Many sources claim that lemon water has powerful health and weight loss benefits, but what does the research say?

Lemon water is a popular home remedy, with online sources claiming that it can help improve digestion, detox the body, or promote weight loss.

This article uses scientific evidence to explore the benefits of and myths surrounding lemon water.

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The vitamin C in lemons is a powerful antioxidant.

Lemon water is simply the juice of lemons mixed with water.

The amount of lemon juice in lemon water depends on the person’s preference. People may drink it cold or hot.

Some people also choose to add lemon rind, mint leaf, honey, turmeric, or other ingredients.

Lemon water has become a popular morning beverage, with people using it as a refreshing pick-me-up due to claims that it can boost energy levels and metabolism.

Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. In fact, one squeezed lemon provides around 21% of a person’s daily value (DV).

Like other citrus fruits — including oranges, grapefruit, and limes — lemons are rich in flavonoids. These are compounds that help boost health and fight disease.

Aside from that, lemons contain few nutrients. Lemon water contains very little protein, fat, carbohydrate, or sugar, and it contains only trace amounts of other vitamins and minerals, including potassium, folate, and some B vitamins.

According to the United States Department for Agriculture database, the nutrient breakdown for lemon water containing one 48 gram (g) squeezed lemon is as follows:

  • 10.6 calories
  • 18.6 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, or 21% DV
  • 9.6 micrograms (mcg) of folate, or 2% DV
  • 49.4 mg of potassium, or 1% DV
  • 0.01 mg of vitamin B-1, or 1% DV
  • 0.01 mg of vitamin B-2, or 1% DV
  • 0.06 mg of vitamin B-5, or 1% DV

Although a single glass does not seem to provide a lot of nutrients, lemon water is a healthful, low calorie, and low sugar beverage that can boost a person’s vitamin C intake.

For comparison, replacing the lemon with the juice of half an orange (weighing 43 g) would provide almost twice as many calories, about three times as much sugar, and 24% DV of vitamin C.

The nutritional value of each glass of lemon water depends on how much lemon juice it contains, as well as any other ingredients.

Due to its high vitamin C levels, flavonoid content, and acidity, drinking lemon water may have several health benefits.

The following sections will discuss these in more detail.

Antioxidants and flavonoids

Lemons contain vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, and are a source of plant compounds called flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the body’s cells from damage. By reducing cell damage, antioxidants reduce the risk of many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

Antioxidants do this by mopping up free radicals, which are harmful, disease-causing compounds in the body created by oxidative stress.

Citrus flavonoids also reduce inflammation in the body.

Research has linked chronic inflammation with increased oxidative stress and the risk of certain health conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and cancer.

One 2019 review reports that the antioxidants and flavonoids in citrus fruits can improve heart health and metabolic health markers, including glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and fat metabolism.

Vitamin C is also important for immune system function, wound healing, and helping the body absorb iron from foods.

Read about the best foods for vitamin C here.

Kidney stones

Some studies suggest that drinking lemon water may help treat kidney stones. It appears to be most effective alongside conventional therapy, but it may also be a useful alternative treatment.

Kidney stones are a buildup of minerals that collect in the kidneys. They are usually made up of calcium oxate. The most common treatment is a compound called citrate.

Increasing the amount of citrate in the body prevents kidney stones from forming by stopping calcium from binding with other compounds.

Lemon water contains high amounts of citrate. According to a 2015 review, numerous studies have found that citrus fruits, including lemon, can increase urine levels of citrate, which may help treat kidney stones.

A lack of water in the body is a common cause of kidney stones. Drinking more water can therefore help prevent kidney stones, regardless of whether or not there is lemon in it.

The benefits of water

Lemon water is water with lemon juice added, which means that it has all the benefits of regular water.

Drinking plenty of water has benefits for:

  • Weight loss: It can increase feelings of fullness and boost metabolism slightly, which can help with weight loss.
  • Mental health: It can optimize mood and memory.
  • Digestive health: It can help relieve constipation.
  • Exercise performance: It can improve athletic performance.

Read more about the benefits of water here.

There are many other health claims surrounding lemon water, but most do not have any scientific evidence to support them. Research has even disproved some of them.

Below are six common myths about the health benefits of lemon water.

Lemon water aids weight loss

Lemons contain a type of fiber called pectin, which may help reduce appetite and calorie intake.

However, lemon water is basically diluted lemon juice, which leaves it with only trace amounts of pectin. In fact, the juice of a whole lemon contains less than 1 g of fiber.

There is no evidence to suggest that lemon water has any more benefits for weight loss than plain water.

That said, lemon juice is naturally low in calories. Replacing sugary soda with fresh lemon water is a healthful way to reduce calorie intake, which is a positive step toward healthful weight management.

Lemon water alkalizes the body

According to proponents of the alkaline diet, foods leave an “ash” in the system that influences the pH of a person’s body — that is, how acidic or alkaline it becomes.

Some suggest that lemon water is alkalizing. However, what a person eats or drinks does not affect the acidity of their blood or body cells.

Although consuming more alkaline foods can be healthful, because these include fruits and vegetables, the health benefits are unlikely to come from their effects on the body’s acidity levels.

Lemon water fights cancer

Some sources claim that lemon water could help prevent cancer. This is based on the alkaline diet theory and is built on the premise that certain cancer cells cannot thrive in an alkaline environment.

The American Institute for Cancer Research state that this claim is false, since the foods a person eats does not affect the acidity of their blood or body cells.

Lemon water cleanses and detoxes

Water helps eliminate waste from the body through urine and healthy bowel movements. However, there is no evidence to suggest that lemon water is better than plain water for this.

In fact, most claims that foods or beverages can cleanse or detoxify the organs are not grounded in scientific fact. That includes claims about the lemon water detox diet.

Lemon water raises IQ

Drinking water, either plain or with added lemon, can boost focus and concentration, but it does not increase intelligence.

Lemon water is a diuretic

Water is an effective diuretic, which is a substance that encourages urination. In addition, any food that contains potassium could increase urine output. That includes virtually all fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, including lemons.

Lemon water is safe to drink. However, the acid in the lemons can damage tooth enamel over time, making the teeth more prone to cavities.

Drinking acidic drinks through a straw can help protect the teeth. Rinsing the mouth out afterward will also help.

It may be best to avoid brushing the teeth straight after drinking lemon water, as the enamel may be in an acid-softened state. So, for people who like to drink lemon water in the morning, they may wish to brush their teeth before breakfast.

The best temperature at which to drink lemon water is a highly debated topic.

Some sources claim that drinking cold water helps burn extra calories. Others believe that warm water helps improve digestive health.

There is very little research to support either side, and it is unlikely that the temperature makes any meaningful difference. A person can simply choose the temperature that they prefer.

Most recipes suggest using the juice of a whole lemon or half a lemon mixed with a glass of water.

People can tweak the amounts from there or add other ingredients based on their preferences.

Lemon water is a healthful drink that can add a good amount of vitamin C to the diet. There are, however, plenty of unsupported health claims.

If a person already eats lots of fruits and vegetables and drinks plenty of fluids, lemon is unlikely to add any significant nutritional benefits. That said, it is a refreshing and healthful alternative to many other flavored drinks.