Why Use Lemon to Promote Health and Weight Loss

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on November 15, 2020
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Lemons are a popular fruit that people use in small quantities to add flavor to food. However, they rarely consume them alone due to their intense, sour taste.

Lemons give flavor to baked goods, sauces, salad dressings, marinades, drinks, and desserts, and they are also a good source of vitamin C.

A 58-gram lemon can provide over 30 milligrams of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is essential for health, and a deficiency can lead to health problems. The early explorers knew this and took lemons on their long voyages to help prevent or treat scurvy, a life threatening condition that was common among sailors.

This article looks at the nutritional content of lemons, their possible health benefits, including weight loss, ways to use them in food, and any potential health risks.

Why Consume Lemons?

Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C and flavonoids, which are antioxidants.

Antioxidants help remove free radicals that can damage cells from the body.

These nutrients can help prevent diseases and boost health and wellbeing.

Here some of the possible benefits of consuming lemons:

1. Boosts Immunity

Vitamin C is plays a role in immunity and helps neutralize free radicals in our body. Evidence shows that vitamin C can stimulate the production of white blood cells and may protect the integrity of immune cells (1). Vitamin C helps protect leukocytes, which produces antiviral substances.

2. Lowers Stroke Risk

One study proved that the flavonoids in citrus fruits may help lower the risk of ischemic stroke in women (2). Data were gathered from nearly 70,000 women for over 14 years. Those who ate the most citrus fruits had a 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least.

Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It can happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

Another study showed that long term, regular consumption of foods that contain flavonoids might help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease (3). However, the study indicated that people who smoked or consumed a lot of alcohol were less likely to benefit.

3. Controls Blood Pressure

Women in Japan who walked regularly and consumed lemon every day had lower blood pressure than those who did not (4).

More research is needed to identify the role of lemon in this improvement and to discover whether consuming lemon can help reduce blood pressure since walking daily can also lower blood pressure.

4. Promotes Heart Health 

Folic acid is said to aid in preventing strokes and may contribute to helping cardiovascular health by lowering homocysteine levels. A 2010 meta-analysis published in The European Journal of Internal Medicine found that results from clinical studies examining folic acid and heart attacks were inconclusive but folic acid consumption can result in a modest improvement in stroke reduction (5). 

Vitamin C, too, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, said Rumsey. One study looked at more than 100,000 people and found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. Those with the highest vitamin C levels in their plasma had even more reduced rates of heart disease (6). 

Scientists theorize that vitamin C may have cardiovascular benefits because it is an antioxidant that protects against dangerous free radicals. It also may lower bad LDL cholesterol and keep arteries flexible.

Studies have also shown the effect of limonin on lowering cholesterol. In a 2007 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, men and women who had high cholesterol were given limonin and vitamin E daily for a month and their cholesterol levels lowered 20 to 30 percent (7). The researchers think that limonin reduces apolipoprotein B, which is associated with higher cholesterol levels.

5. Reduces Cancer Risk

A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help prevent some cancers (8).

Some observational studies have found that people who eat the most citrus fruit have a lower risk of cancer, while other studies have found no effects (9, 10).

In test-tube studies, many compounds from lemons have killed cancer cells. However, they may not have the same effect on the human body (11, 12).

Some researchers think that plant compounds found in lemons such as limonene and naringenin could have anticancer effects, but this hypothesis needs further investigation (13, 14).

Animal studies indicate that D-limonene, a compound found in lemon oil, does have anticancer properties (15).

Another study used pulp from mandarins that contained the plant compounds beta-cryptoxanthin and hesperidin, which are also found in lemons.

The study discovered that these compounds prevented malignant tumors from developing in the tongues, lungs, and colons of rodents (16).

However, it should be noted that the research team used a very high dose of the chemicals — far more than you would get by eating lemons or oranges.

While some plant compounds from lemons and other citrus fruits may have anticancer potential, no quality evidence suggests that lemons can fight cancer in humans.

6. Improves Digestion

Lemons are made up of about 10% carbs, mostly in the form of soluble fiber and simple sugars.

