Lemon water is not a new craze. In some form or another, people have been drinking and enjoying lemon water for about as long as both lemons and water have existed. It's only recently, however, that people have started turning to it as more of a health tool than a drink.
What is Lemon Water?
Lemon water is, well, just that. It's lemon juice mixed with water. It's water, but with a faintly sour tinge to it. All it has is a few tablespoons of lemon juice, with none of the pulp (or seeds, or pith, or rind) from the fruit itself. Some people make lemon water by steeping lemons; others simply squeeze the juice fresh and mix it up.
Lemon water is not lemonade. Lemonade uses a lot more lemon, as well as a lot of sugar, to make a sweeter beverage. Lemon water doesn't use any sugar at all. As a result, where a glass of lemonade can be hundreds of calories, a glass of lemon water is just six calories total. It's essentially nothing, as far as a diet is concerned.
Can Lemon Water Reduce Hunger?
Lemon water is usually recommended as part of a diet because it can, supposedly, suppress feeling hungry. Water alone can do the same thing, so is lemon water better than regular water?
As far as we know, there haven't been really any studies that compare regular water with lemon water on this front. Since there's so little lemon in it, our guess is that it doesn't really reduce hunger any more than plain water will.
That said, plain water does reduce hunger. It's beneficial for suppressing cravings, and it can often actually be what you're craving, but your body doesn't really know how to interpret the signals it's getting.
Can Lemon Water Burn Fat?
No. lemon, despite being acidic, does not really have enough of an impact when diluted into lemon water to be measurable. Drinking plain water doesn't burn fat either, though it does help to fuel the bodily processes that are triggered when you exercise. Hydration is very important, after all.
Can Lemon Water Help You Lose Weight?
If lemon water doesn't help burn fat, can it help you lose weight? In this case, the answer is yes.
First of all, hydration is extremely important for weight loss. It fuels your body's energy-burning processes, as well as virtually every other chemical process throughout your system. That's why you go through so much water when you work out and why virtually everyone needs more than they're currently getting. Lemon water might not be more effective than plain old water when it comes to hydration, but it can make water taste better and more interesting, which can help you keep drinking it.
Secondly, lemon water acts as a flavored water substitute. If you're used to drinking sodas, coffee full of milk and sugar, or juice, chances are that plain water is very boring to you. This can make it very difficult to cut out those beverages. Unfortunately, cutting out those beverages is near essential. They represent hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of calories per day, depending on how much you drink. Cutting out those calories is an easy way to cut back on your intake and, thus, help you lose weight.
Third, lemon water can potentially help boost your metabolism. Water is required for the proper function of mitochondria, which you might recognize as being the powerhouse of the cell. Every cell in your body is powered by mitochondria, so making sure they have enough water to function properly is extremely important. If your cells operate at low energy, you aren't burning energy, and thus not losing weight.
Water (and, by extension, lemon water) definitely helps weight loss. Studies have shown that something as simple as drinking water before meals – even as little as half a liter – can contribute significantly to weight loss.
What Else Can Lemon Water Do?
Another benefit lemon water has on your body is filling your stomach. Even though it can pass through you relatively quickly – your body is very efficient at using water, you see – it can help settle your stomach and make you feel full. This can further help suppress cravings and reduce the urge to snack. On top of that, it helps reduce the overall size of the meals you make. If you're not as hungry when you're cooking or ordering food, you're not going to eat as much.
Lemon also has some benefits in the form of vitamins. Lemons are fairly high in vitamin C, which is an extremely important and essential vitamin for you to get through your diet. It's also safe even at extremely high doses, so drinking lemon water will never put you at risk of taking too much.
There are also some potential benefits for those who suffer from kidney stones. Kidney stones are an extremely painful condition where minerals build up into sharp crystals in your kidneys, where they stab and abrade the organ and cut their way out of you as they're passed. They're horrendous, so anything that can minimize them is a good thing. Lemon water, being acidic, may be able to help break apart those minerals and dissolve them to be passed more readily. This hasn't really been studied, however.
Lemon water may also be able to help moderate insulin and blood sugar, as well as cholesterol. This is because of some ingredients in lemon, including pectin, which you can get from the juice. Again, however, the amounts present in a single glass of lemon water are more or less negligible.
