Is Lemon Water Really Good for You? A Simple, Science-Backed Answer

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    Lemon water is a popular drink purported to have many health benefits, but does it have real health perks and are there side effects to too much lemon water?

    What the research says about drinking lemon water

    Lemon juice contains elements that are known for their health benefits, such as flavonoids and phytochemicals, among other immune-promoting properties. One tablespoon of lemon juice has 9% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Since vitamin C has many benefits to the body, including being a powerful antioxidant, lemon juice can be an easy way to add more of it to your diet.

    The top 9 benefits of lemon water

    By adding lemon juice to drinking water, you can easily give a health boost to your daily water intake. But what are the specific benefits of drinking lemon water? Here are nine of the top benefits of drinking water with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

    1. Kidney Support

    Lemon water may help promote healthy kidneys thanks to its vitamin C content. In one lemon (65g), there is 34.4g of vitamin C. Depending on how well you juice your lemon, you may be able to get about 18.6mg of vitamin C from the juice alone. Vitamin C is a major antioxidant which can help manage oxidative stress to maintain healthy kidneys. Oxidative stress can be caused by several factors such as age, diet, and smoking. Adding lemon juice to your water can help boost your vitamin C intake.

    2. Weight Management

    Proper hydration can aid in weight management, and since lemon water has nominal calories, it can help fill you up and make you feel satiated. This, in turn, may make it easier to eat less, resulting in consuming fewer calories. One study found that drinking about 10 ounces of water before a meal significantly reduces the amount of calories consumed immediately after.

    The polyphenols in lemon may also make you want to consider starting your day with lemon water. In one animal study, researchers found that these specific polyphenols are beneficial in maintaining optimal health and may even have anti-aging properties . The main polyphenol in lemon peel and juice is called Eriocitrin which is a water soluble flavonoid and has antioxidant-like properties. Water, in general, can be a key part of weight management. One study showed that drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%.

    However, it’s important to note that lemon water isn’t a replacement for good overall health habits, which include proper nutrition and a diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy carbs, protein, and fats. Making sure you get adequate sleep and regular exercise are also important parts of any weight management routine.

    Although more research is needed, citrus flavonoids, phytonutrients that are produced by certain plants, may help manage oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage cells as a normal part of aging.

    3. Aids in stabilizing appetite

    When you drink water, whether it has lemon added or not, it can support healthy feelings of fullness, since sometimes feelings of thirst are mistaken for feelings of hunger. Dehydration affects not only the appetite but also cells throughout the body. Drinking water, including lemon water, can be helpful for consuming balanced food intake by ensuring that the body's hydration needs are met and thus potentially curbing any unnecessary eating. However, there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that lemon water specifically affects appetite more than plain water. But it can certainly provide a flavorful addition! Additional ways to support satiety include ensuring adequate fiber intake in your diet.

    4. Source of Vitamin C

    There is 38 mg of vitamin C in a 100-gram serving of lemon juice, which is about three and a half ounces. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is between 75-90 mg, making lemon juice a good source of the micronutrient. Vitamin C has many benefits including:

    • Maintaining the healthy functioning of the immune system
    • Providing a powerful antioxidant that manages free radicals and oxidative stress
    • Supports seasonal lung and sinus issues

    5. Hydration

    Does a glass of lemon water sound more appealing than plain water? One way lemon water can help is by adding flavor to water, allowing people who don’t enjoy water on its own to drink more of it. Lemon provides a refreshing boost, making it more palatable to drink water throughout the day. To stay hydrated, it’s recommended to drink eight to ten eight-ounce glasses of water each day or half your body weight in ounces. If you prepare a carafe or pitcher full of lemon water to drink over the course of a day, be sure to keep it fresh by storing it in the refrigerator and discard any leftover water after three days.

    6. May help digestion

    Drinking lemon juice prior to eating may help promote gastric secretions like stomach acid and aid in the stomach’s contractions called peristalsis that are necessary for proper digestion.

    This study also found that lemon juice increases stomach emptying and the volume of digestive contents more than water. One of the main limitations was the sample size of this study which was small at 10 participants so additional research with larger sample size is warranted. Also, since lemon juice and water were tested separately in the study, testing the combination of lemon juice in water at different concentrations would also be interesting to explore further in order to identify the most effective dose for the best outcome. Stronger evidence exists for maintaining a healthy microbiome and having adequate enzymes in helping optimize digestion. Digestion supporting supplements such as digestive enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics are also options to consider.

    7. Promotes clear skin

    While lemon juice contains some vitamins and antioxidants, it may not be concentrated enough to affect the skin in any direct way. However, the vitamin C content may indirectly support skin health by promoting healthy collagen production and managing oxidative stress. Actual studies may need to be done to further explore the potential of lemon water and skin health. Another aspect to consider is hydration which does have a significant effect on skin health, and this is where lemon water can play a role.

