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Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts of Lemon

Lemons are a very versatile and healthful fruit. The Botanical name is Citrus Limon. When life gives you lemons you're in luck. Lemons are full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. They are especially good sources of vitamin C and folate. Lemons are one of the most popular acid citrus fruits, Their origin is unknown, though some horticulturists theorize they come from Northern India. Lemons grow throughout southern Europe, the Middle East, and into East Asia. They were brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Today, the leading lemon producers are California, Arizona, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, South Africa and Australia. 

Lemons are available throughout the year but summer is their peak season. Lemons are an extremely versatile fruit. You can eat them in slices, sip healthy lemon water, make lemonade, garnish food with them, candy their peels, and use their juice and peels in cooking and more.  Lemons are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, flavonoids and compounds called limonins, a New York City based registered dietitian, certified strength and conditioning specialist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Limonins are found in the juice of the lemon.

A quarter cup of lemon juice contains 31 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 3 percent of folate and 2 percent of potassium all for around 13 calories. A whole raw lemon contains 139 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C intake and has 22 calories. Recent studies have examined the role of lemons in accessing carotenoids, which are beneficial phytonutrients, from other foods during the digestive process. Carotenoids can have low bio-accessibility and bioavailability, meaning that even if you eat a carotenoid rich food like carrots, you might not absorb many of the carotenoids.

In 2018, a study by  International Journal of Nutrition and Food Engineering found out that, the carotenoids in boiled or mashed carrots, when combined with lemon juice, olive oil and whey curd, were nearly 30 percent more bio-accessible than without. This suggests that lemons can be an effective exigent food, meaning that, in addition to their own nutritional properties, they can unleash benefits from other foods when combined with them.

Vitamin C is plays a role in immunity and helps neutralize free radicals in our body. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells and may protect the integrity of immune cells. Vitamin C helps protect leukocytes, which produces antiviral substances. 

Folic acid is said to aid in preventing strokes and may contribute to helping cardiovascular health by lowering homocysteine levels. In 2010, meta analysis published in The European Journal of Internal Medicine found that results from clinical studies examining folic acid and heart attacks were inconclusive but folic acid consumption can result in a modest improvement in stroke reduction.  Vitamin C, too, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Also in 2015 a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at more than 100,000 people and found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. Those with the highest vitamin C levels in their plasma had even more reduced rates of heart disease. 

Vitamin C may have cardiovascular benefits because it is an antioxidant that protects against dangerous free radicals. It also may lower bad LDL cholesterol and keep arteries flexible. Studies have also shown the effect of limonin on lowering cholesterol, in 2007 a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine shows that, men and women who had high cholesterol were given limonin and vitamin E daily for a month and their cholesterol levels lowered 20 to 30 percent. Limonin reduces apolipoprotein B, which is associated with higher cholesterol levels. 

Lemons and limes contain the most citric acid of any fruits, which makes them beneficial to those suffering from kidney stones. Citric acid deters stone formation and also breaks up small stones that are forming. The more citric acid in your urine, the more protected you are from forming new kidney stones. Half a cup of pure lemon juice every day or 32 ounces of lemonade has the same amount of citric acid as pharmacological therapy. 

A study in 2011 published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found out that, lemon extract applied to breast cancer cells induced cell death. The lemon extract was applied in vitro, but the results may suggest powerful cancer fighting properties in lemons.

There are numerous studies being conducted to understand the role folate plays in cancer reduction, folate's possible cancer reducing properties are likely linked to its role in the production of substances that silence cancer DNA. The study points out, however, that some research has suggested that in some cases high levels of folate could actually encourage cancer cell growth. Folate may provide protection early in carcinogenesis and in individuals with a low folate status, yet it may promote carcinogenesis if administered later and potentially at very high intakes

Lemons are a great, low calorie way to flavor drinks and food. And indeed, lemons, lemon water and lemon peels have become popular with dieters. In 2017 a study of short term juice based diets, all of which had lemon juice as a primary ingredient, saw that participants intestinal microbiota associated with weight loss had improved, their vasodilator nitric oxide had increased and the oxidation of their lipids had decreased, resulting in improved wellbeing overall.  The peels also contain many nutrients. Grating the peels and adding to salads, chicken or fish dishes can add a citrusy flavor. Peels can also be blended into smoothies or soups. But she emphasized against treating them like a magic bullet for detoxing and weight loss. 

Lemons may help damaged livers. The 2017 animal study found that rats who had severely damaged livers from alcohol intake saw liver improvement after consuming lemon juice. Lemon juice significantly inhibited negative effects associated with liver disease. More study is needed to determine if humans would see similar protective effects. 

In general, lemons are quite good for you, but if consumed in excess, can cause gastric reflux problems or heartburn for those who suffer from the conditions. Additionally, the citric acid can wear down the enamel on your teeth. So do drink lemon water through a straw. 

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