In recent years there has been a sudden surge in the popularity of drinking lemon-infused water. You may have noticed friends or colleagues adding slices of lemon to their water glasses. You may have also read articles about the benefits of drinking lemon water. But what does science show in terms of the benefits of drinking lemon-infused water?
This article discusses current research and studies that were conducted to explore the positive effects lemon juice can have on the body.
Lemons (scientific name Citrus limon) are distinguishable by their bright yellow rind and tangy taste. They are a well-celebrated ingredient in culinary dishes but have also become a popular addition to drinking water. In an assessment of the nutritional content of raw lemon juice, it was discovered that it is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It is also an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C.
Lemons are rich in flavonoids, which are involved in many of the body’s biological processes. A study was conducted to assess how much of the flavanones hesperidin, diosmin, and eriocitrin were present in lemons. The study found that lemons were rich in all three flavanones. These flavanones are often used to treat blood vessel conditions like hemorrhoids and poor circulation. As such, lemons could have an appealing application in medical and pharmaceutical treatment of blood vessel conditions.
The benefits of citrus flavonoids present in lemons are reinforced in this study that suggests those flavonoids can have a positive effect in treating dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, obesity, and atherosclerosis. Some experiments and clinical studies have discovered that citrus flavonoids have the ability to lower insulin and also possess antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory properties.
In a study by Fukuchi et al. (2008), they explored the effects of dietary lemon polyphenols. They conducted this research on obese mice with a high-fat diet. They discovered the mice experienced a significant weight reduction when they were fed a diet rich in lemon polyphenols. The study suggests that lemon polyphenols can be used as supplements to suppress weight gain and body fat accumulation. However, there is still insufficient evidence as to the effects of lemon polyphenols on humans.
Another study assessed the antioxidant component and capacity of four Tunisian Citrus varieties. It was discovered that these citrus types are rich in oleic and phenolic acid. Oleic acid helps reduce blood pressure, burn fat, and defend cells from free radical damage.
Lemons are among the richest sources of vitamin C, and thus can help protect against colds, stroke, and aging skin. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, a lemon weighing 100 g. contains 53 mg. of ascorbic acid (a highly absorbable form of vitamin C). Of course, this amount decreases as the serving is reduced. A wedge of lemon contains 3.7 mg. of ascorbic acid, while 100 g. of raw lemon juice has about 38.7 mg. of ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C is also an integral component in the synthesis of antioxidants. Because it is a water-soluble compound, it shields living organisms from oxidative stress. Some health conditions are a result of oxidant damage to tissues.
Having a steady supply of vitamin C is essential for the body, and drinking lemon-infused water is a great way to maintain healthy vitamin C levels. Doctors recommend an intake of at least 500 mg. of ascorbic acid each day.
A recent study aimed to discover whether taking vitamin C supplements affected the body’s immunological defense system. It was conducted by having the subject take vitamin C supplements of 1 g. (or 1000 mg.) for 11 weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers found increased levels of the antibody serums IgA and IgM. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an essential antibody located in the mucous membrane, while IgM is found in the blood and lymph fluid, and is generated to fight infection.
If you already incorporate lemon-infused water into your daily routine and are using only a wedge of lemon, you would need to drink a lot of lemon water to consume 1 g./1000 mg. of vitamin C. However, drinking lemon-infused water throughout the day can help you reach the recommended daily 500 mg. of vitamin C. If you wish to consume more vitamin C, one shouldn’t rely on lemon-infused water as their only source of the vitamin.
Having a steady source of vitamin C is especially important because the human body cannot generate it. This is due to the absence of GULO (gulonolactone oxidase), which is the gene that synthesizes certain substances into vitamin C.
Lemon peel and phenolic acid
Some studies have discovered that a high concentration of phenolic compounds are contained in the peel of the lemon. Phenolic compounds sourced specifically from herbs and plants enable the compound to exhibit bioactive characteristics such as being an antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory agent. In this particular study, the lemon peel was dried, ground to pomace powder, and subjected to UV-C irradiation. Interestingly, this treatment of the lemon peel helped increase the phenolic and flavonoid content.
Unfortunately, there is no research that equates the effects of using a lemon wedge in lemon water with ingesting UV-C irradiated pomace lemon. This research, however, reveals the valuable nutrients available in the lemon peel.
With this in mind, you may think twice the next time you dispose of lemon peels. The zest of the lemon peel is often used in culinary dishes to add a refreshing, tangy taste. It also has various practical uses. If including the peel in your lemon-infused water, be careful to wash the peel thoroughly to remove any wax covering.