The main fiber in lemons is pectin, a form of soluble fiber linked to multiple health benefits.

Soluble fiber can improve gut health and slow the digestion of sugars and starches. These effects may result in reduced blood sugar levels (17, 18).

However, to get the benefits of fiber from lemons, you need to eat the pulp.

People who drink lemon juice, without the fiber found in the pulp, will miss out on the benefits of the fiber.

7. Protective Against Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is quite common. It occurs when you don’t get enough iron from the foods you eat.

Lemons contain some iron, but they primarily prevent anemia by improving your absorption of iron from plant foods (19, 20).

Your gut absorbs iron from meat, chicken, and fish (known as heme iron) very easily, while iron from plant sources (non-heme iron) not as easily. However, this absorption can be improved by consuming vitamin C and citric acid.

Because lemons contain both vitamin C and citric acid, they may protect against anemia by ensuring that you absorb as much iron as possible from your diet.

8. Maintains A Healthy Complexion

Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of the skin.

Sun exposure, pollution, age, and other factors can result in skin damage. A 2014 mouse study suggested that either eating vitamin C in its natural form or applying it topically can help prevent this type of damage.

9. Good for Hydration

According to the Food and Nutrition Board, general guidelines say that women should get at least 91 ounces per day and men should get at least 125 ounces. This includes water from food and drinks.

Water is the best beverage for hydration, but some people don’t like the taste of it on its own. Adding lemon enhances water’s flavor, which may help you drink more.

10. Freshens Breath

Have you ever rubbed a lemon on your hands to get rid of the smell of garlic or some other strong odor? The same folk remedy may apply to bad breath caused by eating foods with strong smells such as garlic, onions, or fish.

You might avoid bad breath by drinking a glass of lemon water after meals and first thing in the morning. Lemon is thought to stimulate saliva and water also helps prevent a dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath caused by bacteria.

11. Fewer Asthma Attacks

People with asthma who consume higher amounts of vitamin C and other nutrients when they have a cold may experience fewer asthma attacks, according to one review (21).

The authors found evidence that vitamin C also benefitted people with bronchial hypersensitivity when they also had a common cold.

12. Prevents Kidney Stones

Lemons and limes contain the most citric acid of any fruits, which makes them beneficial to those suffering from kidney stones. Evidence shows that citric acid deters stone formation and also breaks up small stones that are forming (22). The more citric acid in your urine, the more protected you are from forming new kidney stones. Half a cup of pure lemon juice every day or 32 ounces of lemonade has the same amount of citric acid as pharmacological therapy.

However, they called for more research.

Lemons and Weight Loss

Lemon water is a beverage made from water mixed with fresh lemon juice. It can be enjoyed either hot or cold.

This type of water is often claimed to have various health benefits, including weight loss. But how?

Its Low in Calories

Lemon water is generally a very low-calorie beverage.

Assuming you squeeze the juice from half a lemon into water, each glass of lemon water will contain just six calories. 

For this reason, if you swap out higher-calorie beverages like orange juice and soda for lemon water, then this can be an excellent way to cut calories and help with weight loss.

For example, one cup of orange juice contains 110 calories, and a 16-ounce bottle of soda contains 182 calories. 

Replacing even just one of these beverages per day with a glass of lemon water could reduce daily calorie intake by 100–200 calories.

Some evidence even shows that drinking low-calorie beverages with meals could decrease the number of overall calories consumed in the meal.

In one study, 44 women ate lunch with either a beverage that contained calories or one that did not. Researchers then measured the calories consumed.

They found that drinking calorie-containing beverages like sugar-sweetened soda, milk and juice with a meal did not make people compensate by eating less. Instead, the total calories consumed increased, due to the calories from the beverage (23).

Though lemon water is not calorie-free, it is low enough in calories that it could produce a similar effect and help decrease calorie intake.

It Boosts Metabolism 

Studies show that drinking enough water can potentially help increase your metabolism.

Researchers suggest that good hydration enhances the function of mitochondria, a type of organelle found in cells that helps generate energy for the body (24).

