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Lemons are much more than a garnish for your glass of water or fancy cocktail. As one of the fruits in the citrus family, lemons contain many of the nutrients that our bodies need daily to function properly. We know they’re delicious and good for us, but which lemon health benefits should excite us most?
Lemons are thought to have originated in northwestern India and brought to the Middle East and Africa by Arab traders some time after 1000 C.E. From there, the lemon was introduced in Europe, and by 1494, it was being cultivated in the Azores and shipped in large quantities to England.
A medium lemon contains 29 calories, 1.1 grams of protein, 2.8 grams of fiber, 9.3 grams of carbs, 2.5 grams of sugar, and 0.3 grams of fat, according to the USDA. It contains 53 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 88 percent of the recommended daily allowance, as well as small amounts of iron, potassium, zinc, and calcium.
9 Health Benefits of Lemons
From your heart and your blood to your skin and your gut, the lemon health benefits are endless! Here are nine ways that lemons can keep you healthy:
1. Lemons are good for your digestive system.
The carbohydrates in lemons are mostly made of soluble fiber in the form of pectin. Soluble fiber is known to slow digestion, which keeps your blood sugar stable, and inhibit colon cancer tumor growth. Pectin is also known to promote healthy cholesterol levels, according to LiveStrong.com. And like other citrus fruits, lemons contain a nutrient in their peels and oils called d-limonene, which can relieve symptoms of indigestion and GERD.
For more information about the benefits of d-limonene and pectin, check out “Improve Your Cholesterol Numbers with Citrus Fruits.”
2. They’re good for your heart.
Not only do lemons contain pectin, which positively benefits your cholesterol levels, they’re also rich in vitamin C, which is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lemons also contain potassium, which, according to the American Heart Association, can help to relieve tension in the walls of your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. For more on potassium, check out “Potassium Benefits Your Heart, Bones, and More.”
3. Lemons may lower your risk of cancer.
As mentioned earlier, the d-limonene found in citrus fruits have multiple health benefits and one of them includes cancer prevention. Lemons also contain a flavonoid called naringenin, which, according to a recent study, has strong cancer-preventing properties. Lemon pulp and juice also contain high amounts of beta-cryptoxanthin and hesperidin, which are plant compounds found to prevent malignant tumors from forming in rodents.
4. They protect against anemia.
Anemia is a blood disorder often caused by an iron deficiency. Lemons don’t contain much iron, but because they’re high in vitamin C, they can help increase the amount of iron your body is able to absorb.
5. Lemons can prevent kidney stones.
Research confirms that the citric acid in fruits like lemon, lime, melon, and orange may prevent kidney stones from forming: “Consuming just 4 oz. of lemon juice per day has been shown to significantly increase urine citrate levels without increasing oxalate levels,” according to information posted by the National Institutes of Health. For more on kidney stone prevention, check out “Natural Remedies for Kidney Stones.”
6. They can help you control your weight.
While many experts believe that the reasons behind lemons’ ability to reduce weight are their fiber content and ability to burn calories, a recent study found that it may have to do with plant compounds within the fruit. Researchers administered polyphenols extracted from the peel of lemons to mice who were simultaneously fed a fattening diet. As a result, they gained less weight and body fat than a group of mice who weren’t given the polyphenols.
7. Lemons can fight wrinkles.
Dermatologists love vitamin C for its positive effect on the production of collagen, a protein that helps prevent skin from wrinkling and is often broken down by exposure to the sun and pollution. For more about collagen, check out “14 Foods That Prevent Wrinkles and Improve Skin.”
8. They can protect and boost your immune system.
There’s a reason why your mom made you drink hot water with lemon and honey when were sick as a child. The vitamin C in lemons can boost your immune system, thus reducing the duration of your cold. Studies have shown that lemons can have the same effects on influenza as well.
9. Lemons may help relieve cold-induced asthma.
Vitamin C comes to the rescue again: Studies show that those who consume higher amounts of vitamin C have a lower risk of developing asthma. A study published in Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology found that participants whose asthma attacks were triggered by a respiratory infection were able to decrease the occurrence of an asthma attack by 78 percent by taking one gram of vitamin C a day.
The Healthiest Ways to Eat Lemons
Lemons are one of the most versatile fruits and every part of it—the peel, pulp, and juice—contains nutrients that are beneficial to your body. If you’re looking for different ways to get those lemon health benefits besides adding it to hot tea, here are some ideas:
- Combine lemon juice and zest with olive oil and your favorite herbs and toss with hot pasta.
- Add lemon juice and/or zest to your homemade salad dressing.
- Squeeze some lemon juice into some vegetable or chicken stock to flavor your soups.
- Start your day with a refreshing glass of lemon water.
- Squeeze some lemon on fresh fruit for extra flavor and/or to prevent browning.
- Add some lemon juice to smoothies and juice blends for a citrusy zing.
If you’re worried about the citric acid in lemons wearing down the enamel on your teeth, drink beverages containing lemon with a straw or rinse your mouth out with water after drinking. And if you experience indigestion or GERD symptoms after consuming lemons, try reducing your intake.
GLUTEN-FREE LEMON GINGER MARINATED CHICKEN
Zest from 1 lemon
1 lemon, juiced (about ¼ cup; use same lemon
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
½ teaspoon thyme, dried
½ teaspoon oregano, dried
2 to 4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 to 5 fresh ginger slices, rough chopped, approximately 2 tablespoons
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 to 12 pieces chicken (bone in or boneless)
Additional lemon, sliced thin for serving
- Remove zest from lemon with a citrus zester, microplane, or grater. If you don’t have these tools, use a vegetable peeler to carefully remove the zest. Cut the zest into small pieces.
- Squeeze lemon juice into a bowl with the zest. Add soy sauce substitute, thyme, oregano, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, pepper, and olive oil and blend with a whisk.
- Add chicken pieces, turning them in the marinade several times to coat. Marinate chicken at least 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Preheat grill to medium high. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Grill chicken until thoroughly cooked (internal temperature of 165 degrees).Each 4-ounce serving (½ piece of boneless chicken breast) contains 201 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 236 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 28 g protein.
Serves 4 to 6.
Courtesy of Gluten Free & More.
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This article was originally published in 2018. It is regularly updated.