Lemons are a refreshing addition to many foods and beverages and offer the nutritional benefits of vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. Aside from their culinary and nutritional uses, lemons are thought to provide a variety of health benefits due to their alkalizing effects on the body. Consult your doctor before making any diet or lifestyle changes.
As a prime example of the wonders of chemistry, lemons, one of the most acidic foods we eat, become one of the most alkalizing foods once they are broken down in your body during the digestive process. Food scientists determine whether a food is alkalizing or acidifying by burning it in air to simulate the process of digestion, which, chemically achieves the same effects as combustion by flame, says naturopath and accupuncturist Michelle Schoffro Cook, D.N.M., D.Ac, author of the book "The Ultimate PH Solution: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Prevent Disease and Lose Weight."
Lemons may be alkalizing or slightly acidifying, depending on your individual ability to break down, or metabolize, acidic foods, says Chirstopher Vasey, author of the book "The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health: Restore Your Health by Creating PH Balance in Your Diet." Weak acids, including lemons and most fruits, whey protein, yogurt and vinegar are easier to metabolize and usually provide an alkalizing benefit. However, some people are less efficient at this digestive process and experience an acidifying effect from the same foods that are alkalizing for others. To determine which metabolic type you are, Vasey recommends using pH strips that you can purchase at a drug store to test your pH levels in response to different foods.
A study published in the August 2008 issue of the journal "Urological Research" found that supplementation with lime, a close citrus relative to lemon, had alkalizing effects that discouraged kidney stone formation, which occurs in an acid environment. In the study, participants with history of kidney stones consumed lime powder for three months. Results showed an increase in urinary pH, indicating an alkalizing effect of the lime extract and a decreased risk for kidney stone formation. Lime powder was as effective as potassium citrate solution at increasing alkalinity. Lime powder also decreased levels of oxidized lipids, while potassium citrate did not show this benefit. Researchers suggested that lemon consumption may also provide alkalizing effects for reducing kidney stone formation.
Lemons, limes and grapefruit are low-sugar fruits that will provide alkalizing effects while not offsetting those benefits with the acidifying effects of sugar, says Robert O. Young, author of the book "The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health." Lemon and lime contain about 3 percent sugar while a non-sweet grapefruit might contain 5 percent. Young recommends not taking lemon or lime half an hour before a meal or for 10 minutes after a meal.