Is lemon water really good for you? 5 things you need to know

The benefits of lemon water

You may have heard that lemon water acts as a miracle worker in that drinking it provides a quick and easy way to boost your health. But, is that really the case? Let’s look at the facts on lemon water benefits.

More often than not, it takes a lot of effort, energy and time to build healthy living or self-care routines. Luckily, some healthy habits are literally more low-hanging fruit than others. Water infused with freshly squeezed lemon juice seems to be an easy healthy habit to adopt and helps prevent a number of health conditions. It only takes 30 seconds of prep time while delivering health benefits that supposedly can add years to your life. But is that so?

What is lemon water?

Pretty simple. Lemon water is made by adding lemons to plain water (cold or hot). There are also different variations with other ingredients in addition to adding lemon to water. These include supplementing the drink with mint, turmeric, honey, chia seeds, or other citrus fruits. Most people drink lemon water first thing in the morning, before or after meals to help jumpstart the digestive system.

is lemon water good for you

Lemon Water Nutritional Facts

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the nutritional profile of a glass of lemon water with one lemon include:

  • 10.6 calories
  • 18.6 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C
  • .14 grams (g) of Fiber
  • 49.4 mg of Potassium
  • 3.84 mg of Phosphorus
  • 2.88 mg of Magnesium
  • 9.6 micrograms (mcg) of Folate

Most of the quantities of various vitamins and minerals in lemon water won’t blow you away. However, when you consider that you are only consuming 10 calories to receive this boost of nutrients, the stats look a little better.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at the claimed benefits water with lemon provides is that a lot of these claims are based on one isolated nutritional category. For instance, soluble fiber may reduce blood sugar levels and help gut health, but this does not mean that lemon water cures diabetes. There seems to be a lot of information where people take a correlation from a nutrient and apply it to lemon water as a whole, regardless of the levels of that nutrient in lemon water. That said, many of the benefits likely still exist in lemon water, even if quantities are unknown.

What are the benefits of lemon water?

Because there have not been a lot of scientific or health studies about lemon water, it is hard to substantiate exact claim. However, when you break lemon water down into the component parts, there are a lot of health benefits that are backed by science. Lemon water may help prevent or eliminate kidney stones, digestive issues, anemia, bad breath, heart disease, stroke and more.

In addition to the benefits that can be claimed by scientific studies, there are also a number of anecdotal benefits that people claim. These include increased energy, clearer thinking, better sleep and even a reduction in depression. While it is hard to consider each of these a benefit of lemon in water alone, adding the drink to a healthy lifestyle sure can’t hurt. Below, we’ll break down some of the most common benefits that you may reap if you drink lemon water.

Lemon water is a source of hydration

It is no surprise that water is the number one source of hydration for your entire body. As the main element of your body, in particular your blood, drinking water helps your organs to perform their best. Why? Because without water, for example, your blood could not supply the millions of cells in your system with the oxygen and nutrients they need.

How much water should you drink each day? The National Academy of Sciences  recommends 11 glasses of water for women and 15 for men every day (one glass being 8oz of water). Note that for most people 80% of their required water intake comes from beverages, 20% from food. While consuming water alone is undoubtedly one of the most important water with lemon benefits, many people find that the taste of half a lemon can make it easier to consume the suggested amount of good old H20.

It provides an immune system boost

In the vitamin hall of fame, Vitamin C holds top status and lemon water is full of it. Vitamin C plays a powerful role in boosting your entire immune system which strengthens the body’s internal healing abilities as well as its defense system against outside infections. 

Lemons are high in Vitamin C, with roughly 19 mg per lemon. Most health and dietary recommendations call for 65 to 90 mg of Vitamin C per day. Not only does lemon water give you a good boost (20-30% of your daily value) of Vitamin C, but consuming it first thing in the morning can set the tone for a healthy day.

Some of the benefits of Vitamin C include reduction of heart disease and stroke as well as lower blood pressure. Since it has antioxidant properties, it can also strengthen your immune system. The mix of the flavonoids and Vitamin C that lemons contain can work together to create healthy blood vessels and cell function.

