Is drinking lemon water really good for you?
by Gillian Lim
A LOT of people believe in drinking warm water with lemon first thing in the morning. Some people make it a point to sip lemon-infused water throughout the day. But is this actually beneficial for your body, or is it some old wives’ tale that has no scientific grounding at all?
This trend has evolved to include fruit-infused water as well – cue an onslaught of Instagram-worthy, beautifully arranged mason jars filled with a variety of mixes, ranging from orange slices and blueberries to basil leaves and strawberry slices.
I myself am a slave to this popular trend, along with several other colleagues in the office.
My mother likes to prepare a huge jug of warm water and lemon slices at home, and the entire family drinks from it throughout the day. When I asked her why, she cited a variety of reasons. “I like to drink lemon water because it’s a natural source of vitamin C,” said my mother Grace Yap, 56, an administrative executive. “And vitamin C helps boost my immune system, so that means protecting me from the flu. I understand it also helps make the skin look fairer and eases my thirst. Plus, it helps me feel better when I’ve had oily food.” But did she actually hear about this directly from a certified nutritionist or dietitian? She admitted, “No.”
So, we asked several dietitians and scoured the Internet to find out if the benefits of warm water and lemon is myth or fact. Here are six reasons why it’s good for you:
1. It stimulates your digestive system
The reason why everyone tells you to drink it in the morning – first thing when you wake up – is because warm water and lemon helps stimulate your digestive system.
Dr Frank Lipman, founder and director of New York City-based Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center, said on his website that such a combination “wakes up” your liver, and flushes out nasty toxins. “So, a perfect start to the day, especially if you suffer from blemished skin,” he added. “You can even aid the process by adding mint or other natural flavourings,” added Ms Jackie Green, a dietitian at Singapore-based The Family Dietitian.
And because it stimulates your digestive system, simply adding a slice of lemon into warm water also aids in digestion. This means that warm water with lemon doesn’t just help you in the beginning of the day, but throughout the day as well.
“Because lemon juice’s atomic structure is similar to the digestive juices found in the stomach, it tricks the liver into producing bile,” said Dr Joshua Axe, a clinical nutritionist in Nashville, who also runs his own health website. “This helps to keep food moving through your body and gastrointestinal tract smoothly.” He also added that lemon water also helps relieve indigestion or ease an upset stomach.
2. It’s a homemade, electrolyte-filled sports drink
Because warm water infused with lemon is sugar-free, and free from other artificial ingredients, it acts as a healthier alternative to your other sugar-filled drinks, like coffee, tea, or other fruit juices. Plus, lemon juice contains calcium, potassium and magnesium, and these are three of the most important minerals that act as regulators of the electrical impulses that keep our body running.
Registered and licensed dietitian Erin Coleman said that citrus fruits are the best natural ingredients for electrolyte replenishment. “This is why you may have seen many athletes gorging themselves on juicy slices,” she said on online nutrition website FitDay. Ms Coleman is an experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
What’s so important about keeping your body hydrated? Your body depends on water for survival. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work correctly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. You cannot have good health without water.
3. It gives you more vitamin C than any other citrus fruit, and fulfils your recommended daily vitamin C intake
Lemon juice is packed with vitamin C, more than any other citrus fruit, in fact. According to Nutrition Data, a website which provides detailed nutritional information on all kinds of food, a single lemon contains about 83.2mg of vitamin C, while a single orange contains about 63.4mg of vitamin C.
More importantly, one cup of lemon juice contains more vitamin C than what our recommended daily intake requires – it contains 112mg, while Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends that adult males have a daily intake of 105mg of vitamin C, and 85mg for adult females.
And what are some of the benefits of vitamin C?
Apparently, other than boosting your immune system (which is number four on our list), you might get younger-looking skin and less wrinkles, according to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study showed that women aged 40 to 74 who had high intakes of vitamin C were less likely to have wrinkles, skin dryness and aged appearances compared to those who had lower intakes.
4. It boosts your immune system
Lemon water contains a variety of vitamins and minerals – this includes vitamin C, potassium, and calcium, and these boost your immune system.
The immune system is usually weakened by chronic stress, and a diet rich in vitamin C increases one’s resistance to the effects of stress as well as certain diseases. And since lemon water is rich in vitamin C, it would do exactly just that, said Dr Angelica Samarista-Giron in a medical response to a query on SteadyHealth.com. Dr Samarista-Giron is a medical expert and trained anaesthesiologist from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.
But it doesn’t mean that lemon-infused water would help cure colds or flus, she added. It does, however, help prevent the development of complications such as pneumonia or lung infection, and it’s also known to reduce symptoms of sore throat, tonsillitis, or asthma.
Dr Samarista-Giron also added that vitamin C is an important component for collagen formation, for reducing inflammation and promoting tissue healing and repair. “No wonder lemons and other citrus fruits are popular ingredients of foods and cosmetic products that are marketed for their anti-aging effects,” she added.
5. It’s a natural diuretic
What is a diuretic? It’s something that helps you urinate, and lemon water does just that. And although there are a range of pills out there to do just this (for example chlorothiazide, bumetanide and amiloride, according to Mayo Clinic), a natural substitute would be lemon juice.
Dr Marita Schauch, a recognised naturopathic doctor who runs her own clinic in Victoria, Canada, wrote that lemon water acts “like a gentle diuretic to help flush out any toxins in the body”. She also added that it helps to purify and stimulate the liver.
6. It’s filled with antioxidants
Aside from vitamin C, lemon juice contains flavonoids and other substances that have antioxidant properties. And what exactly are antioxidants?
They are chemicals that fight against the harmful products of metabolism, or free radicals, that can cause chronic disease. And if you might not be familiar with terms such as metabolism or free radicals, here’s the upshot: “These antioxidants can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer,” said Dr Samarista-Giron.
And it’s not just lemon juice that contains such antioxidants.
“Studies show that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and have high blood levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants are less likely to suffer from stroke, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Samarista-Giron. But specifically, with regard to lemon juice, she identified several compounds called limonoids, which have been shown to fight against skin, lung, mouth, breast, colon and stomach cancer.
“Current investigations are also looking into the cholesterol-lowering properties of these substances,” she added.
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