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8 lemon water benefits

Lemon water benefits the immune system, kidneys, inflammation, and skin

Drinking water can seem incredibly dull in a world of coffee, booze, energy drinks, and juice. Water is critical to proper hydration, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice makes water taste more interesting—the health benefits of lemon water can be a great thing, too. Unlike plain H2O, lemon water contains a small amount of nutrients such as vitamin C, folate, potassium, and B vitamins.

“Lemon water is not a magic elixir, but if it can induce more water intake and replace sugary, calorie-laden drinks in the diet, that’s a good thing,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, author of Total Body Diet For Dummies and nutrition practitioner at FORM, an online medical weight-loss clinic.

Health benefits of drinking lemon water

Lemon water is more than a refreshing drink on a hot summer day. Here are eight reasons to squeeze more lemon juice into your daily glass of water.

1. It’s hydrating

Up to 60% of your body is water. Staying hydrated is one of the body’s most constant and critical needs. Hydration keeps your digestive system moving, joints lubricated, temperature regulated, and more. In other words, drinking water is incredibly important to your overall health, and the refreshing taste of lemon can help you drink more of it.

2. It’s a good dose of vitamin C

Vitamin C is a well-known contributor to the immune system, and citrus fruits like lemon are packed with vitamin C. Contrary to popular belief, a daily dose of vitamin C won’t prevent the common cold, but it is one of several vitamins that keep your body’s natural defense system running smoothly.

One great way to get your daily fill of vitamin C is lemon water.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, squeezing half a lemon into your water offers your body more than one-sixth of your recommended daily vitamin C.

3. It may help prevent kidney stones

According to Harvard Health, lemon water can reduce your risk of kidney stones. Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals found in urine. Drinking water helps dilute the concentration of these minerals so that kidney stones don’t form in the first place. The citric acid in lemon juice also helps prevent kidney stones by breaking down the particles that form them.

Ultimately, drinking a daily glass of lemon water is a great idea if you have a high risk of kidney stones or have previously experienced kidney stones.

4. It can help regulate digestion

Back to the powers of hydration: One of the most common causes of constipation is inadequate fluid intake. The number-one remedy for constipation is drinking more water. When the digestive tract has enough water, your body can pass smooth, “normal” bowel movements. Constipation has many causes, but if you’re straining to pass hard, lumpy stool, drinking more tasty lemon water could help.

As an added bonus, the acid in lemons stimulates enzymes in the digestive system that help break down starches. That can help to reduce bloating and ease spikes in blood sugar.

5. It’s anti-inflammatory

Lemons are full of antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids. These natural compounds help prevent oxidative stress—an excess of free radicals in the body that can cause cellular damage and systemic inflammation.

Of course, flavonoids don’t only exist in lemon water. These anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative compounds are also found in foods like grapefruit, oranges, limes, and ginger.

6. It can help your skin glow

Research shows that vitamin C is essential to overall skin health. This essential nutrient, abundant in lemons, can help stimulate collagen. Collagen provides structure to your skin, hair, and nails. A lack of collagen can contribute to premature wrinkles or sagging skin.

While drinking lemon water won’t smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, it’s an easy daily ritual to boost overall skin health.

7. It’s a weight-loss-friendly drink

If you’re trying to lose weight, why not swap the sugar in your morning tea for a squeeze of lemon juice? You could also replace canned sugar-sweetened beverages with a water bottle full of cold water and lemon slices. Lemon water is a weight-loss-friendly drink because you receive the same amount of hydration while adding nutrients and limiting calorie intake.

“A glass of lemon water contains just about six calories,” says Kimberley Wiemann, MS, RDN, a Long Island, NY-based registered dietitian. “Some people get bored with plain water and tend not to drink enough. Lemon water can provide a tasty way to enjoy water without adding extra calories.”

