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Lemon: Evidence-based Health Benefits


Lemon is a yellow or pale-yellow fruit, which is botanically a berry and it is used in numerous cuisines and food preparations. The tangy and refreshing juice of this fruit is commonly used as a food ingredient in both home and commercial cooking.

The rind or the outer skin of lemon is used to enhance the flavor of the food while cooking. It is also a major source of commercial essential oil and aroma compounds. Lemon is an important medicinal plant that is native to Southeast Asia. Each part of the lemon plant possesses therapeutic properties. (1)

What is Lemon?

Lemon is a fruit of Citrus X limon plant. It is also known as Nimbu in Hindi. It belongs to Rutaceae (rues) family and Citrus L. (citrus) genus. Lemon juice is commonly used in ayurveda for detoxifying various natural ingredients making some formulations that improves appetite and digestion.

Health Benefits of Lemon

The most important health benefits of lemon are given below:

Help You Lose Weight

The lemon water diet is quite popular for its weight loss effect. Research has found that making lemon a part of your daily diet suppresses diet-induced obesity.

Plant polyphenols present in lemon increase the activity and expression of genes that are involved in the breakdown of fat. These genes prevent the storage of fat in the body and thus, help in fat loss.

One interesting study found that supplementation with lemon polyphenols helped in reducing the visceral and subcutaneous fat.

The natural compounds present in lemon also suppress the appetite and reduce the hunger pangs. This decreases the entry of extra calories into the system.

Hence, lemon juice or lemon water promotes weight loss by promoting satiety and hydration. But, replacing meals with lemon water can be harmful to health. (2, 3)

Supports Heart Health

Studies have reported that this small, tangy and refreshing fruit is mother nature’s gift to protect your heart. Lemon keeps the heart healthy by reducing the risk factors that give rise to heart diseases like:

  • High blood pressure- Lemon juice reduces pressure on the inner walls of the arteries and helps in smooth blood flow all throughout the body. Besides this, you can reduce your salt intake by replacing salt with fresh lemon juice in food preparations.
  • Altered lipid profile- Adding lemon juice to food preparations or drinking lemon water in addition to a low-fat diet prevents deposition of fat and cholesterol in the body. Vitamin C present in lemon also inhibits oxidation of LDL and prevents clogging of the arteries.

Besides this, plant compounds present in lemon help in reducing fibrinogen levels, which in turn decreases inflammation and prevents clot formation in the arteries.

Hence, adding lemon juice to water or healthy food preparations on a daily basis may keep cardiovascular diseases at bay. (4, 5)

Prevents Kidney Stones

Kidney stones or nephrolithiasis is a relatively common disease. The citric acid present in lemon inhibits the formation of kidney stones by preventing the urine from becoming too acidic. It also prevents the development of mineral crystals into kidney stones. 

Hence, adding fruits like lemon, which is an excellent source of citric acid, is an effective way to prevent and treat kidney stones.

An interesting study found that half a cup of lemon juice provides a daily amount of citrate comparable to that of a standard daily dose of citrate medications. Hence, one way to limit kidney stone formation is the intake of lemon juice. (6, 7)

Controls High Blood Pressure

Lemon is a health-promoting fruit that suppresses high blood pressure. Such an effect of lemon is attributed to the presence of flavonoids in it.

Studies have observed that daily lemon intake has an inverse relationship with blood pressure, which means a regular intake of lemon juice helps in lowering blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.

The citric acid in lemon juice enhances the absorption of calcium and magnesium from the foods. These minerals help in lowering the blood pressure by dilating the arteries. This makes sure that the blood flows smoothly without putting any pressure on the inner walls of the arteries. It soothes and maintains the flexibility of blood vessels and arteries, thus lowering high blood pressure.

This is why you should add lemon to your low sodium diet. (8)

Improves Iron Absorption

Lemon juice improves iron absorption from the diet and treats iron deficiency anemia, says research. Citric acid lowers the pH of the small intestine, binds with iron and prevents it from forming iron compounds that cannot be absorbed. Hence, it converts iron into a form that can be easily absorbed. Thus, lemon juice makes iron available for absorption.