This leads to an increase in metabolism, which may lead to subsequent weight loss.

Drinking water has also been shown to increase metabolism by inducing thermogenesis, a metabolic process in which calories are burned to produce heat.

In one study, 14 participants drank 16.9 ounces of water. Drinking water was found to increase their metabolic rate by 30% for 30–40 minutes (25).

Another study looked at the effects of drinking water in 21 overweight children. Drinking 0.3 ounces of water per 2.2 pounds of body weight (10 ml/kg) increased metabolism by an impressive 25% for 40 minutes (26).

Research on lemon water specifically is limited. However, because water is the main ingredient, it likely carries the same metabolism-boosting benefits as regular water.

It Makes You Feel More Full

Drinking water is often recommended as a fundamental part of any weight loss regimen, as it can promote satiety and fullness without adding calories.

A 2008 study looked at the effects of water on calorie intake in 24 overweight and obese older adults.

The study revealed that drinking 16.9 ounces of water before breakfast decreased the number of calories consumed in the meal by 13% (27).

Another study found that drinking water with a meal decreased hunger and increased satiety during the meal (28).

Because lemon water is low in calories and can promote fullness in the same way as regular water, it can be an effective way to help reduce calorie intake.

How to Make Warm Lemon Water?

Warm lemon water is used to treat cold and flu and has the capability to prevent illnesses if consumed every morning. Here are some easy ways in which you can make warm lemon tea.

  • Take one lemon and slice it into two.
  • Then take a vessel and boil water in it.
  • Once the water is done boiling, keep it aside and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  • Then squeeze the lime in the warm water.
  • If you want you can also add honey.

Note: Drinking warm lemon water every morning will increase your metabolism and help you stay fit and healthy. Most of all, it will help you have a great day.

Is Bottled Lemon Juice As Nutritious As Fresh Lemons?

The 100% bottled lemon juice is suitable for some food preparation applications, such as canning, where the acidity of the product must be high enough to produce the desired reaction.

However, bottled lemon juice does not have the same vitamin C content as fresh lemon juice. It is important to note that vitamin C is sensitive to light and heat and will diminish rather quickly in fresh lemon juice if people do not store it in a cool, dark environment in a non-metal container.

Risk of Consuming Too Much Lemons 

Consuming too many lemons can be bad for your health and the same goes when you are consuming warm lemon water too. Though lemon juice has a load of health benefits, squeezing too much of lime in the water can be dangerous for you as this can cause ulcers or in some cases worsen the ulcers. So make sure you consume limited and do not exceed the limit.

How Much Lemon Juice is Safe to Drink for Weight Loss?

In order to lose weight, you can consume 2 glasses of warm lemon water; once in the morning and once in the evening. You can also add a little bit of honey to make it taste better. Also, keep in mind that if you want to lose weight quickly, you need to burn fat by working out. Exercises like jogging, running and walking can help you lose weight quickly.

Key Takeaway 

Lemons contain a high amount of vitamin C, soluble fiber, and plant compounds that give them a number of health benefits.

Lemons may aid weight loss and reduce your risk of heart disease, anemia, kidney stones, digestive issues, and cancer.

Not only are lemons a very healthy fruit, but they also have a distinct, pleasant taste and smell that make them a great addition to foods and drinks.

References: 

(1) https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/immunity

(2) https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.637835

(3) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-11622-x

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003767/

(5) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22884409/

(6) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/05/06/ajcn.114.104497

(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17985810/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26148912

(9) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18824947/

(10) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25461441/

(11) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23117440/

(12) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22056335/

(13) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25514618/

(14) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22524801/

(15) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10082788/

(16) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22174562/

(17) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22254008/

(18) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23609775/

(19) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18469253/

(20) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3593665/

(21) https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1710-1492-9-46

(22) https://www.uwhealth.org/files/uwhealth/docs/pdf/kidney_citric_acid.pdf

(23) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15808893/

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4901052/

(25) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14671205/

(26) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21750519/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2743119/

(28) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8287852/

 


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