You’ve heard that drinking lemon water on the daily has seemingly limitless health benefits, right? The simple beverage is said to aid in weight loss, liver function and healthy digestion. It reduces stress and inflammation, and boosts energy levels, mood and immunity. It gives you fresh breath and glowing skin. And, allegedly, it may even lower blood pressure and risk of stroke.
No wonder Gwyneth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr and practically every wellness guru on Instagram swear by starting the day with a mug of warm water and a squeeze of lemon. Lemon water is practically miraculous!
Or is it?
Because the healing powers of lemon water, frankly, sound too good be true, we asked two health and nutrition experts to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say about the benefits of the sour stuff and whether it truly is a cure for, well, almost everything.
Lemon Water: Just the Facts
Lemon water absolutely has health benefits, according to Dr. Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, MS, a physician who specializes in general preventive medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “Acidic substances such as lemon juice and vinegar may help reduce acid reflux and heartburn by maintaining sphincter tone between the esophagus and stomach and improving the health of the stomach lining,” Dr. Sukol says.
Moreover, Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the creator of Millennial Nutrition, says some research shows lemons — or, more specifically, the citrate found in lemons — may delay the development of kidney stones.
And, of course, lemons provide vitamin C. This vitamin is important for immune health, the formation of collagen, wound healing and bone tissue maintenance. “But you need to drink about a ¾-cup of pure lemon juice per day to get the recommended daily intake for vitamin C (75-90 mg for women and men, respectively),” Barkyoumb says. A typical medium-sized lemon yields three tablespoons of juice, so that’s nearly two to three lemons a day!
Sour Note: Disproving the Weight Loss Myths
In addition to the researched-backed health benefits, many proponents of lemon water maintain that lemons contain a fiber (called pectin) that aids in weight loss, as well as flavonoids, which act as powerful antioxidants. But Dr. Sukol and Barkyoumb aren’t convinced. “The amount of pectin and flavonoids you get from lemon water is very minimal and would not be enough to support either of these claims,” Barkyoumb says.
Similarly, lemon water is purported to help alkalinize your body and flush away toxins. But it turns out these claims are baseless, too. As Barkyoumb explains, the pH of your blood and cells cannot be altered by what you eat. And though water alone supports the body’s natural detoxification processes, there’s little evidence that adding lemon improves this process further.
“Many of the health benefits associated with lemon water — weight loss, mood, digestive health, exercise performance — can be achieved by staying hydrated with plain old water,” Barkyoumb says. “There’s no reason to believe that adding lemon to water boosts these health perks.”
Bottom Line: Should You Drink Lemon Water?
When it comes to hydration, it can’t hurt to give it a squeeze. “Any opportunity to increase fluid intake — absent of sugar — is generally useful,” says Dr. Sukol. Even if lemon water isn’t the magic potion its proponents tout it to be, it’s a tasty way to stay hydrated and get a boost of vitamin C.
That’s not all: Both Dr. Sukol and Barkyoumb agree that drinking two liters of water a day, with or without lemon, can help promote weight loss simply by increasing feelings of fullness (and thus reducing calorie intake). Also, because water is so low in calories and sugar, it can assist in weight loss when swapped for high-calorie beverages like soda or juice. (Just be sure that if you drink excessive amounts of lemon water or any acidic beverage, use a straw and rinse your mouth after to prevent degrading tooth enamel.)
So, if you think a hint of citrus makes regular old water taste better — and ultimately helps you drink more — then you’ve found yourself a new main squeeze.