There’s a good reason to be a sourpuss, at least in the nutritional sense. A lemon wedge or a sprinkle of lemon juice may add a burst of flavor to your meal, but this tangy citrus fruit deserves to be a featured attraction on your plate. Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the sour lemon provides a few sweet perks for your health.
Virtually sodium and fat free, one medium lemon contains 17 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 40 percent of your daily recommendation of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant for immunity. Lemons also contain potassium, an electrolyte responsible for muscle contraction, water balance and blood pressure control. According to the American Heart Association, women are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure as they age. The Institute of Medicine recommends 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day for adults, double what most adults actually consume. One cup of fresh lemon adds 293 milligrams of potassium to your recipe.
Lemon juice contains many of the same nutrients as fresh lemon but in lower amounts. The juice from one medium lemon provides 11 calories, 49 milligrams of potassium and 25 percent of your daily recommendation of vitamin C. If you squirt lemon juice into your cup of tea in the morning, you may get an extra boost of antioxidants. According to a preliminary study by Purdue University, adding citrus juice to green tea preserves the tea's natural antioxidants during digestion, possibly increasing the body's absorption of these beneficial chemicals. Lemon juice performed the best of all the juices, preserving up to 80 percent of the antioxidants in green tea.
If you've ever been told that you need to boost your iron, the vitamin C in lemons can help you meet your needs. Iron carries oxygen through your bloodstream, and women need more iron than men due to blood loss from menstruation. Your body absorbs the iron in animal sources better than that of plant sources, but the vitamin C in lemons will help increase your iron absorption from the plant foods in your meal. The antioxidants in lemons may also provide future treatment options for certain medical conditions. In a study published by the “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition,” antioxidants in lemons reduced weight gain and obesity in mice. A study in the “Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry” concluded that natural chemicals in lemons lowered the risk of tumor growth, which may lead to future treatments for cancer.
Enjoy the benefits of this tasty citrus fruit by adding lemons and lemon juice to your meals. Squirt lemon juice on your salmon or chicken with a sprinkle of black pepper for a tangy and spicy entree. Add lemon wedges to your water for a refreshing drink, or pour a tablespoon of lemon juice into your smoothie for a tangy breakfast. Cook lemon juice with garlic, olive oil and white wine to make a light and tasty sauce for your pasta dish. If you need a quick side dish, top your baked potato with a squirt of fresh lemon and a handful of chopped chives.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Lemon, Raw, Without Peel
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: Lemon: Nutrition, Selection, Storage
- American Heart Association: Women and High Blood Pressure
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Potassium
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Lemon Juice, Raw
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Purdue University: Citrus Juice, vitamin C Give Staying Power to Green Tea Antioxidants
- Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in β-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue
- Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry: Identification of Coumarins From Lemon fruit (Citrus limon) as Inhibitors of In Vitro Tumor Promotion and Superoxide and Nitric Oxide Generation
- The Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.