Lemons 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Scientifically known as Citrus limon, lemons are among the world's most popular citrus fruits.
They grow on lemon trees, and are a hybrid of the original citron and lime.
There are many ways to enjoy lemons, but they taste very sour and are usually not eaten as whole fruit.
Instead, they are eaten in little slices, as garnish with meals, and their juice is often used to provide a sour flavor. They are also a key ingredient in lemonade.
Lemons are a great source of vitamin C and fiber, and contain many plant compounds, minerals and essential oils.
Eating lemons may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and kidney stones.
Lemons contain very little fat and protein. They consist mainly of carbohydrates (10%) and water (88-89%).
A medium sized lemon only contains about 20 calories.
The table below contains information on all the nutrients in lemons (1).
The main fiber in lemons is pectin.
Soluble fibers like pectin can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of sugar and starch (3).
Bottom line: Lemons contain approximately 10% carbs, mainly consisting of soluble fibers and simple sugars.
Lemons contain several vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin C: An essential vitamin and antioxidant. It is important for immune function and skin health (5, 6).
- Potassium: A diet high in potassium can lower blood pressure levels and have positive effects on cardiovascular health (7).
- Vitamin B6: A group of related vitamins that are involved in converting food into energy.
Bottom line: Lemons are very rich in vitamin C, and are also a decent source of potassium and vitamin B6.
Plant compounds are natural bioactive substances found in plants, some of which have powerful health benefits.
These are the main plant compounds found in lemons:
- Citric acid: The most abundant organic acid in lemons, and may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
- Hesperidin: An antioxidant that may strenghten our blood vessels and prevent atherosclerosis (11, 12).
- Diosmin: An antioxidant that is used in some drugs that affect the circulatory system. It improves vascular muscle tone and reduces chronic inflammation in blood vessels (13).
- Eriocitrin: An antioxidant that is found in lemon peel and juice (13, 14).
- D-Limonene: Found primarily in lemon peel. It is the main component of lemon essential oils, and responsible for the distinct smell of lemons. In isolation, it can help relieve heartburn and stomach reflux (15).
Bottom line: Lemons contain plant compounds that provide various health benefits. These include citric acid, hesperidin, diosmin, eriocitrin and D-limonene.
Citrus fruits, including lemons, have been associated with numerous health benefits.
This is attributed to the vitamins and fiber content, as well as their powerful plant compounds (18).
Cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the world's most common cause of death.
Intake of isolated fibers from citrus fruits has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol levels, and the essential oils in lemons can protect LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized (23, 24).
Prevention of Kidney Stones
Prevention of Anemia
Anemia is often caused by iron deficiency, and is most common in pre-menopausal women.
Because lemons can enhance the absorption of iron from foods, they may help prevent anemia.
Bottom line: Lemons may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, help protect against anemia and prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Many people drink lemon water, either hot or cold, a few times per day.
The recipe is usually freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 - 1 lemon in a cup of water.
Drinking water with freshly squeezed lemon may have some health benefits.
The citric acid in lemons decreases the risk of kidney stones by diluting urine and increasing urine output (28).
Given that some pulp goes into the mix, the pectins in the pulp can promote satiety and feed the friendly bacteria in the gut, promoting good health and decreased risk of disease (3).
To top things off, the lemon aroma derived from the essential oils might decrease stress and improve mood (43).
Lemonade should have similar health benefits, except for the added sugar that is often added to it. Added sugar can be very harmful when consumed in excess.
Bottom line: Drinking lemon water may decrease stress, enhance immune function, help prevent anemia, reduce the risk of kidney stones and help protect against several diseases.
Lemons are an effective cleaning product because of their ability to dissolve fat (15), as well as their refreshing aroma.
Lemons are generally well tolerated, but citrus fruit may cause allergic reactions in a minority of people (44).
They may also cause contact allergy and skin irritation in people with dermatitis (45).
Lemons are quite acidic, so eating them frequently may be harmful for dental health if the tooth enamel becomes damaged (46).
Bottom line: Lemons are usually well tolerated, but they may cause allergies or skin irritation in some people. Large amounts may be harmful for dental health.
Lemons are a refreshing fruit that is usually not eaten whole, but rather eaten in slices, or added to foods and beverages for their distinctive flavor.
They are an excellent source of vitamin C, soluble fibers and plant compounds, all of which can provide health benefits.
At the end of the day, lemons are a healthy food, and an excellent way to add flavor and aroma to meals.