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Lemon Nutrition: A Guide To Calories, Vitamins, and Health Benefits in Lemons

Overhead view of box of lemons on a dark surface.  Lemon nutrition isn't just limited to using lemon as a garnish for dishes -- eating this citrus fruit has many health benefits.

Lemons are known for adding freshness and flavor to food and beverages. Who doesn’t love a cold glass of delicious lemonade on a hot day? However, lemons aren’t just a tasty source of vitamin C. They also pack a powerful nutritional punch.

Let’s go in-depth on lemon nutrition and explore some interesting ways to add more lemons to your diet.

Lemon Nutrition Facts

Closeup of lemon slices against whole lemons.  The health benefits of lemon nutrition are worth finding delicious ways to add lemons to your diet.
While most think of lemon slices as a garnish for food or drink, the benefits of lemon nutrition make it worth adding lemons to your diet.

When it comes to nature’s most nutritious foods, it’s hard to beat the simple lemon. Lemon nutrition is well-documented in scientific research. In fact, one lemon is chock-full of vitamins, essential nutrients, phytonutrients, minerals, and antioxidants. Let’s explore the nutrition content of lemons.

Vitamins In Lemons

Lemons and other citrus fruits are best known for being incredible sources of vitamin C. In fact, the juice from just one lemon provides 30.7 milligrams of vitamin C, which translates to 50% of the body’s recommended reference daily intake (RDI).

We all know that we need a healthy intake of vitamin C, and lemons pack a powerful nutritional punch. Here is the breakdown of the vitamins that are found in one whole lemon.

  • Lemon calories: 21.6
  • Fat: <1g
  • Vitamin C: 30.7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.4g
  • Fiber: 1.6g
  • Protein: 0.6g
  • Sodium: 1mg
  • Sugars: 1.5g
  • Potassium: 80mg
  • Vitamin A: 32.4 IU
  • Vitamin B6: 0.1mg

Carbs

The carbohydrates in lemons are mostly fiber (1.6g) and sugar (1.5g).

Furthermore, with a glycemic load of 1, lemons are a low-glycemic food.

Minerals

In addition to the vitamins listed above, lemons also contain trace amounts of the following minerals.

  • Iron
  • Thiamin
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium

Also, one lemon has about 94.4 grams of water, so it’s incredibly hydrating.

Fiber

Surprisingly, lemon pulp is an excellent source of dietary fiber. One lemon has approximately 1.6 grams of soluble fiber.

Antioxidants

Lemons are one of the best foods for vitamin C, which gives lemons powerful antioxidant properties.  Antioxidants may help lower disease incidence, including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, DNA damage, and even some cancers.

Why Lemons Are So Good For You

Bowl of lemon juice next to lemon halves on a cutting board.

We’ve shared at length the role of lemon in providing vitamin C, but there is a lot more to the lemon. A study conducted in 2018 was published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Engineering found that when lemons are added to other foods, they serve as an effective exigent food. 

What this means is that in addition to the nutritional value lemons add, they bring out further benefits in the foods with which they are combined. 

Specifically, the study referenced the carotenoids that are found in mashed or boiled carrots. When the carrots were combined with whey curd, olive oil, and lemon juice, the nutrients in the carrots were almost 30% more bioaccessible than carrots without the other foods added. 

The Amazing Health Benefits of Lemons

Below, we have listed some evidence-based nutritional benefits of lemons.

Prevention of Vitamin C Deficiency

Because one lemon provides about half of the amount of vitamin C you need every day, including lemons or lemon juice in your diet will help prevent vitamin C deficiency.

Heart Health Support

When you eat foods that are rich in vitamin C, you have a decreased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease caused by high blood pressure. And it’s not just the vitamin C in lemons that contribute to decreased coronary heart diseases. The plant compounds and fibers found in lemons also significantly lower some heart disease risk factors.

Lemons are an excellent source of citrus fiber. In terms of how citrus fiber affects your health, one study demonstrated that people who eat 24 grams daily of citrus fiber extract have reduced total blood cholesterol levels (including the bad LDL cholesterol) after one month.

Moreover, plant compounds that are in lemons — namely diosmin and hesperidin — are known to lower cholesterol.

Possible Aid in Weight Control

Theories abound as to the benefit of lemons for people who are trying to lose weight. However, there is some basis in fact. Research has shown that the plant compounds present in lemon extract may actually help people reduce or prevent weight gain.

Increased Immune Function

It’s commonly known that vitamin C plays a significant role in immune function. Some studies have shown that taking vitamin C supplements can even reduce the duration of a cold.

Decreased Age-Related Decline

Because vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants, eating lemons could slow down age-related decline. Some evidence suggests that vitamin C and other antioxidants help improve the health of the skin. Also, antioxidants may help prevent some types of diseases that are commonly associated with growing older.

Help with Liver Disease

A 2017 study on animals suggested that consuming lemons may help with livers that have been damaged. Rodents in the study had liver damage from alcohol consumption, and after consuming lemon juice, they showed improved liver function. 

Possible Cancer Prevention

Studies have confirmed that a balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits may help prevent certain types of cancer.

The National Cancer Institute says that increased antioxidant levels may help prevent free radical damage that is often associated with the development of cancer cells.

Moreover, some animal studies have determined that subjects that eat a lot of citrus fruit tend to have a decreased risk of cancer. More studies on humans are needed.

