Lemon water is renowned for enhancing health and beauty. So much that it's become an internet joke, where one glass can contour your cheekbones, improve your waist-to-hip ratio and fix your life!
Although lemon water's health benefits aren't so transformative, they're undoubtedly powerful.
In this article, we investigate the truth behind the hype. We take a look at some of the main lemon water benefits and how to get more lemon water in your diet.
Benefits of drinking lemon water
Although lemon water's health benefits are mostly anecdotal, scientific studies have found frequent consumption of lemon water might:
Maintain skin health
Lemon's high Vitamin C content makes it likely to improve skin appearance by encouraging collagen production.1
According to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which the connection between nutrient intake and skin ageing was studied in more than 4,000 women aged between 40 and 74, Vitamin C had a starring role. The research found higher Vitamin C levels were linked to a lower likelihood of developing skin ageing signs, e.g. a wrinkled appearance and senile dryness.2
Support weight loss
Lemons contain polyphenol antioxidants, which have been shown to suppress weight gain.3 A 12-week study of mice published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition concluded that body weight caused by the mice consuming a high fat diet was significantly reduced when they were fed lemon polyphenols.
Encourage iron absorption
Vitamin C helps your body better absorb iron from vegetables - which is especially useful for vegans or vegetarians, who are at risk for iron deficiency.4,5
Vitamin C reportedly helps boost iron absorption by capturing non-heme iron and storing it in a form that’s easier for our bodies to absorb. Meanwhile, one study in particular found taking 100mg of Vitamin C with a meal increased iron absorption by 67%. As a result, drinking citrus juice or eating other foods that are rich in Vitamin C at the same time as eating high-iron foods can increase your body’s absorption.6
Lemons contain a whole host of minerals that promote healthy digestion, help with heartburn, and stimulate healthy bowel function by reducing bloat and stimulating bowel movements.7
You may have heard about Vitamin C’s supposed ability to prevent people from developing a common cold.8
While this isn’t true, it is believed Vitamin C can potentially reduce how long people get lumbered with a cold for. It can also reportedly reduce this risk by halve among people who expose themselves to short bursts of extreme physical stress, e.g. marathon runners.
Lemons in particular happen to contain protective antioxidants called flavonoids, which are low in calories and high in flavour.9 It’s the same flavonoids that are believed to help with skin health too by protecting skin from oxidative damage.10
The health benefits of lemon water are reportedly widespread, from helping cut the length of the common cold and supporting skin health, to helping our bodies absorb iron, to promoting normal digestion and supporting weight loss, and more. Lemon water has its many advantages.
How much lemon water should you drink a day?
It’s purely a matter of personal preference. Some people like to start their morning with a revitalising cup of hot/warm or cold lemon water, while others like to sip away on it all day long, especially on a hot summer’s day.11
How little or much you drink of it is completely up to you and your tastebuds, but if you’re after some general guidance on daily measures, around four to six teaspoons of lemon juice a day, combined with water, is plenty enough.
However, as keen as you might be to see some of the reported health benefits of lemon water, make sure it’s not the only drink you have because it’s highly acidic. The citric acid that’s present in lemons can erode teeth enamel (more on this below).
Side effects of drinking lemon water
Excessive consumption of lemon water does have its downsides. You may want to avoid lemon water and choose other healthy drinks if you're concerned about:
Tooth enamel erosion
Lemon's high acid content can reduce the hardness of enamel over time.12 However, drinking lemon water with a straw will decrease your risk. You may also want to13:
- Use cold water rather than warm water – due to the fact lemon absorbs more into warm water and therefore penetrates the enamel more.
- Make sure you don’t cram your water with too many lemons – keep your lemon concentration at a balanced level.
- Rinse your mouth with tap water as soon as you’ve finished your lemon water - to normalise your saliva.
- Wait an hour before brushing your teeth - as the citric acid in lemons can soften your enamel and brushing softened enamel can cause damage.
Bacteria on lemon skins
Lemon skins hold illness-causing bacteria, including E. coli.14 Squeeze your lemon juice into your glass, instead of throwing in a slice, to minimise your chance of ingesting harmful bacteria.
Some people say they get heartburn from drinking lemon water, mainly due to the citric acid that’s in the lemons. However, this isn’t something everybody experiences. Some people experience heartburn, and others say it helps relieve their heartburn because the lemon juice turns alkaline.15
How much lemon water you drink is entirely up to you, but be mindful of the fact drinking lots of it may erode teeth enamel over time due to its citric acid content. You can prevent this by sipping it through a straw, so it has minimal contact with your teeth, drinking a glass of water afterwards and waiting an hour brushing your teeth.
How to make lemon water (hot and cold)
The best way to enjoy lemon water health benefits is to have a glass in the morning with lukewarm water.
Lemon water provides a much-needed hydration-hit after your overnight fast. Adequate hydration can potentially help your body digest food better and lemon water's acid content should improve how your body digests your breakfast.16,17
Cold lemon water recipe
- 1x lemon
- 8 cups of water
- A jug and glasses to serve your water in
- Thinly slice the lemon and place it in the bottom of a large jug.
- Using a wooden spoon, lightly mash the lemon to release its juices.
- Add 8 cups of cold water and refrigerate the water for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Alternatively, pour it straightaway and enjoy it at room temperature!18
Top tip 1 – Try adding some cucumber to your lemon water for an extra twist.
Top tip 2 – The longer you leave your water, the more lemony it’ll taste, but make sure you drink it after a day, as it’ll taste really bitter!
Hot lemon water recipe
- ½ fresh lemon – juiced
- Slices of fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- A handful fresh mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon agave syrup (optional)
- Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and pour it into a glass jar.
- Add slices of fresh ginger, cayenne pepper and infuse some fresh mint leaves.
- Boil your water and then pour it over your ingredients.
- Wait for your drink to cool down and enjoy!19
Top tip 1 - If you want to sweeten your lemon water up, add ½ teaspoon of agave syrup or other natural sweeteners of your choice, such as dates or honey.
Top tip 2 - Rolling your lemon in between your hands or on a work surface before juicing is said to produce more juice.
Lemon mint water recipe
- 3 to 4 slices of lemon
- 3 sprigs of mint
- 8oz of water
Add fresh lemon slices, mint and water to a large glass. Muddle the mint a little if you’d like to really taste the mint flavour.
Lemon blueberry water recipe
- 3 to 4 slices of lemon
- 10 fresh blueberries
- 8oz of water
Pop the fresh lemon slices, blueberries and water into a large glass.
A final few words about the health benefits of drinking lemon water…
There’s a lot to love about lemon water. It’s easy to make, you can drink it hot or cold, it can help with iron absorption, weight loss and more.
But it’s one of those great things in life that’s best to enjoy in moderation. We aren’t saying you can’t enjoy every day; just be mindful of how strong your lemon water is and the damage it could potentially cause to your teeth enamel.
Fortunately, there are a fair few tips on how you can protect your enamel and still drink lemon water, as listed above. Lemon water anybody?
Read more: Do detox drinks really work?
Last updated: 26 April 2021