The Truth About Lemon Water in the Morning

THE BREAKDOWN

For the purpose of this article, the definition of lemon water is one glass of water mixed with the juice from half a lemon.

This is the nutrient breakdown for one glass:

  • Calories: 9.

  • Sugars: Less than 1 gram.

  • Vitamin C: 25% of the RDI.

  • Folate: 1% of the RDI.

  • Potassium: 1% of the RDI.

One glass does not seem to provide a lot of nutrients, but drinking lemon water is a low-calorie and low-sugar beverage that can boost your vitamin C intake.

For comparison, if you replaced half a lemon with half an orange, it would double the calories and sugar in your drink.

Additionally, remember that the exact nutritional value depends on how much lemon juice you add, as well as any other ingredients.

Bottom Line: Lemon water is high in vitamin C, relative to its calorie and sugar content. It also contains trace amounts of folate and potassium.

BENEFITS

Lemon water packs in a range of benefits.

Antioxidants

Lemon water contains other beneficial substances, and is a source of plant compounds called flavonoids.

Many have antioxidant properties that appear to help protect your cells from damage.

Flavonoids from citrus fruits are often linked with benefits for blood circulation, insulin sensitivity and other aspects of metabolic health.

Lemon flavonoids also have the potential to reduce oxidative stress and damage.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are solid mineral formations that collect in the kidneys.

The most common type is made of a substance called calcium oxalate, and is typically treated with a compound called citrate.

Increasing the amount of citrate in your urine is thought to prevent calcium from binding with other compounds and forming stones.

In short, citrate restores the urine's ability to prevent kidney stone formation.

Lemon water contains high amounts of citrate, and numerous human studies have found it can successfully help treat kidney stones.

It appears to be most effective when used alongside potassium citrate, the supplement form of citrate. However, lemon water may also be a good alternative for those who don't tolerate potassium citrate as a first-line treatment.

The benefits of water

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

Drinking plenty of water is known to have benefits for:

  • Weight loss: Increases feelings of fullness and boosts metabolism slightly, which can help with weight loss.

  • Mental health: Optimizes mood and memory.

  • Digestive health: Helps relieve constipation.

  • Exercise performance: Improves athletic performance.

DOES LEMON JUICE REALLY DELIVER?

After eight hours of Zs, a glass of H2O with a lemon slice is a great, low-cal (one slice contains two calories) way to start your morning, says registered dietitian Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “But the water part of lemon water is to thank for most of the science-backed benefits of lemon water,” he says.

Most people don't drink enough water, so when they up their H2O intake (with or without the slice of lemon), they’ll usually experience the so-called benefits of lemon water, such as decreased constipation, tighter skin, and weight loss, he explains.

While dehydration can slow metabolic rate, most lemon-water-linked weight loss happens when people use it to replace high-cal beverages like soda or fruit juice. Dehydration can also slow brain function to torpedo your energy levels and allow brain fog to set in, he says. (If your urine is light yellow or clear, you’re probably hydrated. But if it’s darker than that, you probably need to drink more water.)

But sipping any kind of water: hot, cold, flavored, or plain, will do the trick.

No, lemon water isn’t magical, says Delbridge, and so far there are no studies that support the claimed benefits of lemon water. And the lemon itself doesn’t actually provide a ton of nutritional value.

After all, even though lemons do contain vitamin C, and studies link vitamin C deficiency to poor immune function, lemons contain so little of the immunity-boosting nutrient that it likely won't make any impact on whether or not you catch a cold. According to the National Institutes of Health, women need about 75 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day, but a slice's-worth of lemon juice only has about one mg. If you also eat the pulp, you can get up to four mg, or 5 percent of your daily needs, says Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The same goes for lemon's flavonoids, antioxidants that research has shown to fight cancer, says Valdez. He says a glass of lemon water won't even hit 1 percent of your daily needs.

Meanwhile, the claims that lemon water detoxifies the body and, through its acidity, somehow alters blood pH, are flat-out false, says Delbridge. While the liver and kidneys tightly regulate the removal of toxins from your body, the lungs, kidneys, blood, and bones all work together to maintain your body's perfect pH. Translation: The foods you eat won't alter your pH whatsoever.

SIP THIS WAY

If you have trouble staying hydrated, aren't a fan of plain 'ole water, or are trying to cut back on high-calorie drinks, go ahead and try lemon water, recommend both Delbridge and Valdez.

That said, the acidic concoction is not for everyone. Drinking lemon water, especially in large amounts, can actually cause a burning sensation in your stomach, and can exacerbate the symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn, Valdez explains. Meanwhile, it can also weaken tooth enamel and irritate the gums, Delbridge says. So if you do want to try lemon water, drink it through a straw.

Bottom line: If you like the taste, go ahead and add some lemon to your morning glass of water. But don’t expect it to yield miracles. 

Sources: Women’s Health & Daily Medical Journal

Anna Cecilia