You’ve probably heard that lemon water is an all-purpose panacea, capable of doing everything from making a sore throat feel less sore (which, happily, it can actually do) to curing cancer (a claim for which there is no scientific evidence whatsoever).
When you consider what lemon water is — water and lemon juice — the fact that it gets to wear a "health halo" shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, water is the human body’s best source of hydration, according to Harvard’s The Nutrition Source, assuming, of course, that your drinking water is safe for consumption.
In addition, lemon juice is rich in vitamins, including vitamin C and folate, and minerals like potassium. It also boasts dietary fiber and phytonutrients, which help support health and immunity. At the same time, lemon juice is low in calories and carbohydrates. So, the question is: What can drinking lemon juice do for your body, and what can it not? Read on to learn the ways your body changes when you drink lemon water every day.
Drinking lemon water every day can help protect you from heart disease
Cardiovascular disease refers to a number of conditions associated with the heart and circulatory system, the most notorious of which is myocardial infarction, or heart attack. According to a 2020 study published in the scientific journal Cardiovascular Therapies, cardiovascular disease is one of the most serious threats to public health because it comes with a high risk of death. In fact, it is the leading cause of mortality worldwide.
One of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease is high blood pressure. But if you’ve been drinking lemon water every day, you could be lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering your risk of high blood pressure. This is because lemons are a good source of vitamin C, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure, according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Additionally, a 2020 meta-analysis of existing scientific literature on the topic indicates that people with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood are less likely to have high blood pressure.
If you’ve been drinking lemon water every day, you could be reducing your risk of stroke
Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. A stroke is essentially an interruption of blood supply to the brain, resulting in cell death to affected brain cells. Strokes can happen at any age, although the risk increases with age, and can lead to permanent disability or death.
Drinking lemon water every day could just reduce your stroke risk because lemons contain vitamin C. A 2013 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that higher blood levels of vitamin C are associated with a significantly lower risk of stroke. Higher blood levels of vitamin C are also associated with a lower your risk of high blood pressure, which is, itself, a major risk factor for stroke.
Lemon water may also reduce your risk of stroke because it contains folic acid, which has been found to potentially offer a "modest" level of protection against stroke risk, according to a 2010 study published in The European Journal of Internal Medicine.
Drinking lemon water daily can help reduce inflammation
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to a wide variety of health threats, including those from toxins, allergens, pathogens, and injury. As functional a response as inflammation is, however, when it becomes chronic, even at low levels, it can lead to a number of other threats to health, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and various cancers, among other conditions.
Fortunately, if you drink lemon water every day, your body may experience less inflammation. That’s because lemons are a great source of — you guessed it — vitamin C, which studies show has anti-inflammatory properties.
For example, in a 2015 study published in the scientific journal, Drug Design, Development and Therapy, scientists recruited 64 people who had both obesity and either diabetes or high blood pressure. For a period of eight weeks, half were given vitamin C supplements, and half were not. At the end of those eight weeks, the levels of inflammatory markers in those who had taken vitamin C were significantly lower than they had been at the start. By contrast, those who had not supplemented with vitamin C showed no such change.
You may lower your risk of metabolic syndrome if you start drinking lemon water every day
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to one-third of all American adults have metabolic syndrome. That is, a group of risk factors for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and excess belly fat. Each of these conditions, alone, can lead to serious health consequences. For example, high blood pressure is associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke. However, when these conditions occur together as they do in metabolic syndrome, the risk of serious health consequences is even greater.
One simple way to reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome, even if you already have one or more of the underlying conditions, is by increasing vitamin C intake, according to a 2018 study published in the scientific journal, Redox Biology. Since lemons are rich in vitamin C, drinking lemon water can help you to maintain healthy levels of vitamin C to reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome. For people already dealing with metabolic syndrome, lemon water can help prevent further loss of vitamin C that cell damage associated with metabolic syndrome can exacerbate.
