Do you swear by a glass of hot lemon water to start your day?
If you do, chances are you’ve heard it’s got lots of health benefits. It’s said to kick start digestion and metabolism, flush out toxins that have built up overnight and provide a much needed dose of vitamin C.
But is this actually true?
Well… let’s just say that if you’ve been diligently downing lemon water every morning, I am (yet again) about to break your heart.
Why? Because a glass of hot lemon water does absolutely NOTHING for your body that a simple glass of water can’t do.
The detoxification myth
Let’s start with the irritating idea that lemon water detoxes the body. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no such thing as detoxing the body from mysterious toxins. The liver, kidney, skin and colon handle the removal of waste materials from your body on their own. Yes, staying well hydrated will keep these organs working efficiently, but the addition of a wedge of lemon to your glass of water won’t make them extra efficient. Sorry!
Furthermore, there’s no scientific evidence anywhere, to support the detox claim linked to lemon water.
When you think about it, that’s not surprising. Consider how much lemon juice goes into your morning water. For most, it’s a slice or two – approximately an eight of a lemon.
If you’ve ever looked into the nutritional makeup of an eight of a lemon, you’ll know there’s not a whole lot of nutrients and certainly no magical detoxing substances in it.
Specifically, an eight of a medium sized lemon (peel included) contains:
- 2 kcals
- 0.1g protein
- 0g fat
- 3.7mg of vitamin C
- 9.7 mg of potassium
- negligible amounts of vitamin A, B12, D, B6, magnesium, iron and calcium
As those unimpressive figures show, there really is not a lot of anything in the splash of lemon juice that goes into your detoxifying morning drink.
And even more significant is the amount (or lack) of vitamin C in it. To put that into context, the 3.7mg of vitamin C found in a lemon wedge is just one sixteenth of the recommended daily amount of 60mg for adults.
While lemons have a reputation for being high in vitamin C, that high level refers to larger amounts of lemon (like a whole lemon) and when the flesh, peel and juice are included. In fact, if you’re drinking your morning lemon water for a hit of vitamin C, you’ll get a lot more benefit by replacing your lemon wedge with a couple of slices of kiwi or papaya (which both contain more than double the amount of vitamin C found in a lemon).
The real effect of lemon water on the metabolism and digestion
Ok, so what about the common belief that drinking a glass of lemon water kick starts your metabolism and digestion?
Well, the belief that lemon juice stimulates digestion relates to the acidic nature of lemons. This, in theory, could contribute to the acidity of the stomach and therefore encourage the production of bile – the substance that your body makes to help break down fat.
However, there are two problems with applying this logic to your morning lemon water habit.
- There’s no scientific evidence anywhere to support this theory
- And that’s because the amount of lemon juice in a glass of lemon water is negligible,which means it’s unlikely to have a great deal of impact on your stomach’s acidity levels (unless you consume larger amounts of it).
But, there is a bit of good news.
Drinking a 500ml glass of water first thing in the morning really can boost the metabolism (and help you burn more calories). And this commonly cited study shows it can do so by 30%.
However, there’s a snag: the metabolism boost is due to the consumption of plain water NOT lemon water, and the water needs to be cold rather than warm. This is because your body burns the bulk of those extra calories by heating the cold water up to reach body temperature.
So, what’s the verdict?
Starting your day with a glass of hot lemon water is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a great way to rehydrate after your overnight fast. But if you drink lemon water because you think it’s doing something magical for your body’ toxin levels… it’s not.
And if you drink it to help you lose weight, you’re going about it all wrong.
Switch your hot water for a glass of ice cold water and you’re more likely to take advantage of any metabolism-boosting effect on offer. But, don’t pin all your hopes on this as the aforementioned study involved just 14 participants, which can’t really be considered as firm evidence.