits of Frozen Lemons?

The benefit of freezing lemons is that it makes using lemons every day easier. Because lemons can go bad, freezing lemons extends their life and prevents them from deteriorating quickly. In fact, frozen lemons can stay in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.

You can either freeze whole lemons or cut them in slices before placing in the freezer for storage. When you want to use the frozen lemons, just grate the whole lemon on your food or into a glass of water to get the benefits from the lemon peel, pulp, and lemon juice.

Check out my article on how & why you need to freeze lemons.

Side Effects of Consuming Lemons

Lemons are a versatile and delicious citrus fruit that rarely causes any side effects. If you start to use lemons every day as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, you should be aware of the following possible side effects:

Tooth erosion. Regularly drinking lemon juice should not have adverse effect on your teeth. However, to prevent any chance of weakening the enamel, you should not brush your teeth immediately after drinking lemon water. You could also drink through a straw to minimize contact with your teeth. You can also drink water after you consume lemon juice.

Increasing urinary output. Lemons can act as a diuretic. Increasing your fluid intake by regularly drinking lemon water will make you pee more.

Related articles:

Healthy and Natural World