“The fruit of the lemon is impossible to eat,” or so the song claims, but that didn’t stop Americans from gobbling down an average of 6.4 lbs. of these tangy yellow orbs each in 2007, mainly in the form of lemon juice, according to Hayley Boriss of the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
Lemons are often treated as a culinary afterthought – a spritz in your iced tea, a wedge nestled on the rim of your water glass. Yet the powerfully concentrated tartness of lemon juice accents many dishes, and lemon juice provides a number of nutrients as well.
The juice of an average size lemon contains 49 mg of potassium, a nutrient that is vital to cell function. Potassium aids in conducting electricity through the body, is necessary for heart function and enables both voluntary and involuntary muscles to contract. A high salt diet alters your need for potassium, as can the use of certain drugs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Lemons contain twice the vitamin C of oranges, according to Drugs.com. The juice from an average lemon delivers 18.6 mg of vitamin C, according to the USDA. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps form collagen, which is essential in the structure of bones, teeth and blood vessels. Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling promoted the use of megadoses of vitamin C as a cold prevention method. The Harvard School of Public Health disputes that advice and notes that smaller doses, up to 300 mg daily, are sufficient for meeting your daily requirements of vitamin C.
Lemon juice contains 10 mcg of folate. Folate has a protective effect against spinal birth defects when consumed by a child’s mother before she becomes pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Folate also aids in red blood cell formation and bone marrow, according to Diet.com.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow pigments found in high concentrations in the human eye. They’re also found in plants such as lemons, with about 7 mcg in the juice of an average size fruit. These substances help plants by absorbing excess sunlight, thus preventing damage from high energy light rays, according to the All About Vision website. Foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin may help slow macular degeneration and reduce cataract risk. They also have antioxidant properties and protect against hardening of the arteries.
- USDA: Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vitamin C
- Harvard School of Public Health: Three of the B Vitamins: Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12
- Agricultural Marketing Resource Center: Citrus Profile
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- All About Vision: Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Eye and Vision Benefits