Lemon water is gaining popularity for its ability to help the body with detoxification. In this article, we will take a closer look at the science behind this trend. Is lemon water really detoxifying, or is it just a tasty addition to the daily diet?
Lemons are a citrus fruit that grow on lemon trees, and a close cousin to limes but with a more acidic flavor. Due to their extremely sour taste, they are rarely eaten in whole-fruit form, but instead used in beverages, cooking, or as a garnish with meals. Lemonade is perhaps the most well known way to consume lemons, although it is typically combined with a lot of refined sugar, which we know poses multiple health risks.
A 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice is high in vitamin C (23.6 mg) and folate (12.2 mcg). Considering that lemons only contain about 29 calories per fruit, this makes them a very nutrient dense food (1). The carbohydrate content of lemon are comprised of fiber, sucrose and fructose (2). Fiber is an important nutrient in the diet, and has been linked with multiple health benefits, including lowered body weight (3).
Before getting into why lemon water can be particularly helpful for detox, let’s take a closer look at some of the other key micronutrients in this fruit, and why they are so important.
Vitamin C is absolutely key for a healthy immune system (4), and is an important antioxidant. It is also a cofactor in many crucial enzymatic functions in the body, such as the biosynthesis of collagen and carnitine (5). Studies also suggest that vitamin C can protect against cardiovascular disease (6).
This important vitamin (also known as pyridoxine) is key is over 100 enzyme reactions in the body, mostly having to do with protein metabolism (7). It also plays an important role in healthy cognitive development.
Potassium is of utmost importance for cardiovascular health and healthy blood pressure (8). Lemon juice is an excellent way to get more potassium into your daily diet.
Like all fruits and vegetables, lemons also contain a plethora of plant compounds that hold major benefits to the human body, both known and unknown. For example, citric acid is thought to help prevent kidney stones, and the antioxidant hesperidin has been shown to help in the prevention of atherosclerosis (9).
Health Benefits of Lemons
Moving beyond just their nutritional breakdown, let’s look at some specific health benefits of including lemons on a regular basis in the diet (hint: one great way to do this is detoxifying lemon water, which we’ll get to in a moment).
Due to the myriad of health promoting nutrients described above, lemons are known to help in the prevention and support of several medical conditions.
1. Heart health
Considering that heart attacks and strokes are the leading cause of death in the U.S., including heart healthy foods is critical. Vitamin C intake has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (10). Furthermore, the type of fiber found in citrus fruits is known to decrease overall blood cholesterol levels, as well as preventing dangerous LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation (11).
2. Cancer prevention
Primarily due to the plant compounds hesperidin and d-limonene that are found in lemons, they are thought to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, especially breast (12).
3. Prevention of kidney stones
While further studies are needed, the citric acid in lemons is thought to help patients with recurring kidney stones (13).
Lemon Detox Water
Now that we know more about the vast health benefits from lemons, we can better understand why daily lemon water can be a great addition to the diet.
Lemon detox water is simple, all you do is mix 1 glass of room temperature water (preferably filtered) with the juice from 1/2-1 freshly squeezed, organic lemon. Not only are you reaping the many benefits from all of the micronutrients, but you will also take in some of the lemon pulp, and pectins are known to support good gut bacteria, which is essential for digestion. Remember to not drink lemon water with cold water, as this can actually impair digestion.
Speaking of digestion, another excellent way to include lemon water in the diet is by consuming it 20 minutes before meals. Lemons help to promote hydrochloric acid (HCL, aka, stomach acid), which is necessary for proper digestion, and many of us are low in stomach acid. Particularly if you suffer from impaired digestion (common symptoms include gas, bloating and pain with meals), adding lemon water beforehand can help.
Another beneficial way to include lemon detox water is first thing in the morning before breakfast. Having lemon water be first on the menu can not only promote healthy liver function, but can help promote healthy bowel movements (in other words, it can really get things moving).
Can Lemon Water Be Harmful?
For most people, the answer to this question is no. However, allergies to any food can (and do) exist, and there are definitely people allergic to citrus fruits. Due to its high acidity, regular consumption of lemon water might wear down tooth enamel over time, so drinking it out of a straw is a great option (14).
In conclusion, lemons are a nutrient dense and delicious way to not only detoxify, but support the body through key micronutrients such as vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, promote healthy digestion, and even prevent certain types of cancer. Beginning your morning each day with a glass of detoxifying lemon water, as well as including as a digestive aid 20 minutes before meals are two wonderful ways to make lemon water part of your routine. Just remember to skip the added sugar.