No matter the season, lemons never go out of style. They are vibrant and decorative and have so many culinary applications. The acid of lemon juice balances nicely with sweet desserts and savory spices, and it gives a depth of flavor to sauces, vinaigrettes and drinks. Plus, lemon zest adds a hint of freshness to basically any dish.
Not only are lemons pretty to look at and tasty to eat, but they are also beneficial for your health. Citrus, including lemons, is known for its high dose of vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which help fight off chronic diseases and inflammation. Not to mention that they make great air fresheners and cleaning products.
Learn the reasons why lemons are good for your health and how to use them in your everyday cooking.
Lemon nutrition facts
One medium lemon has:
- 17 calories
- 1 gram protein
- 5 grams carbohydrates
- 2 grams fiber
- 31 milligrams vitamin C (34% daily value)
The health benefits of lemons
Eating lemons has been linked to an array of positive health outcomes, like heart health, glycemic response and even kidney stone maintenance. First, lemons are known for their heaping dose of vitamin C. This well-known antioxidant is important for immune function, and it also plays a role in collagen production and the absorption of iron. Vitamin C may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Citrus fruits, including lemons, contain another potent antioxidant called hesperidin. Research suggests that hesperidin has antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. That said, the majority of the hesperidin is found in the citrus peel, which is often discarded when using a lemon. If you use the lemon peel to make juice, you may obtain some of the beneficial properties of hesperidin.
Other research in animals demonstrates that the polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds) in citrus peel may alleviate ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and pain in the digestive tract. But keep in mind that animal studies don’t always translate to human health, and the results here are reliant on the lemon peel.
Although lemon peel is highly nutritious, lemon juice also contains some worthwhile characteristics. For instance, drinking lemon juice while eating bread has been shown to lower blood-sugar response in healthy adults. The study authors attribute these results to the acidity of the lemon juice, which slows down starch digestion. This research may be helpful for people with diabetes, who are trying to manage their blood sugar.
Lastly, supplementing with lemon juice may prevent kidney stone recurrence in people with calcium oxalate stones. The citric acid in the lemon juice inhibits stone formation and may even break up bigger stones into smaller ones.
Are there drawbacks to eating lemons?
Lemons are perfectly safe to eat on a daily basis. People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may find that foods with lemon juice cause heartburn or reflux. Foods with a high acid content, like lemon juice, relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing the stomach acid to travel up into the throat, causing a burning sensation. If you regularly suffer from reflux or heartburn, avoid lemon juice if it triggers your symptoms. However, you can use the lemon zest to get the citrus flavor without the acid.
More nutritional information on everyday foods
Fun facts about lemons
If you’re not already convinced to add more citrus to your life, these fun facts may persuade you to pick up a bag on your next grocery run.
You can use lemon juice to cut the salt in recipes
Lemon juice not only adds a big flavor to foods, but it also brings out their inherent taste, much like salt. According to Sunkist, a chef at Johnson & Wales found that you can replace up to 75% of the salt in a recipe with lemon juice without sacrificing flavor. Instead of using 1 teaspoon of salt in a recipe, use ¼ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of lemon zest and 2 ½ teaspoons of lemon juice.
Lemons make a great cleaning product
Chances are you already have a lemon-scented hand soap or cleaning product in your home, but the lemon fruit is great for making DIY cleaning solutions. Here are a few ways you can use lemon to keep your house tidy:
- Got a microwave with caked on grease? Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a small bowl of water and microwave on high for 2 minutes, then wipe down the microwave with a wet cloth. The steam from the lemon water helps release some of the mess.
- Grind a lemon peel in your garbage disposal to remove any lingering food waste smells.
- Scrub copper pots with lemon juice to keep them clean.
- Add lemon juice and water to dingy glass kitchenware and let it soak. Rinse it out and watch your glass sparkle again.
- Remove stains on clothes with a mixture of ⅓ cup of lemon juice and water. Let the solution soak into the stain and wash normally.
Healthy lemon recipes
Although lemons make a great household cleaning product, they are much more satisfying in the kitchen. Here are some ways to use lemons in sweet and savory dishes.
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
David Malosh for The New York Times