Lemon juice as an alternative source of potassium citrate
A study was conducted to investigate whether lemon juice can be used as a source of potassium citrate to treat urinary calcium stones. The study groups ingested 85 milliliters of lemon juice daily. At the end of the test, researchers found that urinary calcium and uric acid levels in participants decreased. Abnormal urinary calcium levels can lead to kidney stones, and high levels of uric acid can lead to the formation of crystals in the joints. Thus, the researchers concluded that lemon juice could be used as an alternative source of potassium citrate in the treatment of kidney stones.
It should be noted that in the case of lemon water, water would dilute the full effects of lemon juice, and you would have to drink several glasses of lemon water to achieve the same results of the study.
Role in iron absorption
Ascorbic acid is widely believed to assist in the absorption of iron, as emphasized in this study. Ascorbic acid can help reduce ferric to ferrous iron, which helps the mucosal cells absorb and use iron. A test was also conducted to see whether a laboratory “lemon juice” supported the absorption of iron from a rice meal. The researchers discovered improved iron absorption when the test subjects consumed the researcher’s laboratory mix of “lemon juice” comprised of 100 milliliters of orange juice and 4 grams of citric acid.
There has yet to be a dedicated experiment conducted using pure lemon juice to understand how it can affect iron absorption. However, this is worth exploring to discover whether lemon juice can also have the same iron absorption assisting qualities as the orange juice concoction from the study above.
In addition, the presence of water in lemon-infused water may reduce the iron absorption effects, but it’s worth considering pairing your meals with lemon water instead of plain water.
The best temperature to drink your lemon water
There are varying opinions regarding the optimal temperature to drink lemon water. Some proponents say that if you’re aiming to improve your metabolism, it’s better to drink it cold first thing in the morning. Your body will burn calories to bring the cold temperature to a homeostatic level, although the water plays more of a role here than the actual lemon. Others have argued that drinking cold lemon water will inhibit its digestive benefits.
On the other hand, supporters of hot lemon water believe it can better assist the body’s detoxification process and helps balance pH levels. Some have contested this claim by saying that the hot temperature can impair the enzymatic properties of the lemon juice.
Perhaps the best temperature to drink your lemon water is warm or at room temperature. Goldilocks said it best when she said it should be neither too hot nor too cold, and needs to be just right. This temperature is believed to stimulate the lemon’s enzymatic properties and release more benefits.
The best time to drink lemon water
First thing in the morning after waking is the best time to drink your first glass of lemon water. This can help cleanse the digestive system and rehydrate the body. The next best time to drink lemon water is 30 minutes before meals. This can help generate enzymes and digestive acid to help break down your food and extract the most nutrients. Furthermore, drinking fluids before mealtime can make you feel full, so you won’t be inclined to overeat. The best fluid to do this job is, of course, lemon water compared to any other fruit juice or beverage. It is not recommended, however, to drink any fluids during or after a meal as the liquid can dilute the body’s natural digestive substances. Should you feel the need to drink some liquid, opt for small amounts of room temperature lemon water.
The acidic content of lemon and its effect on your teeth
The acidic content of lemon can break down your teeth’s enamel over time. This can cause erosion that exposes the dentin, which makes your teeth frail and sensitive. To avoid this, you may want to use a reusable straw. Drinking from a straw will allow you to consume lemon water without it touching your teeth. It is also best to rinse your mouth every time you finish a glass to wash away any acid that may still be present on your teeth. Remember not to brush your teeth immediately after drinking lemon-infused water because the acid will have softened the enamel and brushing your teeth will make them more vulnerable to erosion.
How to make lemon and copper-infused water
It is an excellent idea to combine the effects of copper-infused water with the benefits of lemon for supercharged water you can sip all day long!
- First, fill your copper pitcher with cold water before bed and leave on your counter overnight.
- First thing in the morning, clean a fresh lemon by boiling water, putting the lemon in a strainer, and pouring the boiling water over the lemon. This will remove any bacteria and melt most wax from the lemon. Next, rinse the lemon thoroughly under running water while scrubbing the peel using a brush to eliminate any remaining wax.
- Slice the lemon into wedges, about 8 slices per lemon.
- Squeeze 1-3 lemon wedges into a water glass* and top with room temperature copper-infused water from your copper pitcher.
- Repeat throughout the day as needed. About 6 glasses of lemon water a day are recommended.
*Copper can react with certain acids, including citric acid found in lemons, so it's best to only use water in your copper pitcher and use a separate glass when making lemon water.
Now that you know some of the health benefits associated with lemon, you may want to start your own healthy lemon water routine. Not only is it good for your body, but it is also a refreshing way to cool down and rehydrate. It is also healthier than commercialized fruit juices that are loaded with sugar. It is also a great option if you prefer not to drink coffee or tea. The tangy taste of lemon water will encourage you to drink more and more water intake is always a good idea.