Expert advice: What's the real benefit of drinking lemon water?

10th March, 2021 • 6 min read

Wondering if the many health claims you've heard about lemon water are true? We ask our guest expert

Clarissa Lenherr
to separate the facts from fiction around drinking lemon water.

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As a nutritionist, people often ask me about lemon water and its supposed benefits. From helping you lose weight to clearing your skin to making your eyes sparkle, lemon water is said to do a lot of things – and I've heard them all. But how many of lemon water's reported benefits are actually real?

What are the benefits of lemon water?

Lemon water is simply water mixed with lemon juice. It’s low in calories and has small amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates and sugar. But even though it’s not very high in these nutrients, it does contain some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate and potassium.

It doesn’t really matter if you drink it hot or cold, or how much water you mix the juice with – you’ll still get the benefits it has to offer.

Here are some good reasons to drink lemon water.

Lemon water contains vitamin C and antioxidants

Lemons are a source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help protect cells from free radical damage. A 60ml serving of lemon juice contains 31% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.

Vitamin C may also help:

  • boost collagen production
  • promote a healthy nervous system
  • shorten how long the common cold lasts in people who do periods of intense physical exercise

Adding lemon to your water is an easy, low-calorie way to up your vitamin C intake.

Lemon water may boost hydration

Staying hydrated
helps to regulate body temperature, remove waste and toxins, improve skin health, keep bowel movements regular and deliver nutrients to our cells.

If you find it difficult to drink enough water, adding lemon to your water can make it taste better – which may help you drink more of it.

Lemon water may be good for your skin

Another reason to stay hydrated is to support healthy, glowing skin. Adding lemon juice to water provides a good source of vitamin C, which helps keep skin healthy. One study shows that higher vitamin C intake is linked to a reduced likelihood of wrinkles.

Vitamin C also contributes to the production of collagen, a naturally occurring protein which supports stronger and smoother-looking skin.

Lemon water may help iron absorption

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant-based foods such as beans and spinach. This is particularly useful if you follow a vegan, plant-based or vegetarian diet, which may increase your risk of iron deficiency. Having a glass of lemon water with a plant-based, iron-rich meal may help with iron absorption.

Lemon water myths

You might have heard some of these popular lemon water health claims – unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence to prove these are true.

Lemon water helps with weight loss

Research suggests there may be a link between drinking more water and weight loss (when combined with limiting calories) – but there’s no evidence to suggest that lemon water is any better for this than plain water.

Lemon water is low in calories and sugar and it may help weight loss if you’re using it to replace a high-sugar beverage, like a fizzy drink.

It’s also possible to mistake thirst for hunger, so having a glass of lemon water may stop you from reaching for food when you’re actually thirsty, not hungry.

Lemon water detoxes the body

The liver is responsible for detoxification, eliminating toxins from everything we consume. The body uses water to help remove waste through poo and wee. There is no evidence that lemon water is any more effective at helping this process than plain water.

Lemon water helps to alkalise the body

The alkaline diet is based on the idea that replacing acid-forming foods with alkaline foods can improve health.

Lemon juice is thought to produce alkaline products when it’s broken down by the body (metabolised). This is why the diet advises drinking lemon water every day.

However, what you eat or drink doesn’t affect your blood’s acidity or the balance of acidity and alkalinity (also known as pH balance) in your body.

Lemon water aids digestion

Some celebrities and influencers swear by lemon water, claiming that it kick-starts the digestive system.

When lemon water reaches the stomach, it has no extra benefits to digestive health and can actually trigger heartburn or acid reflux symptoms.

How to drink lemon water

There’s no right or wrong way to drink lemon water. When you drink it – whether late at night, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach or with a meal – will not make a difference to how it benefits you.

If you want to incorporate lemon water into your diet because you like the flavour, add the juice of half a lemon to a full glass of hot, cold or warm water.

You can flavour your lemon water with:

  • cayenne pepper
  • mint leaves
  • cinnamon
  • fresh ginger
  • turmeric

Is lemon water safe for everyone to drink?

Yes, but there are some potential side effects.

Drinking too much lemon water may trigger or worsen acid reflux, nausea and heartburn.

The acid found in lemons may damage tooth enamel over time, leaving teeth prone to cavities. Try rinsing your mouth after drinking lemon water or drinking it through a straw, which may help protect your teeth.

Key points

  • lemon water is a good source of vitamin C and contains some potassium
  • the amount, time and temperature of lemon water does not impact its potential benefits
  • drinking lemon water can help you stay hydrated and can make plain water tastier
  • most of the reported benefits of drinking lemon water stem from drinking water, rather than water with added lemon
  • lemon water may affect tooth enamel over time – use a straw or rinse your mouth after drinking

Keen to learn more about eating a healthy and balanced diet? Try out our 28-day

eat better plan for tips and hacks on how to boost your nutrition. Currently available on iOS only.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.