Lemon water has been a popular health drink for some time now but is it a match made in heaven?

Lemon water is simply water infused with lemon juice. There aren’t any strict rules on it, the ratio of lemon to water depends on your personal preference. You can drink it hot or cold, and infuse it with other flavors such as mint, ginger, or cucumber. So what are the health benefits of lemon water and does it really work?

What are the benefits of lemon water?

There’s been plenty of studies on why lemons are good for us, but not much specifically on lemon water. However, it can be hypothesized that some of the health benefits of lemons still apply to this beverage. 

Nutritional benefits of lemons

Lemons are a good source of vitamin C with 30.7mg in one lemon. The RDA for an adult man is 90 mg, and 75 mg for women. So lemon water made from an entire lemon can help you hit your daily dose or a few glasses throughout the day that equate to at least one lemon. Vitamin C doesn’t shield you from catching a cold, but when you do come down with one, it will make it shorter and milder, which is better than nothing!

As both water and vitamin C are good for your skin, you might notice your complexion improving by drinking lemon water every morning. It’s very popular in skin care routines because it stimulates collagen production, is an antioxidant and evens out skin tone. However, the effectiveness of lemon water as a remedy for acne  is mostly anecdotal.  One blogger who drank lemon water every morning for a few months noted a big improvement in her acne. Another who took a 10-day lemon water challenge said a few spots cleared up, and her skin looked brighter, but overall she wasn’t impressed.

Health benefits of lemon water

Citrus fruits, in general, are healthy because they contain antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, and can be good for cardiovascular health. They’re also a source of flavonoids which are compounds found in plants that are antioxidant ( shown to reduce the risk of strokes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma). You can add orange and lime to your lemon water, but because these acid fruits can damage your teeth, it typically best to use a straw. 

Lemon Water For Kidney Stones

Lemon water is particularly good for helping to treat kidney stones. Kidney stones are clusters of calcium oxalate and are treated with potassium citrate supplements. As lemon is a source of citrate, it can help prevent kidney stones. This is because the amount of citrate in urine can help prevent calcium from binding with other substances, which leads to kidney stones. One study found that the group of subjects who consumed lemon juice and potassium citrate had lower urinary calcium levels. 

Lemon Water For Arthritis

Lemon water can also be beneficial for arthritis. The vitamin C content is good for repairing and building blood vessels, bones, tendons, and ligaments which is of help for those with osteoarthritis as vitamin C is important for collagen synthesis. The antioxidants are good for fighting inflammation which can help with treating rheumatoid arthritis. 

Does it matter how I drink lemon water?

As the beverage can be customized, you might be wondering if how you drink it affects the health benefits of lemon water.

Hot or cold

Drinking it hot or cold offers the same nutritional benefits. The temperature depends on what you personally want to gain from drinking lemon water, and your preference. 

Cold lemon water can help boost your metabolism. The University of Washington reported that drinking ice water burns more calories than drinking room temperature. Although the 8 calories burned between ice-cold water and room temperature isn’t monumental, it is undeniable that cold water is more refreshing than when it’s warm. 

Warm water can help with digestion as it dissolves and moves foods your body was unable to digest properly. If you suffer with constipation or indigestion then you might find warm lemon water does the trick. 

You can drink both types of lemon water throughout the day if you want to take advantage of these benefits. 

Should I drink it on an empty stomach?

Lemon water can be enjoyed at any time of the day, before and after a meal but it’s most often recommended before breakfast. 

Drinking lemon water before breakfast on an empty stomach doesn’t actually seem to have any distinct benefits that drinking it at any other point of the day offers. 

It can be a nice way to start the day, as a cold glass of lemon water can make you feel more alert and awake. 

Some people find that it helps prevent constipation after, and gets their digestive system moving. It also freshens breath which can help tackle unpleasant morning breath. It can get rid of strong smells like garlic, fish, and onions, by stimulating saliva. Water intake also keeps the mouth from getting dry, which is another cause of bad-breath bacteria. 

Before breakfast and after meals is a good time for lemon water. 

Will variations of lemon water work?

Can I drink a shot of lemon juice instead?

If you’d rather just a shot of pure lemon juice you can still reap the benefits lemon has to offer such as the vitamin C content. However, it probably won’t be a pleasant experience. Water compliments the benefits of lemon such as having brighter blemish-free skin but it’s not technically necessary. 

Can I use lemon juice concentrate?

Lemon juice concentrate can be handy for those who don’t use lemons often. It’s made from lemon juice but usually has additives such as Sodium Metabisulphite (E223) and sometimes Potassium Metabisulphite (E224). While the calories and sugars are very similar, fresh lemon juice has more vitamin C, folate, and potassium. It’s better to use fresh lemon juice, but if lemon juice concentrate is your only option then it won’t be much different. Make sure to read the ingredients and buy one that doesn’t have added sugars. 

Is lemon extract or lemon oil just as good?

Lemon extract contains oil, and alcohol whereas lemon oil is made from lemon zest which is heated or pressed slowly to extract the oil from the skin. Lemon extract is also made from lemon zest.

Lemon water is specifically about infusing water with lemon juice, rather than the peel, but the peel offers benefits too. 

Lemon zest is a source of fiber, calcium, potassium, and also contains vitamin C. The flavonoids in the rind specifically can even prevent some kinds of cancer.

Lemon oil and lemon extract are quite concentrated so a little goes a long way in making lemon water. You could make your own lemon zest lemon water hybrid at home by adding lemon slices to the water and grinding some of the rinds in. 

Is lemon water better than apple cider vinegar?

One of the reasons apple cider vinegar is so popular is due to its purported benefits in gut health. Apple cider vinegar is a prebiotic, which is essentially what feeds probiotics and helps them grow. 

Apple Cider Vinegar also protects good gut bacteria as it’s anti-fungal, and anti-yeast, and can slow down the growth of bad bacteria. It’s even a natural antihistamine when getting brands with “mother” on them, which is a colony of bacteria. 

It depends on why you’re drinking them. Gut health isn’t one of the main reasons people drink lemon water, although it does have digestive benefits such as dislodging undigested food. Lemon water is popular due to the claims about a faster metabolism and clearer skin. 

The Bottom Line

Lemon water can offer a wide range of benefits, but it’s not a magic cure-all and it won't make you shed pounds of fat. A lot of the beneficial qualities of lemons are also found in other citrus fruits like oranges, so you don’t need to feel left out if you don’t like lemons. 

That said, it can be a great way for people to drink more water if they prefer the flavor. For the best results, you need to consume all of the lemon so make a strong glass, or spread it out throughout a few milder lemon water concoctions throughout the day. You should consider adding the rind for additional benefits, but make sure to drink it with a straw to protect your teeth!

Calling lemon water a match made in heaven might be too generous, but there are health benefits of lemon water so it’s worth trying!