The lemon (Citrus limon), is a species of small evergreen tree of the flowering plant Rutaceae family, native to South Asia primarily Northeastern India. The origin of the word "lemon" maybe middle-eastern. The word draws from the old French limon, Italian limone, Arabic laymun and from the Persian limun, all of which is a generic term for citrus fruit, which is in relation to Sanskrit nimbu.
The raw green coloured fruit of the citrus family is called a lime whereas the ripe yellow fruit is called a lemon. Apart from regular lemons, one can also find Meyer lemons that are hybrid of regular lemons and oranges. The lemon is high in vitamin C, fibre and various beneficial plant compounds like flavonoids, citric acid, and D-Limonene that maintain the body’s cholesterol and acid level. These nutrients are responsible for the health benefits of lemons. In fact, many celebrities, fitness bloggers and health coaches swear by it and even their diets are lemon based.
The best (or at least the most popular) way to consume a lemon is to squeeze half of it into a small glass of water and drink it each day on an empty stomach. One can consume up to 3 glasses of lemon water per day. Addition of a small amount of honey adds a spot of sweetness and health to it. Another variant is green or black tea with a few drops of lemon juice added to it.
In India, sweetened lemon juice or Shikanji is a staple summer drink across the streets. Lemon water laced with ginger juice, ice, and other ingredients such as salt and cumin provides a soothing cool feeling in summer and keeps us hydrated in the scorching heat of the sun.
Some listed health benefits of lemon according to nutrition experts are:
Keeps us hydrated: Staying hydrated is important for normal body function. Lemons add flavour to normal water and help in salivation/preventing dry mouth, boost metabolism and help us to stay focused.
Assist weight loss: Overweight people are suggested to drink a warm glass of lemon water before a meal as it contains soluble pectin fibre, that makes them feel full, improves metabolism, promotes digestion and also helps burn fat.
Source of nutrients: Lemon is an abundant source of Vitamin C providing up to 31 mg of the same which is almost up to 51% of recommended daily intake. It is also an important source of minerals such as sodium and potassium that nourish the brain and nerve cells.
Maintains pH balance: Although lemon is acidic, its metabolic byproduct after ingestion is alkaline in nature. Drinking lemon water regularly can help to remove overall acidity in the body, including uric acid in the joints, which is one of the primary causes of pain and inflammation.
Improve heart health by reducing cholesterol - The antioxidant property of Vitamin C, paired with flavonoids and fibres present in lemon lower the LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, or the bad cholesterol thereby clearing the blood vessels, preventing or minimizing the risks of developing the conditions like high blood pressure and other heart diseases.
Prevents formation of kidney stones: Citric acid present in lemons may help prevent the formation of new kidney stones or enlargement of existing kidney stones by increasing urine volume and increasing urine pH thus creating a less favorable environment for them.
Purify Liver by removing toxins: Lemon juice is very effective at cleansing the liver as it aids the liver function to flush out the toxins
Boosts immunity: Lemon displays an anti-inflammatory property because of the presence of a chemical compound called Limonene. Vitamin C’s antibacterial property helps cure a common cold, fight respiratory tract infections, sore throat, and inflammation of tonsils.
Fight Cancer: Vitamin C and flavonoids by their anti-oxidant property prevents the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer although its exact role in cancer prevention is still under research.
Improves skin health- Consumption of lemon juice prevent drying of skin, acne, and dark spots. Lemon prevents scurvy, a condition caused due to a severe lack of vitamin C.
Besides the juice, the lemon peel can also be used for consumption and domestic purposes. Many people are not familiar with the edible property and commercial use of lemon peel and hence discard them away. Lemon peel contains 5-10 times more vitamins and minerals than lemon juice that can give our menu a nutritional boost.
Lemon Zest: Zest is the outer most rind if the fruit. Lemon zest is a common ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. One can zest some of the peel and freeze it for later use.
Skin Cleaner: Lemon peel soaked in vinegar is awesome for disinfecting. The liquid combined with an equal amount of water can be used as an all-purpose cleaner or scrubber for the face that produces a brightening effect.
Anti-odorant property: Placing a lemon peel or two inside the fridge to absorb smells can bring a bright citrus scent. Throwing a few lemon peels in the bottom of the trash help absorb odours and keep away the stench.
Stain removal from microwave, cutting boards, and utensils: The acidic property of the lemon in combination with baking soda can help remove rust and stains from products of daily use.
The one and only side effect of Lemon is that its acid content might damage teeth by eroding its enamel. So it is advisable to drink lemon water using a straw and rinse mouth after drinking it.
There is no wrong or right way to eat lemons, however in order to reap any health benefits out of it, one needs to consume it consistently.
By Sayani Chatterjee
Guest Author and Student of M.Sc Biotechnology
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