Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of lemons vs. limes?

By | May 21, 2019
Lemons and limes are types of citrus fruit with very similar nutritional profiles and health benefits. However, there are also some differences between them.

Lemons come from a small evergreen tree native to South Asia.

Several types of citrus tree can produce limes, such as the key lime tree, which is native to Southeast Asia.

This article will discuss the similarities and differences between these fruits, including their health benefits, nutritional contents, and uses.

Health benefits

Lemons and limes
Lemons and limes contain lots of vitamin C, flavonoids, and antioxidants.

Both lemons and limes have a long history of use in traditional medicine. They each contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and provide a range of health benefits.

People also make claims about the health benefits of lemon water and the potential benefits of drinking lime juice.

Lemons and limes have several shared health benefits because they share the following properties:

They contain lots of vitamin C

Both lemons and limes are high in vitamin C, an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron from foods and supports the immune system.

The body also uses vitamin C in the production of collagen, an important substance for healing wounds.

They contain flavonoids

Lemons and limes both contain flavonoids. Flavonoids are phytochemicals that may have several health benefits, such as for heart disease and metabolic disorders.

Animal and cell studies have suggested that flavonoids have anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, cancer-fighting, and neuroprotective properties. However, more research is needed to fully understand their effects in humans.

Research into flavonoids is still in its early stages, but the initial findings are promising.

They contain antioxidants

Along with vitamin C, lemons and limes also contain other antioxidants.

Antioxidants help protect the body from cell damage, which appears to play a role in a range of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and dementia.

It is possible that antioxidants also help prevent these conditions from developing. However, again, research into this area is ongoing.

They may aid weight loss over time

Some sources claim that consuming lemon, or lemon-based products, can help with weight loss. For example, lemon water is a mixture of fresh lemon juice and water and is a part of some weight loss diets.

However, there is currently no scientific evidence to prove that lemon, or any lemon-based product, can result in weight loss above what adequate hydration promotes. Learn more about the lemon detox diet here.

Lemons can form part of a healthful diet that eventually leads to weight loss, but this is likely to be as a result of a reduced calorie intake, regular exercise, and other more substantial lifestyle improvements.

Nutrition

Lemons and limes share a similar nutritional profile, as we detail in the table below. These nutrients reflect what is present in a whole lemon or lime, not in the juice.

1 lemon, 84 g 1 lime, 67 g
Macronutrients
Calories 24.4 20.1
Protein 0.92 g 0.47 g
Fat 0.25 g 0.13 g
Carbohydrates (total) 7.83 g 7.06 g
Sugars 2.1 g 1.13 g
Fiber 2.35 g 1.88 g
Vitamins and minerals
Calcium 21.8 mg 22.1 mg
Potassium 116 mg 68.3 mg
Vitamin C 44.5 mg 19.5 mg
Folate 9.24 mcg 5.36 mcg

The nutritional benefits of lemons and limes are the same. Although lemons have slightly more of some vitamins and minerals, the difference is too small to have any effect.

Acidity

Both lemons and limes are high in citric acid. This means that they are acidic compared with many other foods.

Lemons and limes have very similar citric acid content, though lemons may have slightly more on average:

  • Lemon juice contains around 48 grams of citric acid per liter (g/L).
  • Lime juice contains around 45.8 g/L.

Uses

Lemon rind
Lemon and lime rinds are popular in cooking.

Many foods and drinks contain lemons or limes due to their strong, sour flavours. This might be in the form of premade or freshly squeezed juice, or as chunks or slices of the fruit.

The fruits’ rinds have unique bitter flavors that make them popular in cooking. For example, people can use the juice or peel from both fruits for flavoring sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

Also, lemon and thyme is a good combination for marinating chicken and fish. Lime works well with garlic, as well as with chilli powder for marinating meats.

Lemons and limes are good additions to many hot or cold drinks. For example, a person can add chunks of lemon or lime to water to make citrus water, or they can use lemon or lime to flavor teas.

Due to their high acidity, these citrus fruits are also effective at killing bacteria. Because of this, a range of citrus-based cleaning products are available, from bleaches to surface cleaners.

Also, some studies have shown that the essential oil of lemon and other citrus fruits can enhance mental state through inhalation and aromatherapy, exert antimicrobial properties, and reduce skin inflammation through the topical application of the peel.

Risks

Consuming lemons or limes in moderate amounts is generally safe. However, the fruits can cause a stinging pain when in contact with open wounds, such as a cut lip or a mouth ulcer.

Their high acidity also means that they may worsen heartburn or digestive issues in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

In large amounts, citric fruits can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities over time.

When using cleaning products that contain citrus or other irritating chemicals, use gloves and avoid contact with the skin.

Summary

Lemons and limes are citric fruits with very similar nutritional profiles. They are rich in vitamin C and contain other antioxidants and flavonoids that are beneficial to health.

Both fruits are common ingredients in a variety of foods and drinks. Their acidity also makes them good for use in cleaning products.

Both fruits are safe to consume in moderate amounts, but they can cause minor issues in some people, such as worsening the symptoms of GERD due to their acidity.

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