While it's tempting to grab your favorite iced tea, latte or sports drink when looking for something to quench your thirst or boost your energy, keep in mind that these beverages — and countless others — can have lots of added sugar and calories. A flavorful alternative is drinking lemon water, which has zero calories and provides several key health benefits.
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Lemon water's primary ingredient is, of course, water. Flavoring your water with fresh lemon to make it more palatable can help its appeal, making you likely to reach for it more often.
And drinking enough water is essential for optimal health. It's your body's main chemical component, making up roughly 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in the body depends on water to function properly. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, delivers nutrients to cells and creates a moist environment for tissues in the ear, nose and throat.
Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, a condition that happens when your body doesn't have sufficient water to carry out normal functions. Women should aim to drink about 2.2 liters of water per day — about 9 cups, and men should try to drink around 3 liters per day — about 13 cups.
Adding lemon to water is an easy way to get some of this fruit's nutritional benefits. Lemons are low in saturated fat and sodium and are also a good source of folate, potassium and vitamin C.
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin known to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy; it also may prevent cognitive decline, cancer, certain psychiatric illnesses and cardiovascular conditions. Potassium builds protein and muscle, maintains normal body growth and controls the electrical activity of the heart.
And lastly, vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, notes MedlinePlus. As an antioxidant, it contains nutrients that block damage caused by free radicals, which may play a role in cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
Read more: 12 Ways to Make Water Taste (Much) Better
Lemon water also plays a key role in cleansing your system, according to Dr. David Jockers, owner and operator of the Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Water infused with lemon contains citric acid, which can clean out calcium stones and prevent calcium deposits from building up in arteries. These deposits can promote cardiovascular disease. Jockers also notes that lemon water can provide the body with hydration, antioxidants and electrolytes.
A Healthy Alternative
Lemon water can serve as a tasty alternative to other, less healthy beverages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while calories in drinks aren't "hidden," you may not realize just how many calories beverages can contribute to your daily intake.
For example, in a 12-ounce serving, apple juice has 192 calories, orange juice has 168 calories, lemonade has 168 calories and a sports drink has 99 calories. In contrast, lemon water has zero — making it a great choice for when you want a flavorful drink but not all the added calories.