8. It might improve symptoms of gastric ulcer

It seems like the ascorbic and citric acid present in lemon juice would irritate stomach ulcers. However, for some people with ulcers, consuming ascorbic acid helps protect the stomach against further damage. Of course, acid reflux, heartburn, and pain from peptic ulcers can be triggered by different foods for different people. More research is needed to determine which patients with gastric irritation would benefit from drinking lemon water.

Myths about lemon water

Now that you understand the potential health perks of drinking lemon water, you should know that it’s no magical medical elixir. Any health benefits of lemon water are mild and are mostly tied to good hydration. You’d need to drink a lot of lemon water to reap the nutritional benefits of citrus, such as immune system support and increased collagen production.

There are also many misconceptions about drinking lemon water. Here are some common myths that two registered dietitian nutritionists, Vicki Shanta Retelny and Kimberley Wiemann, busted for us:

  • Lemon water speeds up metabolism. “Hydration on its own plays a role in keeping metabolism humming along as digestion of nutrients relies on water,” Shanta Retelny says. But while hydration supports digestion, she says there is no scientific evidence that lemon water boosts metabolism.
  • Lemon water helps you lose weight. Not exactly, says Shanta Retelny. Drinking lemon water instead of sugary, calorie-laden beverages like juice or soda will diminish your overall calorie intake and help you lose weight. Drinking water before meals can also make you feel full, encouraging you to eat smaller portions. However, in these cases, plain water is just as effective as lemon water—there’s no magic, fat-melting power in lemons.
  • Lemon water improves liver function. “Lemon water is high in vitamin C, antioxidants, B vitamins, and magnesium, which all may be beneficial for liver health,” says Wiemann. “However, there is very little research to back up that lemon water provides many benefits for the liver.” Ultimately, drinking any water is helpful for liver function, but it probably doesn’t need to be flavored with lemon.
  • Lemon water balances pH levels. Generally, there is not enough acid in a glass of lemon water (which is mostly water) to affect the pH of the body. Plus, Wiemann says, there is no scientific evidence proving that food intake can alter blood pH levels.

Lemon water side effects

Remember, lemon water is mostly water. Drinking lemon juice diluted in water minimizes both the benefits and drawbacks of consuming citrus.

Because lemon water is acidic, it can exacerbate acid reflux and contribute to tooth enamel erosion, Wiemann says. If you notice issues with acid reflux or weakened enamel, simply reduce or eliminate the lemon juice from your water.

Overhydration, sometimes called water toxicity, can also occur if you drink too much water of any kind, lemon-infused or not. It leads to potentially low levels of sodium in the body. This condition is unusual, but people with kidney, heart, or liver problems have a heightened risk. 

In general, lemon water is pretty harmless. You can sip it in moderation with no known risk of side effects. 

Lemon water also has no known interactions with supplements or medications, according to Shanta Retelny.

Making lemon water part of your diet

“It never hurts to add more vitamin C to the diet, and capitalizing on the natural flavors in the whole lemon can excite the senses, hydrate you better, and lead to better total body health,” says Shanta Retelny.

There are so many ways to incorporate lemon water into your daily diet. Some people enjoy drinking a mug of warm lemon water in the morning, while others prefer iced lemon water as a refreshing pick-me-up. When it comes to hot versus cold lemon water, there is no evidence to support one being healthier than the other. Ultimately, the best way to make lemon water part of your diet is to drink it at the time of day and temperature that you enjoy most.

Because lemon water contains acid that could irritate your stomach or damage your teeth, it’s best to drink it in moderation. Consider it a refreshing way to hydrate rather than a health drink you should chug for medicinal purposes. After all, Shanta Retelny reminds us that there is no significant science to say lemon water adds much nutritional value to your day.

“As with all common health claims, there is no ‘magic bullet’ answer to solve certain health ailments,” Wiemann adds. “A lifestyle rich in a healthy diet, exercise, and routine medical care will generally provide the most reliable results when looking to improve health.”