There aren’t many things you can put in your mouth that will make you pucker quite as dramatically as fresh lemon juice. The extreme sourness is due mainly to the presence of organic acids such as citric and ascorbic acids. These acids along with the various vitamins and minerals in lemon juice provide numerous benefits for your body, although some side effects may occur if you have too much.
Rich in Some Vitamins and Minerals
Lemon juice is especially rich in vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, and folate, or vitamin B-9. Vitamin C is essential for making and repairing collagen, which is an elastic-like substance found in skin, ligaments, cartilage and many other tissues. Wrinkles, blemishes and sagging skin are common symptoms of vitamin C deficiency and lack of collagen production. Vitamin C is also important for a strong immune system. Folate has similar roles as vitamin B-12, which includes producing healthy red blood cells and stimulating metabolism. This vitamin is particularly important during pregnancy because it significantly reduces the risk of nervous system and spinal column deformities in newborns.
Lemon juice is also a very good source of potassium and phosphorus. Potassium is considered an electrolyte because it conducts electricity, which is important for relaying nerve impulses and moving fluid through the body. Phosphorus works in conjunction with calcium and is important for strong bones and teeth. It also allows the kidneys to filter waste out of the blood more efficiently.
It may be difficult to wrap your head around, but lemon juice actually alkalizes your body fluids once it’s digested and absorbed, despite the fact it contains many acids. That's right -- once ingested, it quickly alkalizes or reduces acidity in your body. In fact, virtually all fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices increase alkalinity. Alkalinity is beneficial because it’s associated with retarding the progression of many diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, and restricting the growth and proliferation of infectious micro-organisms. Alkaline fluids and tissues also conduct electrical nerve impulses better.
Drinking too much lemon juice may upset your stomach because it retains its high acidity level until further digested. Sometimes increasing stomach acidity is helpful for digesting food, but too much may temporarily irritate mucous membranes and lead to stomach pain and acid reflux or heartburn. To prevent this side effect, start with small amounts of lemon juice and consider drinking it with some food or diluting it with purified water.
Enamel Erosion and Canker Sores
Frequent contact of lemon juice with your teeth could damage and erode the protective enamel layer. Consider having diluted lemon juice and drinking it through a straw to be on the safe side. Citric and ascorbic acids are strong antimicrobials, which deter mouth infections, but drinking too much lemon juice can irritate mucous membranes and potentially lead to canker sores.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Human Biochemistry; Charles Dreiling
- Textbook of Functional Medicine; David S. Jones
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.