Diet & Weight Loss
Celebrities and naturopaths won’t start their day without guzzling a glass of lemon water. Here’s what this a.m. habit can and can’t do for your health.
Lemon water may help you lose weight
Lemon water may be a dieter’s best friend. “The polyphenols in lemon may aid in reducing appetite,” registered dietician Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. Rodent studies have shown that the polyphenols in lemon do help to prevent weight gain. Plus, she adds, “when you drink a glass of water, especially before a meal, this helps to fill your stomach, offsetting the amount of food needed to feel satisfied.” Lemon-flavored water is also a healthy option to replace your morning glass of orange juice—think of all the calories saved! To make lemon water, use whole lemons (not lemon juice in a bottle). “Try squeezing the juice from one lemon into 8 to 12 ounces of water,” Palinski-Wade says. You can also grate in a bit of the zest (just wash the lemon first). “Enjoy it cold or warm, but if you will be having it to promote weight loss, drink it chilled with ice,” she says.
It helps keep you from getting sick
We’ve all heard that vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits like lemon, gives your immune system a boost (more on vitamin C later). But one of the benefits of lemon water is helping to prevent infection. “Certainly the acidic environment in the stomach serves as a barrier, deterring pathogens from gaining a foothold and causing illness,” says Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Enterprise. “Ingestion of highly acidic foods, including lemon juice, contributes to the acidic environment.” According to The Cleveland Clinic, chemicals in lemon known as phytonutrients have antioxidant properties that can also help protect the body from disease.
It aids digestion
Another one of the benefits of lemon water is that the acids help to digest food. “The citrus flavonoids in lemon aid the acid in the stomach in breaking down food, which may improve overall digestion,” says Palinski-Wade. “Warming the water seems to provide the greatest digestive benefits.” Aiding digestion is especially important as we get older because the amount of acid in our stomach declines with age. One study showed that over 30 percent of men and women over age 60 had atrophic gastritis, a condition marked by little to no stomach acid. In addition, if you add lemon slices and zest to your water, you may be able to harness some of the benefits of pectin, a fiber found in the pulp and peel. Many studies have shown fiber to improve digestion and gut health. Here’s how your body changes when you drink enough water.
Lemon water gives you a vitamin C boost
Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a fourth of a cup of lemon juice yields 23.6 mg of vitamin C, about a third of the recommended daily allowance for women and a fourth for men. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells against free radicals, and according to the National Institutes of Health, this could even help protect us again cardiovascular disease and cancer. And although we don’t think much about this ailment anymore, “vitamin C prevents scurvy, a disease of weakened connective tissue that results in bleeding gums, among other symptoms,” says Dr. Sukol. Connective tissue is also crucial for wound healing.