Drinking lemon water daily can help support optimal gut health
"When the gut is happy, you’re happy," Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann of the infectious diseases division at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital told the Harvard Men’s Health Watch. By a "happy" gut, Dr. Hohmann was referring to a healthy digestive tract lined with an ample supply of good gut bacteria. Having a healthy, well-colonized digestive tract can help prevent digestive disorders. But a healthy gut is also associated with a lower risk of many diseases and conditions that are not, strictly speaking, "digestive" in nature. These include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, certain cancers, insomnia, depression, and anxiety disorder.
Getting into the habit of drinking lemon water on a daily basis can help ensure a steady supply of vitamin C, which is crucial to gut health, according to Maret Traber, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and Ava Helen Pauling, a professor at Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute (via Integrative Practitioner). In addition, a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports suggested that consuming lemon juice (as opposed to other sources of vitamin C) can help improve gut health.
Lemon water may just encourage you to up your fluid intake
The human body is comprised of 60 percent water on average, and some organs and systems — like the brain, heart and lungs — have an even higher water content. The body loses fluids just by breathing, digesting food, and regulating body temperature, according to The Nutrition Source, not to mention in the course of lubricating joints and tissues, fighting threats (toxins, allergens, injuries, and pathogens), and maintaining healthy skin and other organs.
Men are advised to drink 104 ounces daily, whereas women should look to get 72 ounces every day. That said, our hydration demands increase with physical exertion and other stressors, according to the American Heart Association. Water remains the gold standard of hydration, but that doesn’t mean you have to drink glass after glass of it plain. If adding an ounce or so of lemon to your water encourages you to drink more, then it’s well worth the effort, according to Healthline.
Drinking lemon water every day may help you lose weight
Weight loss happens when we eat fewer calories than we expend. Interestingly, drinking lemon water can help support weight loss simply because water (with or without lemon) can help to reduce your physical sensation of hunger, and thus, your urge to eat, licensed dietitian Monica Reinagel revealed in an article for Quick and Dirty Tips.
Drinking water before a meal, for example, has been shown to decrease the number of calories you consume during the meal and, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking two glasses of water with a meal can reduce feelings of hunger and satiety. The effects do diminish once the meal is over, however.
Although you could get these benefits from just plain water, you may find the flavor of lemon water makes the drink a tastier substitute for high-calorie sodas and fruit juices than just plain water. And with this swap, you’ll cut back on additional calories and up your water intake. This is helpful considering dehydration has been associated with increased appetite. The reason is that people often mistake thirst for hunger, registered dietitian Elizabeth Dejulius told Time.
Drinking lemon water every day can support healthier eyes and better vision
Carotenoids are phytonutrients, a nutrient that is not vital to sustaining life but nevertheless beneficial. Carotenoids, in particular, support healthy eyes and good vision. Carotenoids are typically found in bright red, yellow, and orange plants, but the carotenoids in many fruits and vegetables are not readily absorbed by the human body. This is not the case with lemons, however.
Lemons are not only rich in carotenoids, but they also help the body to absorb carotenoids from other foods, including carrots. When carrots were combined with lemon juice and olive oil as part of a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Engineering, their carotenoids were nearly 30 percent more bioavailable, or able to be absorbed.
Drinking lemon water daily can help discourage the formation of kidney stones
All citrus fruits are rich in citric acid, but lemons have more citric acid than any other fruit. This makes lemon juice uniquely beneficial to those prone to developing kidney stones. Kidney stones are crystallized minerals and salts that can form inside your kidneys as a result of poor diet or dehydration, among other causes. Kidney stones are "passed" (excreted) through the urinary tract, and the process is painful. Therefore, it’s best to avoid developing kidney stones in the first place.
How? One way to help prevent kidney stones from forming is to drink lemon juice daily (specifically, the juice of two lemons, diluted in water), Dr. Brian Eisner, co-director of the Kidney Stone Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, told Harvard Health Blog. This helps flood the urinary tract with citric acid, which makes the urine inhospitable to the development of stones. Although citric acid is available pharmacologically, getting it in its natural form (from lemon juice) is better, according to the University of Wisconsin Hospital Metabolic Stone Clinic.
