Lemons are a nutritious citrus fruit that can provide several health benefits. They’re a rich source of vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, boost your immune system, and assist in managing a healthy weight.
This article covers the nutritional content of lemons, their possible health benefits, and who should consider avoiding them.
Benefits of Lemon
Lemons have lots of nutrients, like high vitamin C and fiber content. These crucial nutrients have many health benefits and may help you meet your nutrition goals.
Boosts the Immune System
As a citrus fruit, lemons are good sources of vitamin C and folate. Both of these are known for boosting the immune system. Nutrients in citrus fruit support the immune system by:
- Controlling oxidative stress (overabundance of unstable molecules called free radicals in the body)
- Controlling inflammation
- Supporting immune responses
Lowers Stroke Risk
Of the factors that increase stroke risk, diet is the most causative. However, lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 80%.
Research has found that the flavonoids (phytonutrients found in plants) in citrus fruits may reduce the risk of ischemic stroke (blood clot in a vessel leading to the brain) in women. Another study found that people with higher flavonoid intake had lower incidences of heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and stroke.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Research found the flavonoids in lemons and the water extract from lemon peels may help suppress blood pressure. The amount of lemon intake negatively impacts systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading that indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
Flavonoids metabolize and protect the heart when they interact with the gut microbiome (microorganisms in the digestive system). Their activities are associated with decreased blood pressure with 15% of the association between flavonoid-rich foods and systolic blood pressure.
A meta-analysis on citrus fruit and lung cancer risk found that those with the highest citrus fruit intake had a 9% lower risk of developing lung cancer than those with the lowest intake.
There is also evidence that citrus peels may contain anticancer properties. One study evaluated the anticancer potential of citrus peels on in vitro (test tube) assays and in vivo (living organism) cancer models. They found anticancer activity, and researchers encouraged using citrus peels as anticancer food additives.
Increases Iron Absorption
Lemons may increase iron bioavailability (the amount available in the body) and bioaccessibility (the amount available for absorption). This is likely due to the high vitamin C content in the citrus fruit.
Pairing iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C is one way to increase iron absorption since vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron. Medical professionals advise eating these foods at the same time. However, there is evidence that consuming them separately may also help.
A study evaluated the effectiveness of iron and vitamin C administered separately to improve iron status in young women. Researchers found that, even when taken separately, vitamin C increases iron absorption. The amount of vitamin C you get could be a more important factor than the timing of consumption.
Maintains a Healthy Complexion
Citrus juice may help prevent or reduce signs of aging. Research has found that citrus juice affects the skin in the following ways:
- Reduces cell damage
- Decreases skin thickness
- Decreases wrinkle formation
- Increases collagen content
Citrus intake is associated with a lower risk of asthma. A study evaluated the role of nutrition in asthma prevention. It found that consuming fruits and vegetables daily reduced the odds of asthma and wheezing incidents. High citrus intake was associated with a reduced risk of asthma symptoms.
Aids in Weight Loss
Lemons may make you feel full faster. A randomized trial evaluated glycemic response (how carbohydrates affect blood sugar) and appetite perception after eating bread with water, tea, or lemon juice. Researchers found that lemon juice resulted in a 1.5-times increase in gastric content volume compared to water, which correlated to lowered appetite perceptions.
Lemons are full of nutrients and low in calories, making them an excellent addition to almost any diet. Below are the nutrition facts for one lemon:
- Calories: 18
- Protein: 0.6 grams (g)
- Carbohydrates: 5 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Total sugar: 1.5 g
- Calcium: 15 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 5 mg
- Phosphorus: 9 mg
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Vitamin C: 31 mg
- Folate: 6 micrograms (mcg)
- Carotene, beta: 2 mcg
- Vitamin A: 13 mcg
What About Lemonade?
Given what is known about lemons and vitamin C, it may seem that lemonade is good for you. However, it's often high in sugar and, for this reason, is far less healthy than lemons. One cup of lemonade has 90 calories and 20 g of sugar.
Possible Conditions From Not Consuming Enough Vitamin C
In the United States, it is unusual to have vitamin C deficiency. However, over weeks, people with little to no vitamin C can get scurvy. This potentially fatal condition can cause the following symptoms:
- Gum bleeding and inflammation
- Red or purple skin rash
- Joint pain
- Wounds that don't heal
- Corkscrew hairs
- Tooth loss
Scurvy risk factors include things that interfere with getting adequate nutrition, like having an eating disorder, having gastrointestinal problems that interfere with absorption, and living in poverty.
Is Lemon Water Just as Beneficial as Lemons?
While it doesn't contain as many concentrated nutrients as lemon, lemon water has many benefits. If you find lemon water delicious and refreshing, it may be better than plain water to keep you hydrated. It may also mean you are less likely to reach for high-sugar beverages.
Lemons are a natural source of citrate, and their juices may raise urine citrate levels, which could help prevent or treat kidney stones. Drinking lemon water might help if you are at risk or prone to developing kidney stones.
Lemon juice has similar benefits but is highly concentrated and tart, so most people don't drink straight lemon juice. Adding a splash of lemon juice to your water has a similar effect as adding freshly squeezed lemons—it's refreshing and offers some nutrients, like vitamin C.
Who Should Avoid Lemons?
Most people can safely eat lemons or add them to their water every day. But, as with most things, moderation is key. Avoid or use caution when consuming lemons if you have:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Symptoms worsen after consuming citrus.
- Lemon or citrus allergy: Avoid lemons and products that contain lemon ingredients.
- Mouth ulcers: The acids may aggravate the sores, and they can also be hard on your teeth.
Lemons are full of beneficial nutrients, especially vitamin C. This citrus fruit may help boost your immune system and lower your risk of some health conditions. Adding lemons to your water is an easy and delicious way to incorporate them into your diet. If you have GERD, be careful, as it may worsen your heartburn.