Kidney Stone Prevention

Bowl of whole lemons with a lemon half in the foreground.

Kidney stones form when waste products crystallize and slowly build up in the kidneys. Because citric acid increases urine volume and increases the pH of urine, consuming foods that have citric acid may help you to prevent kidney stones.

The good news is that simply consuming the equivalent of four ounces of lemon juice every day may provide sufficient citric acid to aid in kidney stone prevention.

Improved Digestive Health

Lemons have carbs that are in the form of simple sugars and soluble fiber. In lemons, the main fiber present is pectin, which has been linked to numerous health benefits.

When we consume soluble fiber, our gut health improves and the digestion of starches and sugars slows down. Overall, this can all help reduce blood sugar levels.

There is a caveat. To enjoy the fiber benefits of lemons, you need to eat the pulp.

Protection Against Anemia

Anemia occurs when you don’t get sufficient iron from foods you consume. While lemons contain trace amounts of iron, the magic happens because of how citric acid and vitamin C improve how your body absorbs iron from the foods you eat.

Antimicrobial Properties

In a book published in 2017, the case was made for the antimicrobial properties of lemons. Specifically, the book described how lemon peel solvents showed antimicrobial activity against staphylococcus, salmonella, and other pathogenic bacteria. 

Also, a 2017 study found that sweet lemon juice that had been fermented demonstrated antibacterial activity against the deadly E. coli bacteria. 

What About Sugar?

One whole lemon has only 1.5 grams of sugar. 

Other Side Effects and Health Risks of Lemons

Are there side effects of eating lemons?

Allergic Reactions

Citrus allergy is uncommon, but it can affect some people. If you’re allergic to other citrus fruits, avoid lemon or products that are made of lemon zest or lemons in general.

Also, there have been reports of asthma reactions from some people with this health condition who inhaled orange or lemon peel.

Teeth Enamel Damage

Acidic fruits and vegetables take a toll on tooth enamel. Specifically, the acid found in lemon juice can strip your tooth enamel and make them sensitive or weak.

If you drink lemon water, sip it through a straw to minimize contact with your teeth.

Heartburn and Gastric Reflux

Another problem that can occur with consuming too much lemon juice is heartburn or gastric reflux problems in people who struggle with this health condition. 

Simple Healthy Lemon Recipes

Frozen lemons filled with lemon ice cream -- a sweet and delicious way to enjoy the benefits of lemon nutrition.
Lemons filled with lemon ice cream (click for ice cream recipe).

There are so many ways to use lemons in the kitchen. One thing that we love to do is make homemade lemonade. For a different twist, try using lemons to make this Easy Homemade Cherry Limeade recipe. 

For a more adult drink, we recommend this Cherry Vodka Sour Cocktail. The recipe calls for the juice of one whole lemon, vodka, grenadine, cherries, and sparkling lemon water. Nothing screams a warm summer evening sitting on the porch quite like this delicious beverage. 

Another favorite recipe on our website is our Eggless Lemon Plum Cake. With sweetened condensed milk, butter, vanilla, plums, and lemon zest, this will please your family at Sunday dinner. 

Homemade Lemonade

Hands using a wooden lemon squeezer to squeeze lemon juice into a bowl.  Lemonade made from freshly squeezed  lemons will get the whole family to enjoy lemon nutrition.

One of the best ways to enjoy fresh lemon juice and up your vitamin C levels is to make homemade lemonade. Here is a quick and easy recipe. 

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 medium-sized lemons (or 1 1/2 cups of fresh lemon juice)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 cups of water (divided)

Instructions:

  1. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil the mixture until the sugar completely dissolves. 
  2. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.
  3. Strain the juice from the lemons through a sieve into a pitcher. Add the cooled simple syrup and stir. Refrigerate the mixture until it’s cold. 
  4. Add 2 1/2 cups of cold water when you’re ready to serve your homemade lemonade. 
  5. Garnish with orange slices or fresh mint. 

Lemon Water

Woman pouring lemon water from a carafe into a glass.

One of the easiest ways to get your daily dose of lemons is by drinking lemon water. To make lemon water, you can squeeze fresh lemon juice into a glass (or jug) of water and sip throughout the day.

Alternatively, you can use store-bought lemon juice to achieve the same results. Be sure that the lemon juice you buy doesn’t have any added ingredients. Here are the ways drinking lemon water can help improve your health.

FAQ

Below, we have compiled some of the most commonly asked questions about lemon nutrition and how to enjoy lemons. 

How can lemons benefit your health?

Lemons are full of essential vitamins, plant compounds, and fiber that provide amazing health benefits. 

Lemon juice: are there health benefits?

The juice of a lemon has all of the same benefits as consuming whole lemons except for one. To benefit from the wonderful soluble fiber in lemons, you have to eat the pulp. 

When are lemons in season?

Lemons are grown all over the world, and you can buy lemons year-round. However, lemons are in peak season during the summer.

Conclusion

Few things liven up our food and beverages more than the wonderful lemon. Whether you’re just sipping lemon water to up your vitamin C intake or making a lemon pie, there are countless ways to enjoy this delicious citrus fruit. 

If you have questions or a suggestion for adding lemons to your diet, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Curious about other fruit nutrition? Click here for more articles about the nutritional value and benefits of other kinds of fruit.