Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 11, 2021
Add a Dash of Flavor
Whether you squeeze the juice into water or onto a tasty fish dish, these tangy citrus treats provide you with the same vitamins and minerals as other citrus fruits. The best part: They do it with less sugar.
Keep Wrinkles at Bay
It’s all that vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid. Your body can’t create it, so you have to get it from food. It helps make collagen, which keeps your skin springy and full. Without enough, it’ll start to wrinkle. Sure, that’s also a natural part of aging, but you can slow it down with the right vitamins and nutrition.
Rev You Up
Thiamin and riboflavin, part of a group of vitamins called B complex, turn your food into the energy you need. They also help the cells in your body to grow and do their jobs. Just one medium sized lemon or lime gives you a small portion of what you need every day.
Serve Up Antioxidants
Vitamin C, flavonoids, phenolic acids, essential oils, and coumarins are all plentiful in lemons and limes. They’re part of a team of superhero substances called antioxidants. They band together to fight the bad guys -- free radicals -- which damage your cells and lead to diseases and other health problems.
Help Your Baby Grow
They have a small amount of a B vitamin called folate. It helps little ones form in the womb. Cells use it to divide to make more cells. It also creates genetic material in both your bodies that tells your baby's cells how to build their body.
Kill Nasty Bugs
Their high acid content adds the perfect sour bite to your salad greens. It also helps kill salmonella bacteria that might be on your food, your cutting board, or your kitchen counter. That might be the difference between a pleasant evening and a long, long night. Don’t plan on scrubbing the bathroom with it, but if you want to make sure your greens are clean, a half vinegar, half lemon juice mix should zap most of the bacteria in about 15 minutes.
Lower Blood Pressure
Both the juice and the peel of lemons or limes can do the trick. Squeeze some in your water before and after you go for a walk. You may get more benefit from each. Talk to your doctor if you take blood pressure drugs or other meds. Citrus can interfere with them. Never adjust medication unless the doctor tells you to.
While there’s no evidence that lemons or limes can fight cancer you already have, they’re full of antioxidants that may help keep you from getting it in the first place. This is particularly true for cancer of the liver, bone, stomach, breast, and colon.
Pump Up Your Heart
It’s all about those flavonoids. Work more of them into your life and you’re less likely to get heart disease. That’s partly because they help keep the fats and sugars in your blood at healthy levels. Too much of either is bad for your blood vessels.
Boost Your Brain
Lemons and limes have special chemicals that may keep brain cells safe from toxic substances in your body. And because they also protect against general cell breakdown and inflammation, they may help reduce some of the risk of brain diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Keep Gums Healthy
Swollen, bleeding gums and loose teeth are signs of scurvy. It was common long ago when people didn’t have easy access to foods with vitamin C. But you could get it now if you’re older, a smoker, have a low income, or are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Before you chow down on citrus to prevent it, know this: Citric acid is good for what ails you but bad for tooth enamel. Wait at least 30 minutes after you eat or drink something with acid before you brush your teeth.
Get You Over That Cold
It’s a myth that the vitamin C in lemons and limes will prevent a cold. But you do need it to keep your immune system running at peak levels. Taking it at the first sign of the sniffles may help you feel better faster.
Improve Your Cholesterol
A daily mixture of garlic and lemon juice could be good news for people with high cholesterol. Unhealthy levels are linked to hardening of the arteries (your doctor will call it atherosclerosis), which can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Lose Weight -- Maybe
Polyphenols, a special kind of antioxidant found in lemons and limes, may hold off weight and body fat gain. Scientists think these substances change the way your body processes fat and improve its response to insulin. But before you load up on lemon water, know that this study was done on mice, not people.
Prevent Kidney Stones
If you’ve ever had one of these painful little rocks block the tubes you use to pee, chances are you’re already halfway to the local lemonade stand. The stones form when minerals in your body clump together. Substances called citrates in lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits can help stop this buildup.
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National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Folate,” “Thiamin,” “Vitamin C.”
Cleveland Clinic: “An Overview of Your Skin.”
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery: “Wrinkles.”
Michigan Medicine: “Vitamin B-Complex.”
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype.”
Chemistry Central Journal: “Citrus fruits as a treasure trove of active natural metabolites that potentially provide benefits for human health.”
USDA: “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28: Basic Report: 09150, Lemons, raw, without peel,” “Basic Report: 09159, Limes, raw.”
International Journal of Food Microbiology: “Effectiveness of household natural sanitizers in the elimination of Salmonella typhimurium on rocket (Eruca sativa Miller) and spring onion (Allium cepa L.).”
Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: “Effect on Blood Pressure of Daily Lemon Ingestion and Walking.”
Journal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine: “Effect of lemon juice on blood pressure.”
University of Arkansas Medical Sciences: “Do lemons and lemon juice cure cancer?”
Journal of Medicinal Food: “Citric Acid Effects on Brain and Liver Oxidative Stress in Lipopolysaccharide-Treated Mice.”
NHS Choices: “Scurvy.”
Mayo Clinic: “When and how often should you brush your teeth?”
Medizinische Monatsschrift für Pharmazeuten: “[Vitamin C and immune function].”
International Journal of Preventative Medicine: “Effect of Garlic and Lemon Juice Mixture on Lipid Profile and Some Cardiovascular Risk Factors in People 30-60 Years Old with Moderate Hyperlipidaemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial.”
American Heart Association: “HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides.”
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 Urology: “Long-term lemonade based dietary manipulation in patients with hypocitraturic nephrolithiasis.”