In a world where fruits like acai and goji berries are touted as superfoods, the humble lemon can sometimes go unnoticed. It’s easy to forget about something we’re all too familiar with. It’s also easy to eschew the lemon in favor of more interesting, exotic-sounding fruits and veggies. But why search far and wide for something unusual, when the familiar is just as good?

Lemons are rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that supports normal growth and development. The human body cannot produce vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, on its own, so it’s essential to obtain it through the foods we eat.

Lemons are also high in citric acid, a weak organic acid found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Citric acid has several important uses. It is a natural preservative, can serve as a natural cleaning agent, and it acts as an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it helps prevent oxidation and cell damage. Thanks to their antioxidant properties, lemons are often used in skincare to help fight certain conditions, including acne and wrinkles.

Though popular in the beauty industry, lemons (and lemon juice) also have health benefits that go much deeper. Lemons can actually be beneficial for the heart and kidneys, while also helping to fight anemia by allowing the body to absorb sufficient iron. With all of these benefits, it really wouldn’t be so far-fetched to refer to lemons as a superfood, too. Here are three key benefits of lemon juice:

1. Boosts Heart Health

One study found that the fiber obtained from citrus fruits like lemon helps lower cholesterol. Ten participants who consumed citrus fiber for four weeks experienced their HDL-cholesterol levels go down by 14.6 percent. 1 Lower cholesterol is essential for heart health. High cholesterol can lead serious health issues as well. 2 Additional studies have found that generally consuming foods rich in vitamin C, like lemons, and the juice of lemons, may help prevent certain major health problems. 3,4

lemon juice | Heartland Nutrients

2. Helps Prevent Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are small mineral deposits that occur when urine becomes too concentrated. This leads to minerals like acid salts crystallizing and sticking to each other, essentially forming tiny stones. Kidney stones are painful to pass, and can be recurring in people who’ve had them before. 5 Though kidney stones don’t cause any permanent damage, the pain alone can be severe enough to warrant hospitalization. Preventing them can save you a lot of time and discomfort. Studies have found that drinking lemon juice can increase the citric acid in urine, which may help prevent kidney stones from forming. Drinking just about half a cup a day may be enough to prevent them. 6,7

3. Helps Prevent Anemia

Anemia occurs when there is a lack of healthy red blood cells available to carry enough oxygen throughout the body. It usually leads to weakness and fatigue, and ranges from mild to severe. In some cases, it can be a sign of something more serious. 8 One cause of anemia is not getting enough iron from food. Iron from meat and fish is easily absorbed in your small intestine, but iron from plant sources is more difficult to absorb. Lemons, thanks to their high concentration of citric acid and vitamin C, help improve absorption of iron from plant sources. 9,10 Lemons, and lemon juice, can potentially help protect against anemia by enabling you to absorb all the iron possible from the foods you eat.

Bonus Beauty Tip: The benefits of lemon juice for skin are well known, but lemons can also be beneficial for nails. A mixture of cooking oil and lemon juice can help strengthen brittle nails, and even whiten them if they’ve turned yellow after one too many manicures. Mix a quarter cup of olive oil with the juice from half a lemon. Soak your nails in the mixture for about 10 minutes. Repeat as necessary. You can also try coconut oil for a sweeter smelling combination.

Make More Than Lemonade

It’s easy to incorporate lemons and lemon juice into your diet. Besides making lemonade, you can add lemon juice to salads and tacos for a light, low-calorie dressing, or to cocktails for that extra zing. The heart health benefits alone should be enough to convince you to make lemons a regular part of your diet. Toast to your health with a cup or two of this super healthy fruit – as often as possible!

Want more helpful health tips? Keep reading:

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It’s in the Food: Why Italians Are the Healthiest People in the World

Sources:
1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531705801757
2. http://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-disease-statistics/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11412050
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11022052
5. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-stones/basics/definition/con-20024829
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8709360/
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18946667
8. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/home/ovc-20183131
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3593665
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469253