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Do you like lemons?
When life gives you lemons, make lemon water!
Read on to find out the health benefits of this simple drink.
Here’s some lemon history: according to DNA evidence, the first lemon trees appeared about eight million years ago in the southeast foothills of the Himalayas. According to the journal Nature, all citrus fruits, including amalaki (amla fruit), limes, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, mandarins, and others, were genetically derived from these original lemon trees of India.
Lemons, one of the world’s first high-vitamin C fruits, are rarely consumed in enough quantities to support optimal vitamin C levels. Worldwide, vitamin C deficiencies range from 7-73 percent, suggesting getting enough vitamin C is difficult. One way to get your daily dose of vitamin C is by starting your day with a glass of warm lemon water.
Ayurveda employs lemon to balance vata and kapha. The tastes of sweet, sour, and salt balance vata, but sweet and salt are typically over consumed while sour is chronically under consumed. Clinically, sour lemons are used as a digestive aid to boost digestive fire, as an anupan (carrier) to boost absorption of herbs, spices, and foods, and as a cleanser for the blood, lymph, and mouth.
Lemons, along with many other citrus fruits, are an integral part of an Ayurvedic seasonal diet. In fact, in addition to drying the pith and seeds and using them as medicine, or cooking with lemons, drinking warm lemon water in the morning was a part of the Ayurvedic dinacharya (daily routine), particularly during late winter and spring, when lemons are harvested.
Late winter and early spring-harvested lemons and other citrus (like amalaki) provide the perfect antidote for accumulation of vata (winter) and kapha (spring).
Starting your day with warm lemon water has numerous year-round benefits, but make sure you don’t miss this practice when they are in season: December through June.
Tip: Mix a warm six to eight ounce glass of water with juice of a quarter of an organic lemon—add the peel and start your day. To prevent citric acid from affecting tooth enamel, rinse your mouth after drinking.
Lemons balance vata.
Studies show the winter-harvested vitamin C in citrus protects volatile fat-soluble vitamins so desperately needed to balance vata in winter.
Water-soluble vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects against vata-aggravating and damaging oxidative stress or lipid (fat) peroxidation, which depletes vitamin E levels.
Without vitamin C, vitamin E can become depleted, unprotected, and terminally damaged, leaving the body without two of its most powerful antioxidants. One study found vitamin C not only protects vitamin E, but will also regenerate it when it becomes damaged or oxidized.
Lemons are acidic with an alkaline effect.
Lemons are extremely acidic, with a pH between two and three, so why do some people swear by their antacid effect? Citric acid increases stomach acidity, but also increases mucus and other gastric juices, which balance pitta/acidity. Citric acid also stimulates liver bile production, which tells the stomach to release acid contents quickly, thereby helping occasional heartburn.
Lemons also have a negative PRAL score (potential renal acid level), suggesting that while lemons are acidic when ingested, when they reach the kidneys, they have a low acid impact on the urinary tract system. This is likely due to their high calcium, potassium, and magnesium content. Meats and other proteins show a positive PRAL score, suggesting their acidity is not mitigated by the body as easily as the low pH of lemon.
Lemons kick-start digestion and promote healthy blood sugar.
Lemons have been used for thousands of years to increase digestive agni in the form of production of HCI (hydrochloric acid). In one study, lemon juice completely blocked the breakdown of starches by the enzyme amylase by increasing acidity (agni) in the stomach.
Researchers conclude lemon juice not only boosts stomach acid production, but could slow uptake of starches or sugars into the blood, thereby supporting healthy blood sugar.
Lemons can help prevent kidney stones.
Citric acid in lemons can help prevent stone formation by two mechanisms. First, it binds with urinary calcium, thereby reducing supersaturation of urine. In addition, it binds with calcium oxalate crystals and prevents crystal growth. Low citric acid, or a vitamin C deficiency, is one of the most common metabolic disturbances in patients with calcium stones, affecting about 60 percent of these patients.
Patients with low urinary citrate should be encouraged to increase consumption of foods high in citric acid, such as lemon and lime juice. Consuming just four ounces of lemon juice per day has been shown to significantly increase urine citrate levels without increasing oxalate levels.
Lemon water may be good for the heart.
Citrus flavonoids in lemons have been shown to scavenge free radicals, improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, modulate lipid metabolism, and support healthy weight loss, all while supporting healthy function and elasticity of the endothelium (arterial lining). Studies show heart patients who increase citrus flavonoid intake have improved cardiovascular outcomes.
Vitamin C deficiency is linked to a host of health concerns, including weight gain, and blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol imbalances. Numerous studies show a high vitamin C diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, supports a healthy heart and cardiovascular function.
Lemons help absorb iron from plants.
Iron from meat contains a more easily absorbable form of iron, called heme iron. Plant-based iron is heme-free and more difficult to digest, which is why vegetarians have to monitor their iron levels.
The citric and ascorbic acid found in vitamin C has been well-studied to support absorption of plant-based iron into the bloodstream, supporting a healthy response to iron deficiency anemia.
For weight loss, eat the pith too!
Studies show certain polyphenols in the pith, or white skin of the lemon, support healthy weight loss in mice. Mice were divided into three groups and, for 12 weeks, were fed either a low-fat diet (LF), high-fat diet (HF), or high-fat diet supplemented with 0.5 percent weight for weight lemon polyphenols (LP) extracted from the lemon peel.
Body weight gain, fat pad accumulation, and development of hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance were significantly suppressed by lemon polyphenols.
For all of these benefits, consider starting your day with warm lemon water and let us know what you notice.