Smoothies can be packed with protein; pre-workout energizers, hydrators, and post-workout recovery accelerators can deliver performance-enhancing nutrients; herbal teas can soothe or energize — all of these beverages have a functional purpose to meet specific wellness needs. And then there’s a less obvious, simple, blender-free drink that serves a mighty wellness-enhancing purpose. Providing more than just hydration, fresh lemon juice and water can deliver surprising benefits.
Starting every morning with a glass of warm lemon water is actually a ritual in Ayurveda or Yogic traditions, used to stimulate digestion for the day and clear the body of any toxins that may have settled in the digestive tract overnight. While it is tricky to apply the strict burden of evidence expected by Western science to traditional practices (often called “folk medicine”) that originated long before modern medical science standards were developed, research on the nutritional elements found in lemons suggests the numerous health benefits traditionally associated with drinking fresh lemon water daily may have merit.
We tend to reach for those warm beverages in the morning like coffee and tea, but try starting your day with some warm lemon water first to kick-start digestion. The water doesn’t always have to be warm, but it should be purified. Simply use half a fresh lemon per large glass of water or to taste and sip throughout the day. On a simple level, fresh lemons take plain old water up a notch. Here are 5 health benefits of drinking lemon water that elevate drinking it for reasons beyond just taste:
1. Support immune function: Lemons are high in antioxidant vitamin C, known for its supportive role in healthy immune function1,2 which may reduce the risk of respiratory infection3. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) found in lemons demonstrates anti-inflammatory effects, and is used as complementary support for asthma and other respiratory symptoms4,5. Lemons also contain saponins6, which show antimicrobial properties that may help keep cold and flu at bay. Last but not least, ascorbic acid enhances iron absorption in the body; iron plays an important role in immune function7.
2. Alkalize the body: Although the tartness of a lemon may make them seem acidic, lemons are actually one of the most alkalizing foods for the body. Lemons contain both citric and ascorbic acid, weak acids easily metabolized from the body allowing the mineral content of lemons to help alkalize the blood.
3. Aid digestion: Citrus flavonols8 are believed responsible for lemon’s traditional use as a digestive tonic. Believed to stimulate and purify the liver, lemon juice is traditionally understood to support digestive hydrochloric acid in the stomach further aiding digestion. Vitamin C status has been associated with reduced risk of peptic ulcers caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori9.
4. Clear skin: Vitamin C and other antioxidants in lemons combat free radical damage. Free radical damage — especially as caused by UV exposure and environmental toxins — is responsible for many symptoms of aging. Antioxidant intake can help offset this damage, minimizing wrinkles. Further, lemon juice can be applied topically to scars and age spots to help reduce their appearance. Traditionally used as a liver stimulant, lemon water is also believed to help purge toxins from the blood, helping to keep skin clear of blemishes.
5. Promote healing: Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), found in abundance in lemons, promotes wound healing, and is an essential nutrient in the maintenance of healthy bones, connective tissue, and cartilage10. As noted previously, vitamin C also displays anti-inflammatory properties. Combined, vitamin C is an essential nutrient in the maintenance of good health and recovery from stress and injury