Top 5 health benefits of lemon water
Drinking lemon water has been linked to many benefits, including improved skin and digestion. But does the science stack up? Nutritionist Jo Lewin explains
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What is lemon water?
Lemons and other citrus fruit are well known for their colourful pitted skins and tart, refreshing taste. Lemon water is the juice of the lemon fruit combined with water and may be drunk hot or cold, with additions such as lemon zest, honey, mint or spices like turmeric or cayenne pepper.
Nutritional benefits of lemon water
A glass (150ml) of lemon water with the juice of 1 lemon provides approximately:
- 4Kcal / 16KJ
- 0.1g Protein
- 0.8g Carbohydrate
- 65mg Potassium
- 18mg Vitamin C
Top 5 health benefits of lemon water
Headlines have linked drinking lemon water to many health claims, including weight loss, improved digestion, ‘alkalising’ effects on the body, improved skin and detoxification. The research, especially human studies, to support these health claims is minimal but we can draw from studies that have looked at the benefits of these two ingredients in isolation.
1. A source of hydration
Water is a critical nutrient and without it we can survive for only a few days. In fact, it makes up 75% of the body weight of an infant and 55% of an adult. If you are someone who finds it difficult to drink water, then adding lemon to hot or cold water can make it more palatable.
Dehydration is common and can present with headaches, dizziness and tiredness – it’s especially important to make sure you consume enough fluid while exercising or in hot weather. The NHS advises drinking 6-8 glasses of fluid, ideally water, a day.
2. Source of vitamin C
For centuries, lemons were highly regarded for treating scurvy, a now rare condition that can develop through a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Vitamin C is often claimed to support the immune system however, studies remain inconclusive. One study found that although vitamin C did not prevent otherwise healthy people from catching the common cold, it may shorten the duration of symptoms, and it may halve the common cold risk in people exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress (e.g. marathon runners).
3. May support skin health
Some evidence has linked vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) and flavonoids, which are protective compounds found in citrus fruit, to improvements in skin condition. Vitamin C is known to help the body produce collagen, which contributes to the integrity of the skin.
Interestingly, a study in 2016 indicated that a citrus based juice drink may help prevent the damaging effects that lead to premature skin-aging in mice.
4. May aid digestion
Some people find drinking a glass of lemon water, particularly first thing in the morning, aids digestive regularity. Although this is mainly subjective and reports are anecdotal, studies on mice do show some promise. A 2019 study suggested that life-long consumption of a drink rich in lemon polyphenols appeared to delay the age-related changes seen in the gut, including changes in the balance of beneficial gut bacteria.
5. May help prevent kidney stones
The citric acid present in lemon juice may help prevent kidney stones caused by a build-up of calcium oxalate, and the extra fluid from the water may help maintain hydration and flush out potential stones.
Is lemon water safe for everyone?
Generally safe for most people, there are a couple of considerations if you choose to drink lemon water. This includes the possible erosion to tooth enamel and for those who experience heart-burn you may find your symptoms are aggravated by drinking lemon water. However, the effect of this is variable with some heartburn sufferers experiencing relief after consuming lemon water.
How to make lemon water
Lemon water is simply that; the juice and/or slices of lemon including the peel in water. Warm or cold water is up to you. You can add other ingredients and flavours such as orange or mint if desired. The lemons can be juiced (in advance if convenient) and even stored in ice cube trays for freezing. Rolling a lemon between your hands or on a work surface before juicing is said to yield more juice. Unwaxed lemons make the ideal choice if you want to use the lemon zest or add lemon slices to water. If only waxed lemons are available, gently scrub the peel before use.
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This article was last reviewed on 6 October 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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