Lemons for Health and Flavor


Lemons are a delicious and healthy part of the Mediterranean Diet, filled with cancer-fighting flavonoids, and loaded with vitamins and minerals.  As with herbs and spices, lemons offer a sodium-free way to flavor foods.

Lemons are a good source of vitamin C.  One average size fruit contains 30 mg, which is about 51% of the RDA (recommended daily allowance).  Consuming lemons and their juice is linked to many health benefits which include lower cardiovascular disease risk, fighting scurvy, increased iron absorption, fighting cancer, and supporting a healthy immune system.

Lemons have a distinct tart flavor and aroma, and they can be used to enhance the flavor of vegetables, like broccoli.  If a recipe calls for lemon zest, use a zester to remove the zest, which is the colored part of the peel.  Be careful and do not include the white pith which is directly beneath the peel.  The pith is very bitter.

Reasons To Eat Lemons

1. Lemons protect against cancer

Lemons contain a phytonutrient called limonene.  Lemons contain significant amounts of limonene in the peel and less in the pulp.  Limonene stops cancer before it begins by stimulating our antioxidant detoxification enzyme system.

Lemons also contain vitamin C which plays a role in fighting cancer.  One study of Swiss men found that those who died of any form of cancer had vitamin C concentrations about 10 percent less than those who died of other causes.

2. Lemons strengthen immunity

Scientific studies show the antioxidants in lemons protect against viral infections.  The vitamin C in lemons also protects the cells in your body by neutralizing free radicals.   Free radicals cause chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

3. Lemons lower cardiovascular disease risk

Vitamin C concentrations in the blood have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and early death in a large Danish population study published in 2015.  The researchers saw that the participants who had the highest concentrations of vitamin C from fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those with the lowest levels.

4. Lemons increase iron absorption

Pairing foods that are high in vitamin C with those that are high in iron (including sunflower seeds, nuts, beans, and dark leafy greens), can help maximize the body’s ability to absorb iron.  A deficiency in iron is the leading cause of anemia and one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in developed countries.

5. Lemons protect against scurvy

Scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency disease, and the symptoms include anemia, debility, exhaustion, spontaneous bleeding, and pain in the limbs.  Lemons provide vitamin C to help prevent this debilitating disease.

Ways To Enjoy Lemons

  • Citrus vinaigrette: Make a citrus vinaigrette using the juice of lemons and/or oranges, mixed with garlic or shallots, extra-virgin olive oil, and pepper.
  • Cook with poultry: Baste chicken breast or thighs with a mixture of lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, and your favorite spices.  Bake topped with thin slices of lemon.
  • Add to pasta: Lemon and herbs go nicely with pasta.  Make a sauce of the zest and juice of two lemons, a garlic clove, chopped chives and chopped parsley and two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.  Swirl the lemon sauce into cooked (until al dente) angel hair pasta.
  • Add to vegetables: Lemons complement the taste of many vegetables.  Think lemons and broccoli, lime-marinated vegetable kabobs, and artichokes and lemons.
  • Add to whole grains: Once your whole grains are cooked, add lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh herbs to brighten the flavor.

What’s your favorite lemon recipe?