Lemons are becoming rapidly more and more famous for current health crazes. They are distinguishable by the bright yellow colour and sour kick from the juice, flesh, oil and zest, not only does it offer many flavours in foods, whether that be for sweet or savoury foods but also provides benefits to our health. This post is going to be all about how lemons can benefit our health and some of the science behind it.
Lemons (Citrus Limon), comes from a small evergreen tree which originates in Asia, firstly found in north-east India, north Burma and China this is due to the tropical conditions needed for the growth of the fruit. Later on spreading throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and America. Lemons are useful for many different things, obviously food preparation and cooking, cleaning and also medicinal use e.g. aromatherapy.
The sourness of lemon comes from citric acid, lemons are made up of 5-6% of the acid giving it a pH of 2.2. It can be used as a short-term preservative to prevent the browning of fruits such as apples, bananas and avocados as the citric acid denatures the enzymes which slows the browning reactions. In terms of health citric acid aids the digestion of food and dissolves kidney stones. Citric acid is also used on an industrial level, in ice cream as an emulsifier to bind the fats and also in soft drinks, this can appear in a powdered form.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is the main vitamin found in many citrus fruits, vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant and it’s used for many processes in the body. One of the main diseases linked with inefficient vitamin C intake is scurvy, this is to do with turning pro-collagen into collagen which is involved in bone structure. In 1747 James Lind experimented on seamen who suffered from scurvy, finding that if the juice of a lemon was added to their diet the symptoms of scurvy became less so, however Vitamin C was unknown at this point. – The lucky bit is scurvy is rarely heard of these days!
The antioxidants fund in vitamin C can minimise the damage of tissues caused by free radicals in the body – (radicals can be formed when the skin is exposed to sunlight, without protection). Also ascorbic acid is a part of collagen production, collagen is a protein in the body used for structure of tissues, meaning more collagen less wrinkles and glowing skin!
Fat digestion & weight loss
Lemon can help the body digest fats by lipid synthesis, this is where fats that we eat are converted into useful molecules for the body to use such as phospholipids, also the breakdown of fats for energy. Antioxidants called hesperidin and diosmin are associated with circulatory improvements, although hesperidin is specifically linked with lipid metabolism and glucose regulation which improve hyperglycemia (lots of glucose in the blood – can lead to diabetes).
A molecule called D-limonene and quercetin can support weight loss as it helps the bio-production and breakdown of fats. The citric acid in lemons helps slow the absorption of nutrients of foods, meaning we get more out of the food we consume, which in turn means less bloating! Lemons contain a fibre called pectin which tells our bodies we are full, this is super useful for after we’ve eaten as our bodies stay full for longer, which can help prevent over eating too.
Immune booster & fights allergies
Lemons as we know are an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is directly linked to improving immunity by increasing white blood cell production to prevent and fight diseases, like flu’s and colds. Vitamin C also has shown to have chemo-protective properties to help prevent the risk of cancers. Antioxidants found in lemons (quercetin) have been found to fight allergies and reduce inflammation, which could lead to heart disease and arthritis. D-limonene
Digestion and detoxification
Lemon juice can trick the stomach into producing digestive juices for digestion, this is because the lemon juice has similar chemical structures to the juices in the stomach, this makes the liver produce bile to keep food flowing through the body (GI tract). After a meal, lemons can come in quite handy if you suffer from indigestion. The sourness of lemon is said to be linked with cleansing and detoxing the liver and gallbladder. The lymphatic system is hugely benefited by lemons, as the D-limonene is linked with the drainage of lymph nodes, this could be when ill.
So how do I combine this into my diet
There are a number of ways to use lemon when cooking, whether that be the juice, flesh or zest. Although lemon gives a sour taste, it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
- Cheesecakes & cake- I recently did a cheesecake recipe with limes, instead to switch it to lemons Click here to find my recipe!
- Salad dressing – A lovely health salad with a squeeze of lemon, definitely a low sugar & low fat option!
- Lemon infused water & ice cubes – Just add a few slices of lemon to your water bottle & drinks… don’t forget on nights out, vodka, lemonade & squeeze of lemon! Or simply pour the juice into a ice tray and freeze, adding to drinks when you please.
- Preserve fruit – Fruits like apple and banana when open to the air can turn brown, due to the enzymes reacting with oxygen, however lemon prevents this due to the acidity of the fruit, so for lunch tomorrow chop up some apple with a shimmy of lemon juice whack it in a box and away you go.
- Meat & fish marinade – When baking this works really well, also check out a collaboration post I did as an example Spiced Spanish chicken with lemon rice.
- Lemon sorbets and ice creams – These are perfect for a lower calorie dessert, easy to make and lasts a long time.
- Pasta sauce alternative – Sometimes pasta sauces can be overwhelming, but simple pasta dishes are often the best & the tastiest.
- Tray baked veggies – All the veg on a baking tray with herbs and lemon, Voilà!
- Homemade curds and marmalade – Again perfect on bread and crackers, delicious to make from scratch.
- Rice & grains – Rice, couscous, Bulgar wheat, quinoa all great as apart of mains, sides, salads. Couscous especially takes on added flavours really well – better than adding stock cube with loads of salt!
How else can I make use of lemon?
- Air freshener: Combine baking soda, lemon juice, essential oils, warm water, use as a spray
- Cleaning: Great for stains and odours, spray lemon juice onto the effected area, soak and wipe.
- Exfoliate: Lemon juice and sugar scrub removing dead cells and freshen skin
- Spots, scars and wrinkles reduced: Dabbing on lemon juice and flesh onto the effected areas
- Lightening hair, Dandruff management & a natural shine to hair: Add the juice of a lemon and olive oil together and apply using a spray bottle
- Achy feet & corn: Soaking feet in water and lemon juice, to help corns rub lemon onto it
- Aromatherapy:Simply smelling lemon essential oils can reduce hunger cravings.
- Nail strengthener: Soak nails in a lemon juice and olive oil mixture, great if your nails are damaged from falsies or weak generally
- Tooth cleanser, whitener and breath freshener: Helps neutralise the bacteria in your mouth due to low pH, however due to the high acidity of the lemon juice can reduce the enamel of teeth and increase the risk of cavities so avoid brushing with it
- Aids sunburn, however not to be worn in the sun! – Photosensitive so it can actually cause sunburn but helps sooth the burning and reducing the sting due to high amounts of vitamin C
This post took me longer than expected to out together, however… it’s definitely my favourite one so far, after all the research and reading I’ve got a lot out of it, I hope you did too! Super excited to add more posts like these to The Food Bible. I started with lemon because it’s probably my favourite I love it and as shown it’s obviously very good for our health.
Let me know what you think!
Do you like lemon as much as me?