It’s Nutrition and Hydration Week (March 13-19), so what better topic to dissect than water – and not just any old water but lemon water! Drinking lemon water has become the latest health craze to sweep the nation, with restaurants and health stores getting in on the act. But do the purported benefits of drinking lemon water stand up to scrutiny? Read on to find out.
What the Hell is Lemon Water?
If the viral storm has passed you by, you might be wondering what lemon water is in the first place. Surely it’s more scientific than a few wedges of lemon added to a glass of water…isn’t it?
Actually, lemon water is as simple and easy to prepare as it sounds, and can be enjoyed with cold, lukewarm or boiling water. Though precious little research has been conducted to assess the claims made by devotees of the hipster’s elixir, there’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence supporting at least some of the supposed benefits.
Before we launch into the frequently-cited benefits of drinking lemon water, it’s worth talking about lemons themselves. The sour-tasting citrus fruit is rich in many valuable nutrients, not least vitamin C, an antioxidant known to protect cells from harmful free radicals. Amazingly, a single cup of fresh lemon juice yields 187% of your daily recommended vitamin C!
Vitamin C is synonymous with lemons, but it turns out that the fruit is loaded with other valuable plant compounds, flavonoids, B-complex vitamins, minerals and essential oils. It also contains pectin, a soluble fibre known for its ability to lower blood sugar levels by decelerating the digestion of sugar and starch. Pectin also helps you feel full.
The Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water: Fact or Fiction?
Since it’s Nutrition and Hydration Week, it’s worth stating that the main benefit of drinking lemon water concerns hydration. Dehydration remains a very real issue, with one 2014 study showing that the majority of us drink just one glass of a water a day (the official recommendation is eight). If news about the benefits of drinking lemon water motivate you to regularly refill your glass, it can only be a good thing!
As to the specific benefits, some would appear to have genuine merit. For example, the citric acid in lemons has been shown to decrease the risk of kidney stones by diluting urine and increasing urine output. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition identified polyphenol antioxidants from lemons as being responsible for reducing weight gain caused by a high-fat diet. Further evidence is needed – the study’s subjects were mice, not humans – but you can find countless examples of dieters who credit lemon water for fat loss.
Lemons can also increase peristalsis in the bowels, facilitating bowel movements and helping you eliminate waste. If you have indigestion, constipation or an upset stomach, a glass of lemon water might be just what you need.
It’s easy to see that most of the benefits of drinking lemon water stem from its high concentration of vitamin C, which as well as reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and low blood pressure could also help with skin wrinkling. This is because vitamin C is instrumental in the process of collagen production. Furthermore, hitting your daily vitamin C has been shown to protect the immune system from colds and flu.
Making Lemon Water is Easy
It might not be possible to back up every single claim made about lemon water, but there’s enough evidence to indicate that drinking it is generally good for our health. Try squeezing fresh lemon into water as a replacement for your morning coffee, and if that doesn’t quite hit the spot, don’t hesitate to add a sprig of mint or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Of course, if you're drinking lemon juice for the sole purpose of elevating your pH (though chemically acidic, lemons have an alkalising effect when metabolised), it would be more effective to simply invest in a high-quality alkaline filter jug or filtration system.