Lemon Water: What’s True
and not so true…
I love being asked by CARE members to dissect nutrition tidbits that they find on social media. Lemon water is one of those such tidbits that circulate every few years and is back in full swing. When asked to dissect general lists of benefits for lemon water, here was my reply.
With Lemon Water, Here’s What Is True
- Acids like lemon juice and vinegar do stimulate the secretion of stomach acid aiding digestion.
- We do become mildly dehydrated during the night (severity depends on status before bed), so water (with or without lemon) is very beneficial (water is also needed for the production of saliva and stomach acid both of which also strengthen digestion).
- Hydration is essential to proper and regular elimination (bowel movements) so incorporating this ritual of starting the day hydrated will improve regularity. Warm beverages can have a mild laxative effect for some and can help stimulate the movement. Also, just the ritual of having warm water and expecting the bowel movement will actually help improve regularity.
- Incorporating a perceived ‘healthy ritual’ each morning also increases our mindfulness and body awareness which has many health benefits. This mindfulness also has a ‘halo effect’ that will actually impact your food selections at upcoming meals and could actually even make you become more active – again from the perceived benefits of the ritual. This effect is called a ‘confounder’ in research studies.
- Replacing excess intake of caffeine (>300mg), soda, or sugar-rich beverages with non-caloric, non-caffeinated lemon water is beneficial (as would be having plain water or herbal tea) and could help with weight loss.
- Lemons – whole lemons – with the pith (the white part around the flesh) are nutrient-rich. They contain vitamin C, potassium, bioflavonoids, soluble and insoluble fiber – all tremendous tools for our cells to use to support our detoxification pathways, immunity, blood vessel health.
What Isn’t So True
The nutrients just listed in the previous bullet point assume the use of the whole lemon (the phytonutrients like bioflavonoids are found in the pith which wouldn’t make it to the juice). 1-2 tablespoons (even a 1/4 cup) of juice added to water is only going to provide fractional amounts of these nutrients that lemons provide. And that couple of tablespoons is not going to provide nearly enough soluble fiber to help with the claims that it will keep you full and help with weight loss.
AND THAT’S OK – we are all about incremental additions.
If you enjoy lemon water, enjoy it!! But keep it in its proper place as:
- A healthy alternative to other beverage choices for hydration
- A mild digestive to give a moderate increase to stomach acid production and saliva near meal times to increase digestion
To say that a few tablespoons of lemon juice in water each morning is the cause of relieved pain, inflammation, electrolyte balance, and is the most powerful agent on the liver is (to say politely) just not true. But our list above about what is true about having lemon water each morning still makes it worth it!