Drinking lemon water tastes great

One of the overlooked benefits lemon water provides is the tangy taste. This makes it a great alternative to plain water. Many people find that they can consume far more water with lemons added than regular drinking water alone. For folks who don’t like plain water, a lemon infusion makes it easier to meet the hydration goals set by the National Academies of Sciences (roughly 125 ounces per day for men and 91 ounces per day for women). On top of that, if you are used to sipping on sweet beverages, a glass of lemon water can help you to avoid a sugary soft drink or juice.

Lemon water can aid with digestion

Lemons are a superfood and water is the body’s greatest detoxifier. Together, they may support your kidneys, gut and liver in eliminating toxins from the body, making lemon water an excellent cleansing drink. For this reason, nutrition experts actually recommend drinking two glasses of lemon-infused water as a morning detox routine. 

We should be careful when claiming detoxification as there are varying definitions of what this means in terms of digestion and gut health. To say that lemon water will detoxify your body may be misleading. However, consuming water will keep your body properly regulated. When you add lemon, you also receive a punch of antioxidants and nutrients that can aid digestion, absorption of other nutrients and overall gut health.

It can provide increased energy levels

Lemon water helps your body more effectively absorb and use iron. Iron allows for a more optimal flow of oxygen throughout your cells which keep you energized. A lack of iron stops your body from producing sufficient amounts of red blood cells which leads to unusual tiredness, low productivity and other poor health factors. The absorption of iron that may be increased with consuming lemon water can even combat anemia.

The World Health Organization deems iron deficiency as the top nutritional disorder globally, with 80% of people worldwide not having enough iron in their system. You can remove yourself from the stat by drinking lemon water — lemons don’t contain iron but tons of Vitamin C. Studies show that just 100 mg of Vitamin C consumed during a meal increases your iron absorption contained in other foods by 67%. Keep in mind that a whole lemon contains about 30 mg of Vitamin C, so you will want to maintain a healthy, nutrient rich diet since you will likely not get enough Vitamin C from lemon water alone.

It may help with weight loss

This is another one of the benefits of lemon water that should go beyond just the headline. There have not been any human studies to correlate lemon water with weight loss. However, looking again at the nutritional components of lemon water can point to some potentially healthy weight loss benefits.

Lemons contain polyphenol antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce weight gain in mice in laboratory tests. Additionally, various nutrients and antioxidants in lemons can improve insulin resistance, which can lead to weight loss. Another obvious way that lemons and lemon water can correlate with weight loss is that when you stay hydrated, you feel less hungry and healthier throughout the day.

Can help your skin look better

The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that lemon water contains can potentially help your skin appearance. Studies have shown that the health profile of lemons and other citrus fruits can reduce oxidization which can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and sun damage to your skin. This has not been tested or proven on humans, but there have been animal studies in labs that have shown reduced wrinkle appearance. This may not be one of the proven health benefits of lemon juice and water, but the bottom line is that it can’t hurt.

Reduces the risk of kidney stones

The citric acid and Vitamin C in lemons can prevent kidney stones. Lemon water may help with this for a couple reasons. The first is that citric acid can make urine less acidic, lowering the risk of kidney stones. Beyond the citric acid, the water helps to pass everything through your body more quickly. Again, even if it is just isolated citric acid, Vitamin C or water that have been proven to prevent kidney stones, the bottom line is that any potential health benefits that water and lemon may help with make it worth incorporating into your health routine.

lemon water benefits

The Simple Recipe: How to make lemon water

Making your own lemon water at home is quick and easy with this bulletproof lemon water recipe. When preparing healthy lemon water at home, give preference to the actual fresh citrus fruits rather than taking your lemon juice from a bottle. 

