Lemons: How beneficial are lemons?
By Ore Taiwo Makinde
Lemons are being consumed in increasing amounts in recent times. Almost every testimonial that I hear from a COVID-19 survivor touches on the consumption of natural products such as lemon, garlic and ginger.
Exactly how much do you know about this celebrated fruit? It is a citrus fruit that is widely cultivated especially in Mediterranean countries such as France, Greece, Israel and Lebanon to mention a few.
It is used for various reasons and in several ways:
Culinary uses –
- It is used as a flavoring in cakes and various recipes.
- It is used for garnishing fruit salads and serves as a healthy alternative to high cholesterol-containing creams and spreads.
- Lemons are used to make fruit drinks including the good old lemonade.
- They are used to prepare preserves e.g lemon cheese, lemon curd.
- Lemons can be used in preparing healthy puddings and pies.
Medicinally – Lemon oil is a home-based remedy for:
- Sore throats
- Sun burns
- Skin irritations
What gives lemons the properties that make them so attractive?
- They are a good source of vitamin C, just like oranges and grapefruit. Vitamin C plays a vital role in healing body tissues and enhances the body’s immunity against infection and diseases e.g diabetes.
- Lemons contain flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. This can help reduce cancer risk alongside other healthy lifestyle habits.
- Lemons contain soluble fibre which lowers cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby protecting against heart disease and other circulatory problems.
- This fruit has astringent or acidic properties that make it useful in breaking up dead skin that may lead to blackheads, a type of acne (pimples).
- A lemon has a low glycaemic index of 20 and a low calorie content of 29 kcal which makes it useful when used to replace other high calorie foods in our diet thus helping to achieve weight loss.
So yes, lemons have several health benefits but there are a few downsides to look out for.
- Many times, lemons may be waxed or treated with insecticides and therefore should be washed painstakingly before use. You can also look for organic sources of fruits.
- Due to its high acidic content, sucking lemons directly should be avoided. Excess consumption in this regard can lead to corrosion of the teeth leading to tooth decay. Highly acidic fruits (as seen in unripe fruits) can also lead to stomach aches. Ulcer patients are usually advised to avoid taking highly acidic content, particularly on an empty stomach.
In conclusion, lemons have several health benefits but this fruit is not a sole determinant of health outcomes even in COVID-19 infections. In addition, lemon juice is extremely unlikely to make anyone lose weight especially if other lifestyle habits as regards eating and physical activity/exercise remain unhealthy or sub-optimal.
Dr Ore is a Consultant Family Physician and a Board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician.