Pucker up, mama-to-be. Because we know you want to find out the sweet (and maybe slightly sour) things about whether lemon is OK during pregnancy — and how it could work to your advantage if so.
You might have heard lemon water can boost hydration or that lemon may be an effective nausea remedy, but should you jump in with zest? Let’s squeeze the truth out of the science to help you determine if this citrus favorite is for you.
In general, lemons — and other citrus fruits — can be safe and healthy to consume during pregnancy. In fact, lemons pack many essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help support maternal health and baby’s development.
There’s little research on the safety of lemons specifically during pregnancy.
That said, having a lemon water or adding some lemon juice to your salad likely falls into the safe (and even beneficial) zone. But always talk to your OB-GYN or midwife about consuming large amounts of lemon, lemon-flavored additives, supplements, or other things that haven’t been heavily studied for safety among pregnant women.
But what about lemon essential oils? Are they safe? Although essential oils are on-trend, ingesting them always falls into the questionable category. But don’t pack them away quite yet — we’ll tell you how you may benefit from diffusing lemon essential oils in just a bit.
1. Immunity boost and fetal development
There aren’t studies to show that lemons themselves boost immunity and benefit fetal development, but some of the
In fact, a half cup (106 grams) of lemon (without the peel) can deliver 56.2 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C — a critical nutrient for both mom and baby.
That immunity boost may be due to significant levels of flavanones in lemons — eriocitrin and hesperetin, to be exact. This 2013 article notes that lemons have powerful abilities to fight infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as having antidiabetic and anticancer properties. They may also help eradicate free radicals in the body.
Another key nutrient in lemons is folate, a crucial one for pregnancy.
2. Reduction in nausea
If morning (or all-day) sickness has you down, we know you’re searching for anything safe to find relief. This may have led you to the daunting remedy aisle at the drugstore, where you’ve come across some lozenge, gummy, tea, lollipop, oil, or other tincture that contains lemon as a natural nausea “cure.”
But be wary of consuming lemon as your antidote — there’s little to no research to prove that consuming lemon effectively reduces nausea during pregnancy. But there is data to suggest that diffusing lemon essential oils can bring relief.
3. Hydration boost
Water is essential (especially during pregnancy) because it serves many important functions, such as:
- giving shape and structure to cells
- regulating body temperature
- supporting digestion
- absorbing and transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells
- aiding the body’s chemical reactions
- eliminating the body’s waste
- forming mucus and other lubricating fluids
According to this
Sometimes, drinking that much water gets, well, plain boring. So putting some lemon to your water can be a healthy way to change things up while also adding some gusto to your H2O.
There are a few cautions to peel away from that lemon. It might be beneficial in small doses, but lemons contain a lot of citric acid that could carry a warning.
Interestingly, freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice has more citric acid compared to orange and grapefruit juice in this
So, what could this lead to?
In larger or more frequent quantities, citric acid found in lemons can cause the pH of your mouth to drop to an acidic range.
If you drink highly acidic beverages or foods frequently and over a long period of time — like throughout your entire pregnancy — the acidic environment can cause erosion of the minerals that strengthen the enamel of your teeth.
This can lead to weaker, more sensitive teeth that have you jumping through the roof when you bite into an ice cream cone or getting a bad cavity report at your next trip to the dentist.
The high acid levels created by citric acid may also increase your risk for experiencing acid reflux (or heartburn), which is already fairly common during pregnancy. Drinking highly concentrated lemon-based beverages like lemonade may induce heartburn more than just a splash of lemon in your water.
But mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 8 ounces of water may have protective effects against heartburn. While not proven, it’s thought that the mixture actually helps to alkalize the stomach acid and therefore, reduce the burn.
The best advice? Listen to your body and talk to your OB-GYN or midwife about how much lemon is good for you based on your current health and medical history.
If you’re looking to add a little more lemon in your life, consider these pregnancy-friendly and delicious recipes.
Lemon yogurt parfait
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- juice from 1 lemon wedge
- 1/4 cup low-sugar granola
- 1 tsp. honey
Add lemon juice to yogurt and mix well. Sprinkle it with granola and add a honey drizzle. Then, indulge!
Lemon- and basil-infused water
- 2 quarts water
- 2 thin lemon slices (with seeds removed)
- 2 basil leaves
Add lemon slices and basil leaves to water. Refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours before enjoying this thirst-quenching treat.
Arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette
- 4 cups arugula
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese
- ground black pepper to taste
Wash arugula and set aside to air dry. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, and sea salt and refrigerate. Mix and toss it together with arugula when ready to serve. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, a touch of pepper, and as the Italians say — buon appetito!
There’s limited scientific proof showing that consuming lemon has specific benefits during pregnancy, but small quantities of fresh lemon juice may offer a vitamin, nutrition, and hydration boost with some protective health benefits.
Here’s some more great news: There’s no need to be shy about diffusing lemon essential oil to find relief during a case of queasiness. According to research, it just might work.
You should, however, be cautious about consuming too much lemon and lemon-containing products, foods, and beverages because the acid content could damage your teeth or exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux, such as heartburn.
As always, discuss your diet and concerns about lemon with your midwife or doctor, who can help you safely navigate the sometimes confusing waters of food choices during pregnancy.