By Jo Lewin – Registered Nutritionist
Drinking lemon water has been linked to many benefits, including improved skin and digestion. But is the scientific data reliable? Nutritionist Jo Lewin explains.
What is Lemon Water?
Lemons and other citrus fruits are well known for their colorful, pitted peels and tangy, refreshing taste.
Lemon water is the juice of one lemon mixed with water and can be consumed hot or cold, with additions such as lemon zest, honey, mint or spices such as turmeric or cayenne pepper.
Nutritional benefits of lemon water
A glass (150 ml) of lemon water with the juice of one lemon provides approximately:
- 0.1 g of protein
- 0.8 g of carbohydrates
- 65 mg of potassium
- 18 mg of vitamin C
Top 5 health benefits of lemon water
Headlines have linked lemon water consumption to numerous health claims, including weight loss, improved digestion, “alkalizing” effects on the body, improved skin, and detoxification. .
There is minimal research, particularly human studies, to support these claims, but we can rely on studies that have examined the benefits of these two ingredients taken in isolation.
1. A source of hydration
Water is an essential nutrient and without it we can only survive a few days. In fact, it makes up 75% of the body weight of a newborn and 55% of that of an adult. If you have trouble drinking water, adding lemon to hot or cold water can make it more palatable.
Dehydration is common and can manifest itself as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. It’s especially important to make sure you’re getting enough fluids when you exercise or in hot weather. The NHS recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of liquid, ideally water, a day.
For centuries, lemons have been popular for treating scurvy, a now rare condition that can develop due to vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency. Vitamin C is often claimed to support the immune system, but studies are inconclusive.
One study found that although vitamin C does not prevent healthy people from getting colds, it can shorten the duration of symptoms and halve the risk of colds in people exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress (e.g., marathon runners).
3. Can promote skin health
Some data has linked vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) and flavonoids, which are protective compounds found in citrus fruits, to improving skin conditions. Vitamin C is known to help the body produce collagen, which contributes to skin integrity.
Interestingly, a 2016 study indicated that a citrus juice drink may help prevent the adverse effects that lead to premature skin aging in mice.
4. May aid digestion
Some people find that drinking a glass of lemon water, especially in the morning, helps with regular digestion. While this is mostly subjective and reports are anecdotal, studies in mice show promising results.
A 2019 study suggests that lifetime consumption of a lemon polyphenol-rich drink appears to delay observed age-related changes in the gut, including changes in the balance of beneficial gut bacteria.
5. May help prevent kidney stones.
The citric acid found in lemon juice can help prevent kidney stones caused by a buildup of calcium oxalate, and the extra fluid from water can help maintain hydration and flush out potential stones.
Is lemon water safe for everyone?
Generally safe for most people, there are a few things to consider if you choose to drink lemon water.
These include possible erosion of tooth enamel and, for heartburn sufferers, worsening symptoms by drinking lemon water.
However, the effect is variable, with some heartburn sufferers getting relief after consuming lemon water.
Lemon water is simply the juice and/or slices of lemon, including the zest, in water. You can choose hot or cold water. You can add other ingredients and flavors, like orange or mint, if you like.
Lemons can be squeezed (in advance if that suits you) and even stored in ice cube trays to freeze. Rolling a lemon in your hands or on a countertop before squeezing it is said to help you get more juice.
Unwaxed lemons are the perfect choice if you want to use lemon zest or add lemon slices to your water. If you only have waxed lemons, gently rub the zest before using.