What’s the deal with Lemon Water?

by Mama Loves A Drink

No matter how many diet guides or mama self-help guides I’ve read over the year, one consistent theme always seems to come up “drink warm lemon water to start your day”.

I’ll say it. I’m not the biggest fan of the taste.  But every time I feel it’s time for a little bit of detox and self-care (I’m looking at you corona lockdown) one of the first habits I fall back into is starting my day with warm lemon water.

So here I am, starting my day with lemon juice again, instead of diving straight into my Special K or devouring a cuppa to get my bleary eyes to focus.  But am I even doing it right? Is there are a reason it’s “warm” (not tepid, not hot, definitely not iced?) Is it juice or are slices OK? Oh crap, it’s bitter and sweet, does it have calories, am I ruining my overnight fast? What’s it doing to my teeth?

We all get it. Sugary cocktails, beer all no-nos when we’re trying to watch our weight and detox our body. But why am I still drinking this god forsaken lemon water every day? Is it THAT good for me?  The truth here now mamas!

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A lady holding a glass of lemon water

Why drink lemon water?

Oh wow, well an initial Google gave me a TONNE of results – “7 Benefits”, “10 reasons”, “15 Benefits”…

But how many of these truly apply? I’ll paraphrase for you here some favourites!

  • Hydration – ah duh. I think we get that one. And the lemon makes it takes nicer, hmmmmm.
  • Lemons are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, citric acid, folate, phosphorus and many more
  • A good source of vitamin C for protecting our immune system. Yep, we love an antioxidant helping protect our cells from those free radicals – and vitamin C may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and lower blood pressure. 
  • The citric acid helps supports digestive health – it interacts with other essential enzymes in your stomach and stimulates the secretion of gastric juices, eek!
  • High levels of pectin can do wonder for your colon health
  • It helps support weight loss as it increases digestion and increases the metabolic rate
  • The pectin fibre present in lemon keeps cholesterol levels under control and curbs hunger, preventing you from overeating (though pectin is mostly in the rind)
  • Lemon juice is effective at cleansing the liver as it promotes the liver to produce more enzymes to flush out toxins
  • Lemon’s anti-inflammatory properties help fight respiratory infections and sore throats
  • Lemon water helps maintain the ph levels of your body to make sure your system functions properly
  • Lemon water feeds our skin with an important dose of folic acid
  • It energizes our mind and body for the day

Well, OK the little bit of cynic in me aside, this all sound like pretty darn good reasons to start your day with lemon water.  

But have I been doing it right?

Why drink lemon water warm?

With warm water, it aids with the hydration as it provides electrolytes to the body. Warm water, apparently, also helps reduce joint and muscle pain so good to drink after exercise and it helps digestion and hence regulating natural bowel movements

Room temperature or warm is best, not boiling hot as it destroys some of the therapeutic properties of lemon. But you are certainly not doing yourself a disservice to drink it at room temperature.

But why does timing matter?

“drink first thing on an empty stomach” – but whyyyyy!!!?

Drinking lemon water first thing in the day is apparently best for the liver. It’s been working away while we sleep to purge toxins, so it’s ideal to hydrate and flush these toxins out when we wake up.

How many calories are in a glass of lemon water?

This one really intrigued me as I have started intermittent fasting (the thing where you only eat for an 8-hour window of the day – a beginners introductory guide here) you are allowed to drink water and any no or very low-calorie drinks during the fasting period of 16 hours – I knew this included black tea and coffee – but what about lemon water?

After a month of semi-starvation, had I in fact been breaking my fast with the amount of lemon I was adding to my water, therefore defeating the purpose of not eating anything until 10 am?

Good news! The juice of half a lemon has about 6 calories!

Although experts also disagree on the pros and cons of drinking during your fast, in order to disrupt your fasting state it would appear the commonly held opinion is you would need to be intaking around 20 to 40 calories.

So intermittenet fasters, keep going with the warm lemon water!  

woman drinking a glass of water with lemon slices

Shoud I be drinking lemon water during the day too?

OK then wonder drink, why aren’t I drinking you all day then?

Well, why not! It can certainly make a change from boring water. Especially if you are fasting, I have found it helps break up my evening when my thoughts might otherwise wonder to the drinks cabinet for a quick nightcap.

You should be drinking at least 2 litres of water a day regardless, but does it matter if they are all lemon-based? 

There can be too much of a good thing, depending on who you believe. Those who are on the cleansing end of the scale of nutrient advice say there’s no such thing as too much; the lemon juice is excellent for your oral health. Fresh lemon kills the bad bacteria in your mouth that may cause tooth decay.

But wait…now the health professionals are telling us the citric acid may erode tooth enamel. They want us to limit the risk of tooth decay by drinking through a straw (metal, of course, no plastic) and rinse our mouths with plain water afterwards.

When it comes to heartburn sufferers, please seek your own advice. It appears for some sufferers find lemon water can relieve heartburn whereas others the citric acid can cause heartburn.

How do you make warm lemon water?

Super simple and easy to prepare if you keep your supply of lemons on hand:

Ingredients

  • ½ lemon
  • Large mug/heatproof cup
  • Warm filtered water

Preparation

  • Cut a lemon in half and squeeze half a lemon into the mug/cup
  • Add the warm filtered water

It depends how strong you like it – some say 16oz of water, some say 8oz (240ml).

Oh and slices of lemon in your water? Not only do you get many of the benefits associated with the squeezed lemon juice, but they also work as a natural breath freshener (here’s me just thinking it made the glass pretty). The lemon is thought to stimulate saliva to prevent a dry mouth which can lead to bad breathe, caused by bacteria.

Other water infusions you can try

At the end of the day, just drink more water! Hydration is key and yes, lemon water has many benefits, as do other infusions, why not try:

  • Raw honey – the liver apparently draws in the honey to restore glucose reserves purging deep toxins
  • A slice of fresh ginger
  • A few sprigs of mint
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • Even a sprinkle of turmeric!

Other fresh citusu fruits including limes, oranges, cucumber slices also get the thumbs up.

Freshly squeezed lemons over store bought or pre-squeezed

Lemon juice oxidizes very quickly once juiced so you will no longer have all the vital nutrients once the juice is bottled. Store-bought juice is also likely to have added preservatives so it’s really there for the flavour rather than nutriental value.

One time-saver is making lemon ice cubes. Squeeze out the lemon juice into an ice cube tray, half a lemon into each and freeze immediately. Drop the ice cube into your warm water for an instant lemon wake me up with minimal preparation fuss.

Our takeaway on the benefits of lemon water

So the cynic in me aside, will I keep drinking lemon water?  Like all things habitual, you DO get used to it.  There are certainly a lot of undeniable benefits so we say… go for it!

Start your day with warm lemon water then keep your hydration up throughout the day with a few slices of lemon & any interesting infusions to keep it interesting. Our wonderful mocktails and alcoholic drinks are meant as a treat and should be drunk in moderation.

Sources (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

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