Lemon water is a refreshing drink that can provide vitamin C and help someone maintain hydration. However, lemon water is unlikely to add any significant nutritional benefits.
Lemon water is a popular home remedy, with some online sources claiming it can improve digestion, detox the body, or promote weight loss.
This article uses scientific evidence to explore the benefits and myths about lemon water.
People can make lemon water by mixing lemon juice with water. The ideal amount of lemon juice depends on personal preference. People may drink it cold or hot.
Some people also choose to add other ingredients, such as:
Lemon water has become a popular morning drink, with some people using it as a refreshing pick-me-up due to claims that it can boost energy levels and metabolism.
Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Like other citrus fruits — including oranges, grapefruit, and limes — lemons are rich in flavonoids. These are compounds that help boost health and fight disease.
Aside from that, lemons contain few nutrients. Lemon water contains very little protein, fat, or carbohydrate, and it has only trace amounts of other vitamins and minerals, including potassium, folate, and some B vitamins.
According to the United States Department for Agriculture database, lemon water with one 48-gram (g) squeezed lemon contains the following nutrients, among others:
Although a single glass does not seem to provide many nutrients, lemon water is a healthful, low calorie, and low-sugar drink that can boost a person’s vitamin C intake.
For comparison, replacing the lemon with the juice of half an orange would provide almost twice as many calories, about three times as much sugar, and 24% DV of vitamin C.
The nutritional value of each glass of lemon water depends on how much lemon juice it contains and any other ingredients.
Due to its high vitamin C levels, flavonoid content, and acidity, drinking lemon water may offer the following health benefits.
Antioxidants and flavonoids
Lemons contain vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, and are a source of plant compounds called flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the body’s cells from damage. By reducing cell damage, antioxidants help to reduce the risk of many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
Antioxidants do this by mopping up free radicals, which are harmful, disease-causing compounds in the body created by oxidative stress.
Research links chronic inflammation with increased oxidative stress and the risk of certain health conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and cancer.
One 2019 review reports that the antioxidants and flavonoids in citrus fruits can improve heart health and metabolic health markers, including glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and fat metabolism.
Vitamin C is also important for immune system function, wound healing, and helping the body absorb iron from foods.
Read about the best foods for vitamin C here.
Kidney stones are a buildup of minerals that collect in the kidneys.
Increasing the amount of citrate in the body can help prevent kidney stones from forming by stopping calcium from binding with other compounds. Lemon water contains high amounts of citrate.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, research suggests that drinking lemon water may help prevent kidney stones.
Not drinking enough water can increase the risk of kidney stones. Drinking more water can, therefore, help prevent kidney stones, whether or not there is lemon in it.
The benefits of water
Since lemon water is water with lemon juice, it has all the benefits of regular water.
Drinking plenty of water can:
- prevent dehydration, which can contribute to mood changes, constipation, and brain fog
- help people maintain a moderate weight when replacing sugary drinks
- lubricate the joints
- promote bodily waste extraction through urination, sweating, and bowel movements
- protect the spinal cord and tissues in the body
- help someone maintain a moderate temperature
Read more about the benefits of water here.
There are many other health claims about lemon water, but most do not have any scientific evidence to support them. Research has even disproved some of them.
Below are six common myths about the health benefits of lemon water.
Lemon water aids weight loss
Lemons contain a type of fiber called pectin, which may help reduce appetite and calorie intake.
However, lemon water is basically diluted lemon juice, which leaves it with only trace amounts of pectin. In fact, the juice of a whole lemon contains less than 1 g of fiber.
There is no evidence to suggest that lemon water has more benefits for weight loss than plain water.
That said, lemon juice is naturally low in calories. Replacing sugary soda with fresh lemon water is a healthful way to reduce calorie intake, which is a positive step toward weight management.
Lemon water alkalizes the body
According to proponents of the alkaline diet, foods leave an “ash” in the system that influences the pH of a person’s body — that is, how acidic or alkaline it becomes.
Some suggest that lemon water is alkalizing. However, what a person eats or drinks does not affect the acidity of their blood or body cells.
Although consuming more alkaline foods can be healthful because these include fruits and vegetables, the health benefits are unlikely to come from their effects on the body’s acidity levels.
Lemon water fights cancer
Some sources claim that lemon water could help prevent cancer. This is due to the alkaline diet theory and the premise that certain cancer cells cannot thrive in an alkaline environment.
Eating a balanced diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of cancer. However, there is currently no research that suggests lemon water will prevent or treat cancer.
Lemon water cleanses and detoxes
Water helps eliminate waste from the body through urine and healthy bowel movements. However, there is no evidence suggesting that lemon water is better than plain water for this.
In fact, most claims that foods or beverages can cleanse or detoxify the organs are not grounded in scientific fact. That includes claims about the lemon water detox diet.
Lemon water raises IQ
Drinking water, either plain or with added lemon, can prevent dehydration, which can negatively affect someone’s focus and concentration. However, there is no scientific evidence that suggests it increases intelligence.
Lemon water is a diuretic
Water is an effective diuretic, a substance that encourages urination. However, any food that contains potassium could increase urine output. That includes virtually all fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, including lemons.
Lemon water is safe to drink. However, the acid in the lemons can damage tooth enamel over time, making the teeth more prone to cavities.
Drinking acidic drinks through a straw can help protect the teeth. Rinsing the mouth out afterward may also help.
It may be best to avoid brushing the teeth straight after drinking lemon water, as the enamel may be in an acid-softened state. People who drink lemon water in the morning may wish to brush their teeth before breakfast.
The best temperature to drink lemon water is a highly debated topic.
Some sources claim that drinking cold water helps burn extra calories. Others believe that warm water helps improve digestive health.
There is very little research to support either side, and it is unlikely that the temperature makes any meaningful difference. A person can simply choose the temperature that they prefer.
It is easy to make lemon water at home if someone wants to include it in their diet. People can use the following steps to make lemon water:
- Pour a glass of water.
- Juice either half a lemon or a whole lemon.
- Mix the lemon juice with the water.
- Add any additional ingredients, such as mint leaves, honey, or turmeric, or drink plain.
People can tweak the amount of lemon they add or the temperature of the water based on preferences.
Lemon water is a healthful drink that can help someone stay hydrated and get their necessary daily amount of vitamin C. However, scientific evidence does not support every claim about lemon water’s benefits.
If someone already eats lots of fruits and vegetables and drinks plenty of fluids, lemon is unlikely to add significant nutritional benefits. That said, it is a refreshing and healthful alternative to many other flavored drinks.
People can make lemon water at home by juicing a lemon and adding it to water. They can also add additional ingredients to make it more palatable, such as honey or mint.
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