  • Buy fresh, organic lemons at your local farmer’s market or organic grocer to ensure they are free of pesticides. Otherwise, you may offset the benefits of cleansing your system by taking in toxic residue from the fruit’s peel. 
  • Cut the fruit in half and squeeze half the lemon’s juice into an 8 oz. glass of cool or room temperature filtered water. If you throw the entire lemon in the glass be sure you clean the lemon’s skin well beforehand.
  • Don’t strain out the pulp. It is rich in dietary fiber and a very important part of the fruit. Moreover, opt to drink your lemon water unsweetened, so you won’t turn it into a high-calorie sugar bomb. If that’s too difficult, go with Stevia. 

Depending on your palate, you may also enjoy adding one of these other superfoods to your lemon water infusion:

  • a few leaves of fresh mint
  • a 1/2 inch slice of fresh ginger root
  • a few slices of fresh cucumber
  • two or three sliced and peeled limes
  • the wedges of one full orange
  • a small scoop or sprinkle of turmeric
  • a dash of honey for taste

How to drink lemon water

You most likely don’t need a lot of instruction on how to consume a beverage, but there are a few nuances, including warm lemon water vs. cold lemon water and how much you should consume.

When should you consume lemon water?

A lot of health specialists recommend consuming lemon water first thing in the morning. This is not only to help prevent many of the conditions that we discussed above, but also to start your day off with hydration. In addition to first thing, it is fine to consume lemon water throughout the day.

Many people consume it before or after meals as a substitute for a sugary drink or dessert. Consuming it around a meal time may also help with digestion and gut health.

Should lemon water be cold or hot?

There are varying opinions and a fair amount of debates around whether cold water or warm lemon water is better for your health. The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter that much. There are not a lot of studies proving it one way or another. If you like cold water with lemon, drink that. If you prefer warm lemon water, go for it.

One thing to consider is if you are drinking lemon water as a substitute for another beverage, it’s fine to switch up the temperature. If you are replacing a soft drink or juice, adding lemon to cold water can be great. If you are cutting back on coffee, hot chocolate, or tea, warm lemon water will likely be a better substitute.

How much lemon water to drink in a day

A lot of the health benefits of lemon water, such as the conditions that it helps prevent, the fact that it’s high in Vitamin C, folate, citric acid and other nutrients, and it’s ability to keep you hydrated throughout the day will apply regardless of the amount you drink. However, for your body to get the maximum health benefits, it’s good to drink at least a couple 8 ounce glasses per day. Drinking more will help you reach your daily values of certain vitamins and minerals, but if you have a lifestyle that focuses on health, you will likely reach those through other foods.

Should you drink lemon water every day?

Since the only real health risk that has been noted with consuming lemons is potential for breaking down tooth enamel, it is generally safe to drink daily. Depending on if you are having one glass or many, it can affect the integrity of your tooth enamel, but this would require a large quantity of a long period of time. Generally, for people who take care of their oral hygiene, drinking lemon water shouldn’t damage tooth enamel that much.

Beyond that, it is really personal preference. If drinking lemon water throughout the day is something you enjoy, the health benefits to your body can certainly justify the amount. If you prefer a glass just once a day, you will still come out ahead. Ultimately, there is no tried and true amount of lemon water that is better than any other.

The bottom line on lemon water

As with any healthy drink – whether a superfood smoothie, a detox tea or a refreshing infused water – what is most important is that you find a concoction that you actually thoroughly enjoy. If you have the palate to add lemon to your water, it’s a great way to stay hydrated, aid with digestion, boost your immune system, prevent kidney stones, and help your overall health. Adding lemons to a glass of water is a simple, easy to prepare drink that can keep you hydrated and healthy.

To bring up a caveat one more time around the health benefits of lemon water, keep in mind that most health claims are not based on human studies about lemon water alone. Drinking water and consuming citric acid, Vitamin C, and other minerals and vitamins in lemons can all add up to benefits for your body and your health. However, drinking lemon water alone is not guaranteed to fix digestion, prevent kidney stones, enable immediate weight loss or change your health or your body. However, with all of the potential benefits to your health, drinking lemon water definitely can’t hurt.

Why? Because that is the single-best way of telling that you will drink it consistently and, thereby, over time reap the full spectrum of its health benefits. 

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