Beautifully bright coloured, with a sharp taste and a refreshing aroma, lemons are best when the yellow skin is thin and at its brightest. Lemon juice is a great foundation for salad dressings, and adds a tantalizing tartness when sprinkled over fish. And the zest, as the white part is bitter, is a lovely addition to many recipes. Lemon juice can be squeezed over raw fruits to add flavour while preventing them from turning brown. Browning occurs when the fruits’ enzyme (polyphenol oxidase) reacts with the oxygen in the air (known as oxidation). Lemons are high in citric acid, which breaks down this enzyme, thus preventing it from reacting with the oxygen. This allows the fruit to retain its original fresh looking colour for longer, even after it has been cut into pieces.
The lemon belongs to the genus Citrus with other fruits such as oranges and grapefruit. The origins of the lemon are unclear, but it is commonly thought that they originated from India, China and Burma and then entered Europe via Sicily in Italy in the 1st Century AD during the time of Ancient Rome.
Lemons are loaded with healthy benefits. Most people find taking lemon juice in water is more palatable as opposed to straight lemon juice. Lemon water is a rich source of vitamin C and plant compounds, which can enhance immune function, protect against various diseases and increase the absorption of iron. Given that some pulp goes into the mix, the pectins in the pulp can promote satiety and feed the friendly bacteria in the gut, promoting good health and decreased risk of disease. To top things off, the lemon aroma derived from the essential oils might decrease stress and improve mood. The lemon juice also offers up a healthy serving of potassium, magnesium and copper. The plant compounds in lemons are citric acid, hesperidin (antioxidant), diosmin (antioxidant), eriocitrin (antioxidant that is found in lemon peel and juice), and D-Limonene (found primarily in lemon peel).
Prevents Scurvy and Supports Our Immune System
While scurvy, AKA Vitamin C Deficiency, is a disease that we associate with sailors who travelled the seas, the frightening reality is that scurvy still appears in our society today. Since our bodies don’t make vitamin C on its own, it’s important to get enough of it from the foods and drinks we ingest on a daily basis. Thankfully, lemons are packed full of this vitamin plus other bioflavanoids. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production, vital for your immune system to function properly, thus preventing colds and flu and many other illnesses. As an antioxidant, vitamin C also protects cells from oxidative damage and neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that can damage the body’s tissue causing heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.
Aids in Digestion and Detoxification
Lemon juice appears to have an atomic structure that is similar to the digestive juices found in the stomach, thus it tricks the liver into producing bile, which helps keep food moving through your body and gastrointestinal tract smoothly. The acids found in lemon juice also encourage our body to break down the nutrients in foods more slowly. The longer absorption time means insulin levels remain steady and better nutrient absorption means less bloating. Lemon water also helps relieve indigestion or ease an upset stomach.
The liver is one of the most important organs and plays a vital role in processing toxins in the body and detoxifying the blood. The vitamin C in lemon water helps promote glutathione, which plays a key role within the liver in the detoxification process. Maintaining a slightly positive alkaline state is vital in order to fight off cancer and other illnesses and promote detoxification. Although acidic to taste, lemons are one of the most alkaline of foods and will help push our bodies to the required pH alkaline state of around 7.4.
Reduces Vision Loss and Improves Eye Health in Diabetics
Vitamin C reduces age-related opacity of the eyes, which means it keeps vision clearer for longer. A study has shown that flavonoids, which are found in lemon and other fruits and vegetables, help prevent the development of cataracts in diabetics.
Lowers Blood Sugar and Helps to Manage Diabetes
Soluble fibres, like pectin, in lemons can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of sugar and starch. Research also shows that two citrus bioflavonoids found in lemon significantly help reduce blood sugar levels. They can also help to manage blood sugar in other ways, such as how it is stored in the muscles and liver.
Lemon peel reduces glucose levels in body parts such as eyes, nerves, and areas of the kidney. These are all body parts that are susceptible to damage in diabetes. This means that these compounds in lemon peel can help to reduce diabetic complications in the eye, nerves, and kidney, as well as better protecting the health of diabetics. Adding some lemon peel into a glass of lemon water is a great way to introduce it into the diet.
Prevention of Kidney Stones
The citric acid in lemons decreases the risk of kidney stones by diluting urine and increasing urine output. Diosmin, a flavanone antioxidant found in lemon, was found to have very positive effects on decreasing the incidence of kidney stones. Diosmin helps to decrease urinary calcium and phosphorus in kidneys, as well as helping to increase urinary volume and serum calcium levels, all of which help to ease pressure on the kidneys and stop the development of stones.
Reduces Uric Acid Level
Gout is an incredibly painful condition, contributed to by an excess of uric acid in the body. A study has shown that lemon juice helps to reduce serum levels and is a useful addition to other uric acid and gout treatments that a patient may be taking.
Good for Your Heart and Helps Lower High Blood Pressure
Lemon water is a source of potassium, a vital mineral that is essential and helpful in a variety of body functions. Potassium is good for the heart because it plays an important role in helping its muscles function properly and pump blood around the body so it’s important to maintain your intake of this element.
Intake of fruits high in vitamin C is linked to reduced cardiovascular disease. Low levels of vitamin C in the blood are also linked to increased risk of stroke. Intake of isolated fibres from citrus fruits has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol levels, and the essential oils in lemons can protect LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized. Recent studies on rats show that the plant compounds hesperidin and diosmin may have beneficial effects on some key risk factors for heart disease.
