To figure out, we asked nutrition pros why lemon water is the usual go-to and if you can sub in limes (or any citrus of choice, really), to switch up your routine.
What are some health benefits of citrus?
If you aren’t regularly consuming lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges, you may want to pick some up this weekend because the nutritional and health benefits of citrus are many. They’re a good source of potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B6, in addition to vitamin C.
“In general, citrus fruit provides a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that is essential for overall greater well-being,” explains Genail McKinley, a holistic nutritionist based in New York City and founder of theEATschool. It has phytochemicals, like carotenoids and flavonoids, that aid in reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.”
Currently, a study is being conducted on mice to determine the link between citrus peel and gut inflammation, and lemon is specifically being tested in animal studies in Japan looking at the role it plays in longevity. And there is already evidence of vitamin C’s function in immune system protection and its ability to reduce allergic reactions. FYI, research shows that the benefits of citrus are greatest when eaten daily.
The best way to consume citrus for max benefits
When it comes to consuming citrus, studies reveal that its nutrients are found in the pulp versus the peel, with results varying depending on what fruit was being tested. Centr nutritionist Angie Asche MS, RD, CSSD, notes that you’ll find the most fiber in the pulp, so when you drink the juice alone, you’re missing out on that component—“you will still consume water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants from the juice alone,” she adds.
If you want to get the ultimate benefit, though, McKinley suggests thinking of citrus as a whole fruit, and consuming a bit of each part. If you are not interested in adding the peel to your juicer to extract some of the nutrients, there are powders on the market that you can purchase; citrus peels have been used in medicine as far back as the 10th century.
“I recommend sourcing lemons, limes, and citrus fruits in general as organic in order to minimize consumption of pesticides and to also enjoy the peel in moderation,” adds McKinley. “When juicing organic lemon or lime, also juice the peel for optimal nutrients.”
Lemon or lime? Which has more nutrients?
There aren’t many solid recommendations as to which citrus rules them all; and when it comes to lemon or lime—often used to flavor water or in recipes—Asche notes they are similar from a nutritional standpoint.
That said, a 100 gram serving of fresh lemon juice does contain more vitamin C than that of lime, so if you are looking to consume more citrus specifically to reach daily vitamin C recommendations, you may want to reach for lemon juice instead. Fiber from the juice is only off by 0.1 grams—with lemon taking the lead—but you’ll find more sugar in lemon juice.
Both lemon and lime have confirmed health benefits, with research showing that lemons have both anti-cancer and antioxidant properties and limes being confirmed to have antimicrobial properties. Obviously, there are pros and cons to both and you don’t need to think of consumption of lemons and limes in terms of one or the other—there is (and should be) room for both in your diet.
Should you be drinking citrus water daily?
While many wellness-minded folks start their days drinking warm or hot water with lemon, research is lacking, however, in noting benefits of drinking lemon water, specifically—many of the benefits such as added hydration or an increase in vitamin C are related to drinking water or to citrus fruits in general and not specific to lemon water itself.
“Several health claims are made about lemon water, including balancing pH and promoting weight loss,” confirms Asche. “However, there’s no scientific evidence to back such claims.”
Many medical and research institutions (Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, among them), recommend lemon water in the treatment of kidney stones, but this would be specific to someone who experiences kidney stones and is hoping to reduce the risk versus an everyday consumer.
At the end of the day, there isn’t harm in consuming lemon or lime water to start off your day (or as a more enjoyable way to drink more water!). Asche says that really any citrus fruits will work, and while you won’t be getting as many nutrients as you would from eating the whole fruit, you’ll still take in some vitamins and will be upping your hydration.
“I am a big fan of adding any produce in general to water to help add some flavor to it,” concludes Asche. “A few of my personal favorites are sliced strawberries or cucumbers. It’s a great way to encourage you to drink more water and stay hydrated.”
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