The Truth About… Lemon Water

So I thought it was time for another diet debunking… and while this is one is getting old, (and hopefully less popular), it seems to keep popping up every now and again… so I thought that I would post this anyway…

Another popular… shall we say diet trend that I have been watching for a little while is again not in itself a diet but another food buzz… a food buzz around lemon water… No I am not just talking about flavouring water with a slice of lemon to make it more palatable, although… it is just lemon in water… but it’s the claims that surround it…

Once again, my friend google has offered countless of sites that offer lots of reasons why everyone should start their day with warm lemon water… everything from alkalizing the body, to speeding digestion, to flushing out toxins… but can it really be that good? Unfortunately not… it’s just lemon in water… Although unlike many wonder diets out there at least this one hasn’t cost you that much…

So what’s the truth… well, maybe it’s easier to say what isn’t.  The most common reasons for consuming lemon water… as searched on google by myself… are as follows… aiding digestion and detoxing, weight loss, and balancing the bodies pH… and here are the facts

20131007-133103.jpg1. Water helps with digestion and detoxing… not lemons.
Some of the benefits that are often attributed to lemon water are most likely due to the fact that more water is consumed.  Water is essential for digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients, body temperature regulation and the elimination of waste from our bodies.  Starting the day with a full glass/mug/bucket of lemon water also means that you are starting the day with the same volume of water and in many cases this is additional to what you may have normally consumed, or instead of an alternative beverage that contains other things as well as water, such as milk, juice or coffee. When we consume adequate amounts of water, which many people find challenging, our bodies are more efficient at processing and removing waste products… I guess that could be called detoxing, but it’s not the lemon, it’s simply the fact that the body has the bits it needs to do it’s job.

20131007-133043.jpg2. One food won’t ‘fix’ your metabolism.
Another common misconception that gets caught up in this is that lemon water can also ‘increase your metabolism’ and to be blunt, it’s just not true… there is no single food that will boost/speed up/alter our metabolism. Yep foods are metabolised differently, and some are easier to digest than others, but our metabolism as a system is much more complicated than simply adding lemon. It is regulated somewhat by our intake, including water and hydration, but also by a whole series of hormones… and if I could find one food that would make it go faster… my job would be a lot easier… but it’s not lemon water.

20131007-133037.jpg3. Lemons are acidic!
There is also lots of hype around alkaline foods… and their neutralizing nature – but that’s a whole blog in itself. The reality is the GI tract which runs from our mouth to… well the other end, has a number of different pH levels (that is how acidic or alkaline something is) which it requires to function.  On the most part it is acidic… on purpose… and if it wasn’t it would stop working properly.  Lemons are also acidic… in saliva, they are still acidic… they give us vitamin C because they are acidic (Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid)… if they neutralized and somehow alkalized the body we wouldn’t get the vitamin C or ascorbic acid… because it would have disappeared in the process… if it becomes neutral or alkaline… its not an acid anymore… Lemon water and alkalising just doesn’t make sense.  You can’t add an acid to our acidic bodies and make an alkaline environment.

As a side note to the whole lemons are acidic thing… acidic drinks… like soft drinks, juices and you guessed it lemon water aren’t great for your teeth, so you need to make sure that you clean your teeth afterwards… the acids in these drinks eat away at the enamel on the teeth… and if that’s not protected… well it’s not pretty. Acid + more acid doesn’t equal alkaline

20131007-133110.jpg4. Lemon water won’t make you lost weight.
Well simply adding lemon water to the diet won’t… there are lots of celeb’s that rave about the lemon water diet…the great Beyoncé herself believes it is a miracle diet… but it only works if you use lemon water to replace other food… so really just having less calories in the diet… less calories in = weight loss. But in this case it also means you also lose all of the other nutrition that the meal replaced has provided… mostly all macronutrients – Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate… none of which lemon water provides. So it will work, but it’s not a great way to do it, it’s unsustainable and dangerous… and definitely not recommended.

20131007-133057.jpgSo is there any actual benefit for lemon water?
Well, if you can’t stand plain water and a slice of lemon helps you keep your fluids up and stay hydrated… then absolutely… If you really hate fruit and this is as close as you can manage… well I guess some vitamins are better than none (and even then a slice of lemon only has 16% of your recommended daily intake of Vit. C compared to an orange which contains 118%). But including water and fruit, even lemons, as part of the bigger picture of a well balanced diet is much more important than relying on lemon water to fix everything… because it just can’t.


It’s not magic,
It’s not special,
It’s just regular food…

Em – your friendly Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD).

2 thoughts on “The Truth About… Lemon Water

  1. I used to eat lemons whole as a kid, and I was really fat, so I guess that I was just missing the water. Missed the benefits, where were these nutritional lies when I was a kid, I could have been so detoxed!!

  2. It’s great to see more APDs out here trying to debunk some of these diet myths! There is no ‘quick fix’ or ‘miracle’ ingredient to solve all our diet problems! Just good old fashioned balance and moderation is what we need.

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