    Research has shown that increased water intake, especially in those who formerly didn't consume enough, can reduce dry skin and roughness, as well as increase skin elasticity. Adding lemon juice to water can make it easier for people to meet hydration goals if they struggle to drink plain water. Always be sure to talk to your dermatologist about skin concerns. For targeted supplements that support skin health consider taking our vitamin and supplement quiz to find the best fit for you.

    8. Helps control bloating

    Dehydration can contribute to challenging bowel movements due to delayed gastric emptying that may lead to bloating. Bloating has many contributing factors, but if it’s caused or worsened by not consuming enough water, or by consuming too much fiber without enough water, proper hydration can have a significant effect on transit time.

    Proper hydration from drinking water supports gastrointestinal health and can reduce bloating. Furthermore, staying hydrated can support a healthy body composition, which in some cases can include alleviating bloating from water retention. If bloating is due to microbiome imbalances, prebiotics can also be an option to support a healthy microbiome by promoting growth of good bacteria to improve digestion and ease bloating.

    9. Boosts energy levels

    Lastly, there is exciting preliminary evidence that lemon may be lightly associated with supporting energy levels. Energy levels within the body are influenced by many factors, including hydration. Even mild dehydration has been associated with fatigue and mood changes based on results from this study.

    Animal research that looked at the effect of lemon polyphenols on body composition in the context of a high-fat diet found that the polyphenols (from the peel, not the juice) had a significant positive effect on body composition, metabolic health, and energy usage. These findings would need to be replicated in human trials, though, to verify their significance.

    On a more general level, water alone, with or without lemon, supports healthy cellular energy levels. Proper fluid levels in and out of cells are needed for physiological, metabolic, and mitochondrial energy production.

    In addition, most of us are aware that maintaining an adequate electrolyte and fluid balance athletic performance can optimize athletic performance– – a balance that lemon water can help support! Hydration also supports a heat-generating process known as thermogenesis. Thermogenesis works by converting energy from the food we eat into heat, potentially aiding in healthy weight management and body composition.

    For more direct energy support, in addition to hydration, making sure you have adequate sleep, stress management, eating nutrient dense foods, and exercise can all be helpful lifestyle changes to incorporate into your routine. In regards to supplements for energy, b vitamins such as B12 and b complex can support energy levels as well as adaptogens like rhodiola.

    How much lemon water should you drink per day?

    It’s clear that drinking adequate amounts of water is an important part of helping the body to function at its best. Unfortunately, many of us don’t drink enough water each day. It’s recommended that men drink 125 ounces daily and women drink 91 ounces. Other sources suggest drinking half your body weight in ounces and 1 cup contains 8 ounces. If your water intake is low you can start slowly by increasing your intake by just adding 1 cup. Be sure to always talk to your doctor about water intake recommendations if you have any pre-existing conditions or health issues.

    A good guideline for adding lemon to your water is to include juice from two to three lemons in your daily water consumption. Around four to six tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice each day will give you about half of the RDA for vitamin C each day. This can be spread out over several glasses of water.

    Does lemon water have any side effects?

    There aren’t any serious side effects to be concerned about when it comes to lemon water, but there are some minor issues to understand. One of these is tooth enamel erosion. Because lemon juice is highly acidic, drinking lemon juice regularly may wear away the enamel of teeth. Many drinks, from sodas to orange juice, have similarly corrosive effects according to one study.

    The researchers advised, however, that this information should be weighed against the benefits of certain citrus fruit juices. If tooth enamel erosion is a concern, there are many steps you can take to minimize it while still enjoying the benefits of lemon water:

    • Use freshly squeezed lemons over bottled lemon juice concentrates
    • Rinse your mouth with plain water after drinking
    • Drink lemon water in one sitting rather than sipping over a long period of time
    • Use a straw

    It also should be noted that lemon juice may exacerbate occasional indigestion. If there’s a concern about these issues, it’s best to go slow and introduce one glass of water with a small amount of lemon juice in the morning to see how your body reacts, before incorporating it throughout the day.

    The bottom line

    Lemon water can provide many beneficial ingredients such as flavonoids and phytochemicals. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, making it a useful antioxidant that can help manage oxidative stress.

    Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to water can provide many benefits, from supporting kidney and digestion functions to helping with healthy weight management by promoting satiety. Since proper hydration is crucial to helping the body to function properly, adding lemon can help make the beverage more appealing.

    Because lemons are acidic, over time they may contribute to tooth enamel erosion, so it’s best to rinse with plain water after consuming highly-acidic drinks like lemon water.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.