Lemon Water 101: What You Need to Know
Lemon water has become a bit of a fad in the health and fitness realm with claims of helping to aid weight loss and digestion, and providing vitamin C to your diet.
In this article, a variety of sources are used to take a closer look at the health impacts of lemon water on your diet.
What is Lemon Water?
Lemon water can come chilled with ice, or in a mug with boiled water, but the bottom line is lemon water is simply water mixed with the juices from a fresh lemon. The amount of lemon in your water is up to you, depending on taste and intended health remedies.
Some people add more than lemon juices to their water to create a detox drink, or to reap the rewards of other natural ingredients like mint, honey, or turmeric.
Unsurprisingly, lemons aren't a core source of protein or fat. However, a lemon is 10% carbs and 88-89% water.
A 48 g squeezed lemon has 10.6 calories, 18.6 mg of vitamin C, and 49.4 mg of potassium, according to the United States Department for Agriculture.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for an adult is anywhere between 65 to 95 mg a day.
A healthy woman is recommended to intake 75 mg of vitamin C a day — so, one 48 g lemon supplies about 4% of the recommended daily dosage. A half-cup of lemon juice may provide around 30 mg of vitamin C, about 40% of the recommended daily intake.
A single serving of lemon juice diluted in water won't provide you with a ton of nutrients, but it is still a healthy, low-sugar drink that may provide your diet with vitamin C.
It's important to note that the nutritional value of a glass of lemon water depends on how much lemon juice is mixed in, and how many glasses are consumed each day.
The Benefits of Lemon Water
1. Encourages Hydration
The Food and Nutrition Board's guidelines say that adult women should drink 91 ounces and men should get a minimum of 125 ounces of water a day.
For those who want a little flavor, or don't like the taste of water on its own, lemon water is a great source of hydration because it's refreshing, and tastes great.
2. Lemon Water Freshens Breath
Just as lemons are great for at-home cleaning with a refreshing scent, lemon water can also aid bad breath.
Drinking lemon water in the morning or after meals (where you may have consumed some stinky ingredients like garlic or onions) can help eliminate bad breath caused by bacteria and help with dry mouth.
3. Helps Treat Kidney Stones
Lemon is citrus, and citrus contains citric, a component of citrus that makes urine less acidic and may even help to break up small kidney stones when consumed.
4. Adds Antioxidants and Flavonoids
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and also a source of flavonoids — a plant compound that has antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects.
Antioxidants help to protect your body's cells from damage by absorbing free radicals, which are compounds that can cause diseases, diabetes, obesity and cancer, according to Medical News Today.
Flavonoids within citrus can help to reduce inflammation.
One 2019 study found that antioxidants and flavonoids in citrus can help to improve heart health, glucose tolerance, as well as insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism, according to Medical News Today.
The Myths About Lemon Water
While there are several health benefits of lemon water, backed by science and research, there are a few benefits commonly linked to lemon water that aren't medically verified.
1. Lemon Water May Prevent a Cold
Lemon water, especially when mixed with honey, is said to be able to prevent a cold, or common viruses. Lemon water may shorten a cold by a day or two, but there is no evidence that it works in a preventative manner, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
2. Lemon Water May Speed Weight Loss and Boost Your Metabolism
The claim that lemon water can speed up the process of losing weight is an inflated claim. Of course, water itself can help you to lose weight — it's a natural appetite suppressant, helps increase the number of calories you burn and helps remove waste from the body — but lemon water itself doesn't garner special nutrients to aid how quickly you lose weight.
Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, and registered dietitian told Food Network that lemon juice doesn't actually speed up weight loss.
Since lemon contains pectin, a soluble fiber, it can help to make you feel full for longer, but the fiber is only found in the rind. This doesn't help you when the main property of lemon water is lemon juice.
3. It Benefits Your Digestive System
Lemon water may make you feel more awake, but it's not proven to awaken your digestive system.
Water can help break down food in your body, but the lemon doesn't have any proven additional nutritional or medicinal benefits when it comes to your digestive tract.
4. Lemon Water "Detoxes" Your Body
Adding lemon to your water may help you gain some nutritional value, but it probably won't help you if you're looking to detox.
This is because a lemon doesn't contain any fiber, and fiber is an essential element for digestion. It helps the large intestine, your metabolism, and it helps remove toxins and waste from your body, according to Medical News Today.
"How is this [lemon water] going to clean out your gastrointestinal tract?" Joy Dubost, RD, food scientist and former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said to Healthline. "There would be no fiber to help move things out. This is just a fad diet or a quick fix."
The body utilizes three mechanisms to balance your pH: buffer systems, respiratory control, and renal control, according to News Medical. There is no need to manually regulate the pH of your body unless you're sick which you should then seek your doctor's consultation.
"The body has very effective methods of regulating the pH in your blood. What you eat will not affect your blood pH, unless you're sick or have a bad kidney," Marc Hellerstein, internist, nutritionist, and professor of nutritional science and toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley said to Vice.
Potential Health Risks
While drinking lemon water is generally unharmful, there are a couple of risks to be aware of.
If consumed in large amounts, some people with weak enamel may want to avoid large quantities of citrus and lemon water, as it is acidic. Over time, lemons may damage tooth enamel.
Rinsing out your mouth after drinking lemon water or using a straw are preventative measures to protect your enamel.
Drinking lemon water may aid hydration and boost vitamin C. Drinking it is refreshing and can help keep a person away from sugary, calorie-filled beverages.
Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She's a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.