Very few of us have probably ever eaten a lemon as a stand-alone fruit like we do an orange.  And that’s okay.  Their intensely acidic and sour flavor would not be tolerated by most of us.  But that doesn’t mean lemons can’t be used within our daily diet – we just have to use our creativity. Lemons can add dynamic flavor to sauces, salad dressings, marinades, drinks, and desserts.

Brief history of lemons’ role in nutrition

Back in the 1700s when long sea voyages were manned by early explorers searching for new land, lemons were an integral part of those early expeditions.  Their claim to fame was that lemons were brought along and used to treat and prevent scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency disease common among those sailors from long ago.   The brave men who were part of those crews had no access to any fresh produce out in the middle of the ocean for months at a time putting them at risk of developing scurvy.  Lemons literally saved the day and their lives during that era.

Lemons health benefits

Lemons are an outstanding source of several nutrients but the primary one that stands out the most is vitamin C.  It is a rich source of this nutrient also known as ascorbic acid which can provide important health benefits for each of us:

·       One raw lemon contains only 17 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 51 percent of the daily value for vitamin C.

·       Lemons are a citrus fruit that have been shown to possibly lower the risk of ischemic stroke for women.  Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke which is caused by a blood clot blocking the flow of blood to the brain.

·       The powerful antioxidant vitamin C found prevalent in lemons can also help fight the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer.

·       The juice of lemons has been used to help fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution.  Vitamin C’s antioxidant presence may also help reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.

·       Foods high in vitamin C, like lemons, can also help the absorption of iron helping to prevent iron deficiency anemia and can bring a boost to the immune system making it stronger in battling germs causing cold and flu.

·       Lemons have unique flavonoids that are also important for making a strong immune system.

How to use lemons in your diet

Every home should always have fresh lemons on hand.  This is because they are quite versatile and can be used to jazz up flavor and freshness of many foods.  They pair excellently with savory as well as sweet dishes and are often used with fish, shrimp, scallops and chicken. 

Here are some ideas to squeeze lemons into your daily diet:

·       To get your digestive system moving, place lemon slices in warm water and drink up their powerful nutritional goodness

·       Squeeze lemon juice into smoothies, salad dressings or even add to milk when making pancakes.

·       Use that lemon peel.  Add lemon zest and juice to homemade chicken noodle soup or to homemade quick breads or muffins

·       Add lemon juice to minced garlic while sautéing veggies

·       Combine lemon juice with honey and paprika and brush onto chicken breast.  Top with lemon slices and bake for 30 minutes

·       Add lemon and lime slices along with sliced cucumbers and fresh mint to a pitcher of water for a refreshing drink

·       Squeeze a few drops into a cup of ginger lemon tea

The nice thing about lemons is they are always available year-round.  Choose lemons at their peak of freshness as they do not ripen or improve in quality after being picked.  The best place to store lemons is at room temperature away from direct sunlight. 

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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi