Simple changes can have a big impact on your well-being. We’re told we need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated—not to mention the million and one reasons why your body needs water to function. But plain water isn’t always enticing. One way to make your water more exciting is to add a squeeze of lemon or a few lemon slices. It may seem simple, but the hint of lemon can make you reach for your water bottle more often. Plus, the fresh lemon has a few potential added benefits for your health.
“Most of the benefits reported from drinking lemon water are not exclusive to lemon water, but in fact reveal the nutrition and health benefits of lemons,” says Kristen Carli, MS, RD, the founder of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness. “Mixing these two ingredients together does not result in some magic transformation, but it’s rather refreshing!”
It’s true—lemon water isn’t a magical concoction that will solve all your health woes, but it certainly has some perks worth mentioning. Here are six nutritious reasons to quench your thirst with lemon water.
Health Benefits of Lemon Water
Lemon water is a great way to drink enough fluids.
The most obvious health benefit of lemon water is that it’s a clever way to get yourself to drink water. About 60 percent of your body weight consists of water, so it’s no surprise that it’s involved in many bodily functions, some of which include regulating your body temperature, protecting your organs, and carrying nutrients to your cells. Without enough water, you run the risk of dehydration, which can have some serious side effects if taken to the extreme.
“If lemon water helps you drink more water, I am all for it,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RD, Los Angeles–based dietitian and author of The Mind Diet. “The brain is made up of mostly water, so starving it of water hits hard, resulting in dehydration symptoms as mild as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating or as severe as confusion, inability to form sentences, collapse, and even death.”
How much water do you need? While every single body technically has a different fluid intake (dependent on unique factors such as age, sex, body mass, lifestyle, climate/environment, and activity levels). But having an informed, estimated guidepost is helpful: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends nine cups daily for women and 13 cups for men. The average U.S. adult currently drinks about 44 ounces of water per day (roughly 5.5 cups), per the CDC, so many of us could benefit from adding more fluids (hello, lemon water) into our daily routines. The good news is you can get fluids from both food and drinks.
Lemon water is a good source of antioxidants.
If there’s one thing we associate citrus fruits with, it’s antioxidants. Since lemons are high in antioxidants, lemon water could be a tasty way to reap some of the benefits of an antioxidant-rich diet.
Antioxidants work by preventing cell damage, also known as oxidative stress. This cellular damage has been linked to a variety of diseases, but antioxidants can counteract oxidative stress, thereby preventing disease, per the National Institutes of Health.
“The more antioxidants, the better,” Carli says. “You really can’t get too many antioxidants in your diet, as they’re inversely associated with risk of developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”
Lemon water contains beneficial vitamin C.
“Lemon water provides vitamin C, and the body needs vitamin C everyday,” Moon says. It’s often associated with immune health, but it’s also essential for wound healing, iron absorption, and blocking free radical damage, notes the National Library of Medicine.
Lemon water also provides potassium.
Vitamin C is a notable micronutrient found in lemons, but it’s not the only one. Though it’s not necessarily the highest-potassium food you can heat, lemon definitely does provide some potassium, almost 32 mg per fluid ounce of lemon juice and almost 10 mg per tablespoon of zest. Potassium is an essential mineral (and electrolyte) with many important jobs. It’s mainly known for its roles in nerve functioning and helping to regulate your blood pressure.
Lemon water has a healthy compound called citric acid.
Lemon juice is also famous for its citric acid content, a compound found in citrus fruits that’s linked to many health benefits. Studies have shown that consuming citric-acid-rich lemon can help improve blood pressure. It’s also been associated with helping to prevent kidney stones. In a small 2019 trial, subjects who drank two liters of lemonade per day had a decreased risk of developing kidney stones.
Lemon water can help your body absorb more iron.
When you don’t get enough iron in your diet, you may be at risk of iron deficiency or anemia. It affects millions of people worldwide, and it’s more likely to affect women and children than men. Some people naturally have more difficulty absorbing iron, which is why Moon recommends combining iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C, such as lemon water. Vitamin C increases iron absorption in plant-based foods, per the National Institutes of Health.
The most readily available form of iron—heme iron, which is found in animal protein—may not need the boost from vitamin C. But vegans, vegetarians, and people who consume plant-based iron sources could find that a glass of lemon water alongside their meals could help with absorbing iron. Researchers have found that up to 30 percent of the heme iron in animal proteins is absorbed, while only 2 to 9 percent of non-heme iron is absorbed from plant-based sources. Beans, spinach, seeds, and quinoa are some examples of plant-based sources of non-heme iron. When you eat these foods, consider adding a squeeze of lemon for flavor or enjoying a glass of lemon water for the added benefit of improved iron absorption.
Lemon water can have anti-aging effects, inside and outside.
The benefits of vitamin C for your skin are well understood. In skin care, vitamin C is thought to stimulate collagen, fend off free radical damage, promote anti-aging, and hydrate skin cells. And drinking lemon water may have similar effects.
“In addition to working as an antioxidant in the body, the vitamin C in lemon juice could help create collagen,” Carli says. “Collagen production naturally declines as we age, which is all the more reason to help support your body’s natural production of collagen by providing your body with plenty of vitamin C.” More research is needed, but there is some evidence that vitamin C increases collagen synthesis.
It could also have anti-aging benefits outside of the appearance of your skin, owing to its hydrating power. “A 2023 study in Lancet suggests that adults who stay well-hydrated are slowing down their biological clocks,” Moon explains. “The study shows they manage to slow down premature aging, they’re healthier, live longer, and are less burdened by chronic disease.” Staying hydrated with lemon water could mean living longer but also ensuring those years are more enjoyable with good health.
Lemon water is a healthier alternative to sugary beverages.
If you’re drinking lemon water, it means you’re not drinking something else. Water makes up just over half of nonalcoholic beverages consumed by adults in the United States, but the other half includes sweetened, fruit, and diet beverages, per the CDC. The CDC also notes that an estimated 63 percent of U.S. adults drink sugar-sweetened beverages daily.
“The biggest proponent for including more lemon water in your diet is as a way to replace the soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages in your diet,” Carli says. “Adding fruit like lemon to water is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a flavorful alternative to sugary drinks.”
While sugar can be enjoyed in moderation, replacing your sodas, sweet teas, and fruit drinks with lemon water could be a great way to lower your sugar intake while upping your consumption of water and antioxidants. Win-win!
How to Make Better Lemon Water
Making lemon water in your own kitchen is pretty much as straightforward as it sounds. Moon recommends the following tips for extra-delicious lemon water:
“Make the most of the lemon peel. Wash the lemon well and zest some lemon peel right into your water to release its aromatic oils,” she says. “Then cut a slice and squeeze some juice in, too.”