While lemons are typically added to foods and beverages rather than eaten whole, there are still many potential benefits to consider with this citrus fruit. From boosted immunity to better digestion, here’s what the science says about lemons and health.

May Promote Better Immune Function

Vitamin C, which lemons naturally offer, is considered a crucial micronutrient in immune health. As one clinical review explains, vitamin C can boost your immune function, decrease inflammation, and possibly help fight infections. (That said, there’s no evidence that vitamin C can reduce your risk of catching the common cold, though taking vitamin C supplements regularly might help shorten your cold and lessen its severity, notes the NIH).

May Protect Against Chronic Diseases

According to the NIH, getting an adequate vitamin C intake from eating lots of fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. It’s thought that vitamin C in foods like lemons may decrease oxidative damage throughout your body. However, it’s not clear whether vitamin C alone, whether in diet or supplemental form, directly reduces the risk of chronic disease development.

May Promote Better Digestion

While there’s no research suggesting that lemons alone can detox the body, drinking lemon water may promote better digestion overall.

“Adding lemon to your water may mean you actually desire to drink more and achieve your unique hydration needs,” explains Trisha Best, RDN, a consultant with Balance One Supplements based in Dalton, Georgia. “Lemon water has also been shown to support weight loss by improving insulin resistance and digestion.” One in-vitro study suggests that lemon extract may contain bioactive compounds, such as flavanones, which researchers found mimicked insulin resistance.

Best also notes that drinking warm lemon water in the morning may have a laxative effect. This could promote better digestive health if you experience constipation. While more research is needed on this end, one study found that lemon juice, when combined with prune juice, helped promote normal bowel functioning in patients who recently underwent orthopedic surgery.

May Decrease the Risk of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are composed of calcium, uric acid, and oxalate, per Mayo Clinic. These start off as crystals, and then may grow larger until they turn into painful stones. Lemons may prevent kidney stones due to their citric acid content that may bind to calcium. According to Harvard Health, 80 to 85 percent of kidney stones are composed of calcium.

“Those prone to kidney stones may also see benefits from making lemon water a regular part of their drink rotation,” says Best. Harvard Health also notes that citrate in lemons and lemon juice may help reduce the incidence of kidney stones.

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