Sipping on this hot citrus drink offers a host of healthy perks—especially if you do it first thing in the A.M.
Waking up with a glass of warm lemon water has been hailed as a favorite healthy morning ritual by celebrities and models like Gwyneth Paltrow, Gisele Bundchen, and Beyonce. But does the science back up all the hype? Turns out, sipping on this hot citrus-infused drink offers a host of healthy perks—especially if you do it first thing in the A.M. Here, seven health benefits of lemon water that'll convince you to give it a try:
1. It aids your body’s detoxification system.
Lemons contain an antioxidant called d-limonene, which has been shown to activate enzymes that help kick your liver into detox-mode, helping flush out built-up toxins. “Lemon water’s atomic structure is similar to the digestive juices found in the stomach,” explains Josh Axe, a natural medicine doctor, doctor of chiropractic, and clinical nutritionist. “As a result, it tricks the liver into producing bile, which helps keep food moving through your body and gastrointestinal tract smoothly.”
2. It balances your body's pH.
The term pH stands for power of hydrogen, which is a measurement of the alkaline/acidity balance of your body tissues and organs. Ideally, the healthiest pH is slightly alkaline, and even though lemons are acidic on the outside, they're actually an incredibly alkaline food when absorbed by the body. When your body's pH is out of whack (excessively acidic), which can be caused by things like alcohol, stress, lack of exercise and a diet high in processed foods, your body's immune system becomes compromised, leading to inflammation and disease. Incorporating lemon juice (and these other alkaline-forming foods) into your daily diet will help keep things in balance. (Speaking of #balance, the smell of lemons may even help reduce stress.)
3. It wakes up your digestive tract.
This simple yet powerful beverage stimulates your gastrointestinal tract, improving your body's ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste products. The citrus flavonoids in lemon help your stomach break down food, and the warm temperature of the water stimulates peristalsis (muscle contractions) that keep things moving along in the intestines.
4. It boosts your immune system.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that helps ward off disease, and lemons are loaded with it. Just one large lemon contains about 75 percent of your daily requirement. “One cup of fresh lemon juice provides 187 percent of your daily recommended serving of vitamin C,” Axe says. Research has shown that vitamin C can help shorten the duration of cold symptoms and that the best way to reap its benefits is by consuming it in your diet, rather than popping a supplement. (Try these other immune system-boosting foods too.)
5. It may help you look younger.
Another benefit of vitamin C's free-radical fighting power is that it protects against skin damage. Of course, it's normal for your skin to gradually lose its elasticity with age, but too much free radical exposure (think pollution, smoke, radiation, UV rays, etc.) accelerates the aging process. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, help keep these toxic molecules in check. Vitamin C also boosts your body's collagen production, helping to build healthy tissue and keep skin strong and resilient. (Here's a plan for protecting your skin from free radicals.)
6. It nourishes brain, nerve and muscle cells.
Lemons are also a great source of potassium, an essential nutrient that helps send more oxygen your brain and repair muscle cells. (That's why it's one of the five minerals you need for a better workout.) In addition to potassium, lemons also offer up a hearty serving of magnesium and copper, says Dr. Axe. Magnesium is particularly important for if you’re active because the body sweats it out during exercise. Copper isn’t a mineral you hear about too often, although it has been gaining popularity recently in skin and beauty products because of its promising anti-aging potential. On the inside, copper helps the body better absorb collagen and is important for energy production.
7. But it's not a miracle elixir.
“While some have gone so far as to claim that lemon water can cure cancer, that's not true,” Axe says. “Lemons contain cancer-fighting antioxidants as well as compounds that have been shown to kill cancer cells, but only when used in concentrated amounts.” Instead, he recommends that—no surprise—you should be sure to pair your lemon water with a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Bottom line: Are the health benefits of hot lemon water often dramatized? Probably. But lemons also have tons of nutritional benefits, so adding it to your daily diet does have some real health perks. (Learn how to juice a lemon so you get every last drop—and all the nutritional benefits.)