"Pectin, a kind of fiber found in lemons, has also been linked to some weight loss benefits. "Pectin can lower LDL or bad cholesterol and has some anti-inflammatory benefits," says Bahram Arjmandi, a professor of nutrition at Florida State University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Food and Nutritional Disorders. "It can also prevent fat absorption and moderate insulin response." But most pectin comes from the flesh or pith of a fruit, not its juice. You're better off eating an apple. "You'd have to eat a whole lot of lemon to see these benefits," he says. "It's hard for me to imagine that being practical."" - Time
While there are many benefits to drinking water, the strongest in favor of lemon water is really just the flavor of the beverage and its ability to help you enjoy it enough to keep doing it.
What Myths About Lemon Water Circulate?
Unfortunately, many health gurus have taken up innocuous things like lemon water and decided to push a lot of benefits they don't actually have. Here are some of the more persistent myths that just aren't true, so far as science knows.
Lemon water will not flush toxins from your system. Your body is already pretty good at doing that on its own and only really needs water to do it. You wouldn't call drinking water a "cleanse," so neither should you look to lemon water for the same benefits. If you want to flush toxins from your system, just drink water; your body will handle the rest.
Lemon water does not block fat absorption. Some gurus claim that lemon water somehow adjusts the digestive process to make it harder for your body to absorb fat. Unfortunately, that's not really how fat storage works. You don't just absorb fat; your body breaks down nutrients into their component parts. Those component parts are then used in various ways, from conversion into neurotransmitters and hormones to storage as fat. You can even measure this with radioisotope tracking. Lemon and water both do not really affect this process.
Lemon water also does not contain very much in the way of polyphenols. One of the primary studies into lemon water was performed on rats and indicated that lemon polyphenols were responsible for weight-blocking effects. The problem is, polyphenols are mostly in the rind of the lemon, and that's both intensely bitter and unpleasant. It's not the part you're drinking when you drink lemon water.
How to Enjoy Lemon Water
There are many ways to take and enjoy lemon water as part of a diet plan or program. You don't need to go all-in on a cleanse to get the benefits.
First of all, get in the habit of preparing lemon water instead of drinking other beverages, in particular sugary beverages. Lemonade, fruit juices, soft drinks; these are all absolutely terrible for you. The more of those beverages that you replace with lemon water, the better off you're going to be. It will take some adjustment to get used to it, but hopefully, some of our other tips will help minimize the risk of getting bored with lemon water on its own.
Second, always try to use fresh, tasty lemons. Sometimes you'll get a batch of lemons that are more bitter than sweet, and that can be very detrimental to your enjoyment of the beverage. You can do some things to make lemons tastier, like roasting them or salting them, but you're limited in what you can do before adding lemon to water.
You can prepare lemon water in advance and freeze it, so you can thaw it for a cold beverage throughout the day. You can also enjoy lemon water as a hot beverage. In fact, lemon is also a great addition to tea, at which point you're basically steeping tea in lemon water. It's all the same combination, after all.
You can also add other ingredients to your lemon water.
- Cucumber. Cucumber lemon is a great flavor combination for a cool and refreshing beverage. You can slice and steep both ingredients in water overnight and drink the resulting water throughout the following day. It's quite tasty!
- Turmeric. The golden spice has quite a few benefits, though you're generally not going to get them unless you're taking a full supplement. A curcumin/piperine supplement is best for those, but turmeric is great for flavor and color to your beverage. Just make sure to use a glass bottle or another container that won't stain since turmeric is basically a dye.
- Mint. While you've probably heard about the problems of mixing mint and citrus, that tends to be more in the realm of orange and toothpaste. Lemon and mint actually go very well together as a cold beverage or tasty treat. Muddle a few mint leaves and steep them in your water, and you're good to go.
- Fruits. Crush and strain a few raspberries, other citrus, or other fruits into your water for a fruity lemon water that tastes more like the fruit juices you may be used to. You can get a broader range of flavors this way, and your calorie count will still be pretty low.
- Melons. Much like cucumber (which is itself related to melons), cantaloupe, honeydew, lemondrop, galia, and other melons can be a very good addition to a water-based beverage. Like cucumber water, chop and steep these fruits overnight for the best effect.
Regardless of what you want to add to your lemon water, you have a ton of options available to you. As long as you can keep drinking water throughout the day, you're going to benefit from it. Not only is hydration extremely important, so too is the need to replace sugary soft drinks with something healthier.
Lemon water isn't a miracle cure or a detox, nor is it going to aid you in weight loss as an add-on. You need to replace other sources of calories with it to get that weight loss effect. That said, if you do so, you can see some shocking results. You might be surprised at how many calories you consume during the day just from beverages and the occasional hunger-suppressing snack. Give water a try; you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Do you drink lemon water, or is it not quite for you? What's your favorite way to use lemon water? Let us know in the comments. We always love hearing all your thoughts and stories!