Drinking lemon water every day may be your first step toward making healthier choices
Once you have developed a daily habit of squeezing lemons and drinking your lemon water each day, you might find that it has become a comforting ritual of sorts, akin to a daily meditation or yoga practice. In that sense, drinking your daily glass of lemon water can become an exercise in mindfulness — that is, the quality of being fully present in any given moment, not just physically but mentally. This can benefit both your body and your mind.
Yes, drinking lemon water daily can even serve as self-care, which psychologists define as fundamental to well-being. "Many people report that this practice —which has long been a part of traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda — makes them feel more in tune with their bodies and helps them make healthier choices throughout the day," licensed dietitian Monica Reinagel wrote of lemon water in an article for Quick and Dirty Tips.
You’ll be giving a boost to your immune system by drinking lemon water every day
Lemon water is a great source of vitamin C, which is crucial to immune system function. A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that supplementing with vitamin C can reduce some people’s chances of catching the common cold. Another study published that same year in a German scientific journal demonstrated that supplementing with vitamin C can help slightly reduce the duration of the common cold in people who do happen to catch the illness. Interestingly, a 2017 study published in Nutrients suggested that the level of vitamin C required to treat an existing cold or other infection is significantly higher than the level required to prevent infection.
In addition, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help the body to fight free radicals, which are a byproduct of your body’s contending with environmental toxins. Free radicals play a role in causing heart disease, various cancers, and other serious and life-threatening diseases and conditions.
Lemon water supports your immune system, but it won’t cure this infectious disease
One of the more pervasive myths surrounding coronavirus is that drinking lemon water can somehow prevent COVID-19, or even cure an active case. The "logic" behind this myth is that even though lemon is acidic, it has an alkalizing effect on the body, which makes the body a less hospitable environment for the novel coronavirus. However, there is no actual scientific evidence to suggest that lemon has enough of an alkalizing effect to have any impact on the coronavirus, according to Michael Kann, professor of clinical virology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, told Euronews.
Aiming to dispel myths, the Word Health Organization revealed on its site, "Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot cure COVID-19." Although the organization listed zinc and vitamins D and C as "critical for a well-functioning immune system" and confirmed they "play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well-being," they reiterated that micronutrients are not a cure. "There is currently no guidance on the use of micronutrient supplements as a treatment of COVID-19," the WHO clarified.
Drinking lemon juice daily can help freshen your breath
Lemon juice has been shown to inhibit the growth of the bacteria responsible for cholera. It has also been shown to inhibit the growth of the bacteria E. coli, which causes intestinal distress, among other things. Additionally, a 2017 study published in the scientific journal, Food Control, demonstrated that lemon juice can be effective in inhibiting the growth of the carcinogenic fungi known as aflatoxin B1.
While lemon juice has been explored as a potential drinking water additive for areas lacking water treatment plants, drinking lemon juice has not been proven to be an effective or suitable way to kill germs that live inside the human body, including in the mouth. That being said, drinking lemon water can help treat bad breath.
According to the dental professionals at Galvez Dental, the acidity in lemon juice causes your salivary glands to produce more saliva, which can fight germs that cause bad breath. Conversely, conditions that cause dry mouth are associated with bad breath.
Drinking lemon water every day can potentially put your teeth at risk
While drinking lemon water every day can help support fresh breath and may even support dental health (by increasing salivary flow), lemon’s acidity means that it can erode tooth enamel, which can cause teeth to appear yellow and become sensitive. In fact, a 2015 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One demonstrated that lemon juice may be more damaging to dental enamel than Coca-Cola, which has been known for some time to be damaging to teeth.
However, it is possible to drink lemon water daily while taking measures to protect your teeth from damage. According to the dental professionals at Ethos Orthodontics, drinking your lemon water out of a straw can help the lemon water bypass your teeth. Rinsing your mouth with water right after drinking lemon water can also help to remove any lingering acid. And whatever you do, do not brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after drinking lemon water, which is when the enamel is most vulnerable to the damage aggressive brushing can cause.