Vitamin C was found to help relax blood vessels and, therefore, help reduce blood pressure. This is particularly useful for blood pressure called “essential hypertension” because it doesn’t have a known cause.
Prevention of Anaemia
Anaemia is often caused by iron deficiency, and is most common in pre-menopausal women. Lemons contain small amounts of iron, but they are a great source of vitamin C and citric acid, which can increase the absorption of iron from other foods. Because lemons can enhance the absorption of iron from foods, they may help prevent anaemia.
A number of scientific studies have shown the cancer preventative action of flavonoids and plant compounds such as hesperidin and d-limonene, found in lemon water. This research has suggested that dietary intake of flavonoids and plant compounds may reduce the risk of tumours in the breast, colon, lung, prostate, and pancreas.
Inhibiting an enzyme called aromatase is a major strategy in treating breast cancer patients. Dietary flavones and flavanones, as found in lemon juice, have been shown to inhibit aromatase too, which helps support medical management of breast cancer.
Helps Body and Skin Repair and Assists in Wound Healing
The antioxidants found in vitamin C have a double task in lemon water. They help flush out toxins and fights damage caused by free radicals and UVB radiation. They also promote a healthy production of collagen, which is a vital part of the skin matrix keeping it taut and springy and preventing the formation of wrinkles and sagging. The increased collagen production also helps with wound healing. Rapid wound healing is vital to prevent infections and scarring. Vitamin C can help promote better healing by preventing free radical damage, supplementing collagen synthesis, and stimulating the formation of the skin barrier. Vitamin C gets used up quickly at a wound site, so it’s important to increase its intake if we have a number of wounds to heal.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in keeping cartilage and bones healthy and strong. Although we might not expect it, our body relies on vitamin C to help keep our bones and teeth strong.
Aids in Weight Loss and Prevents weight gain
Regularly sipping on lemon water can help us lose those last pounds. That’s because lemons contain pectin. Pectin helps us feel full for longer so we will eat less throughout the day. Plus, the water will prevent dehydration which makes us prone to headaches, fatigue and an overall bad mood.
If preventing weight gain and fat build up is a priority, throw the lemon peel into the warm lemon water along with the juice. A study found that lemon polyphenols in lemon peel prevented fat gain and weight increase in mice when tested over a 12-week period. The lemon polyphenols particularly targeted the white adipose tissue, which is the less beneficial kind of fat in our bodies. Now that’s a benefit of lemon water we can definitely appreciate!
Boosts Energy and Mood and Eases Depression
Skip the morning cup of coffee, lemon water can boost energy levels without the caffeine crash. Here’s how it works: Our bodies get energy from the atoms and molecules in foods. When negative-charged ions, like those found in lemons, enter your digestive tract, the result is an increase in energy levels. Additionally, just the scent of a lemon has been found to reduce stress levels, improve moods and ease depression.
Lemons are generally well tolerated, but may cause allergic reactions in a minority of people. They may also cause contact allergy and skin irritation in people with dermatitis.
While lemon water is one of the safest drinks you can ingest, the acids in lemon can eat away at your tooth enamel. To prevent this, drink lemon water before brushing your teeth. Drink from a straw and rinse with baking soda to neutralise any acid that might be left on your teeth.
Recipes for health
The easiest way to make lemon water would be to squeeze half to one whole lemon into a glass of lukewarm or room-temperature water.
- If you want to receive the benefits of the polyphenols in the lemon skin, either add the peel whole into your glass of lemon water or use a zester to scrape some peel into the drink.
- For a comforting, cleansing drink first thing in the morning or late at night, use lukewarm water to mix with your lemon juice. Make sure the water is not too hot as this can destroy some of the nutrients and enzymes in the fresh lemon juice.
- If you want to receive the appetite-suppressing and metabolism-boosting benefits of lemon water, mix your lemon juice with chilled water and drink before or during meals.
Household Uses of Lemon
Lemons are not only used for their medicinal qualities and health benefits. Lemon juice is also used in the home. Here are some fantastic ideas of how lemon can be used in the home:
- Clean discoloured utensils with a cloth dipped in lemon juice. Rinse with warm water.
- Toss used lemons into your garbage disposal to help keep it clean and smelling fresh.
- Use one part lemon juice and two parts salt to scour chinaware to its original lustre.
- A few drops of lemon juice in outdoor house-paint will keep insects away while you are painting and until the paint dries.
- Remove scratches on furniture by mixing equal parts of lemon juice and salad oil and rubbing it on the scratches with a soft cloth.
- To make furniture polish, mix one part lemon juice and two parts olive oil.
- To clean the surface of white marble or ivory, rub with a half a lemon, or make a lemon juice and salt paste. Wipe with a clean, wet cloth.
- To remove dried paint from glass, apply hot lemon juice with a soft cloth. Leave until nearly dry, and then wipe off.
- Rub kitchen and bathroom faucets with lemon peel. Wash and dry with a soft cloth to shine and remove spots.
- Fish or onion odour on your hands can be removed by rubbing them with fresh lemons.
- To get odours out of wooden rolling pins, bowls, or cutting boards, rub with a piece of lemon. Don’t rinse: The wood will absorb the lemon juice.
- After a shampoo, rinse your hair with lemon juice to make it shine. Mix the strained juice of a lemon in 200 ml warm water.
- Mix one tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of salt to make a rust-removing scrub.
- Before you start to vacuum, put a few drops of lemon juice in the dust bag. It will make the house smell fresh.
- Get grimy white cotton socks white again by boiling them in water with a slice of lemon.