Besides this, citric acid in lemon juice enhances the secretion of gastric acid, which further promotes iron absorption. Therefore, it is suggested to squeeze lemon juice on spinach soup or spinach veggie to boost the iron absorption. If you are taking iron pills, take it with a glass of lemon water. (9)

Fights Acne

Lemon is one amazing fruit that can fight acne and give you clear and glowing skin. Propionibacterium acnes is bacteria that is responsible for causing acne.

Research has observed that plant compounds present in lemon possess an anti-bacterial property that prevents the multiplication and growth of P. acnes.

Besides this lemon contains ascorbic acid, that fight against acne. Moreover, applying lemon juice on the skin helps in the removal of excess oil and dead cells. Lemon juice is a detoxifying agent that treats acne when taken orally.

It cures constipation, improves digestion and reduces infections. Thus, a clean gut keeps the skin clear and glowing. Hence, oral as well as topical application of lemon juice improves skin health and fights acne. (10)

Different Ways to Add Lemon to Your Diet

  • Salad Dressing: Make healthy salad dressing at home with lemon juice. Lemon juice adds a fresh and tangy flavor to the salad. Make sure you eat the salad fresh.
  • Lemon Tea: Drinking a cup of lemon tea improves digestion and relieves flatulence and bloating. Add 2 cups of lemon tea to your daily diet.
  • Curries and Soups: Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on soups and curries. In Indian restaurants, lemon pieces are often served with Indian food preparations to enhance the flavor of the food.
  • Lemon-Based Desserts: Freshen up your dessert menu with these delicious lemon recipes like lemon tart, lemon pie, lemon cakes, and lemon bars.
  • Lemon Marmalade: Slather up some lemon marmalade on your hot buttered toast.
  • Cool and Refreshing Treats: Lemon treats are a perfect way to refresh your system on a hot summer day. Some options are- lemon yogurt, lemon ice cream, lemon parfait, and lemon gelato.
  • Drink It Up: Homemade lemonade or nimbu pani is a great way to provide vitamin C to the body. This refreshing beverage is a perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Who Should Consume Lemon?

All healthy individuals can enjoy the tangy and refreshing flavor of lemon.

If bad breath is your problem, lemon is the best solution for you. The acid present in lemon juice neutralizes the odor and freshens up your mouth. If you are out of mints and gums, then reach out for a lemon.

Adding lemon juice to iron-rich foods improves the absorption of iron in the body. Hence, if you have iron-deficiency anemia, increasing your intake of iron-rich foods is not the only solution. Add lemon juice also to such foods for better bioavailability of iron.

Vitamin C and other antioxidants present in lemon juice fight inflammation and oxidative stress. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and fights oxidative stress. Hence, adding lemon juice to your diet is a great way to keep oxidative stress-related disorders at bay.

If you have a history of kidney stones or if you are prone to kidney stones, lemon juice or lemon water may be the best beverage for you. Lemon juice contains citrate, which prevents the formation of kidney stones.

Lemon is also a great food ingredient for individuals with cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol levels, and hypertension. It lowers LDL cholesterol level, prevents its oxidation and inhibits the formation of clots in the arteries. Hence, fresh lime water (without sugar) is an excellent drink to keep your heart healthy. (11)

Who Cannot Consume Lemon?

Overconsumption of lemons can wear away the enamel of your teeth. This may lead to tooth discoloration and tooth sensitivity. Such action is due to the high acidic nature of lemons.

Excess lemon intake can worsen the symptoms of GERD and gastric ulcers. Because lemons are acidic in nature, eating too many lemons can trigger heartburn in such individuals.

Lemon intake may not be suitable for individuals with canker sores or small sores in the mouth. Intake of lemon or any other citrus fruit in this situation may worsen it. Hence, it’s best to avoid acidic foods.

How much Lemon should You Consume in a Day?

All healthy individuals can consume 1-2 cups of diluted lemon water, which is prepared from 5 to 10 ml lemon juice. Lemon is nutritious and beneficial for health but consuming it in excess amount may have some ill effects. Make sure you do not consume the juice of more than 2 medium-sized lemons per day.

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