Fad diets abound, with books, articles and websites attracting dieters who hope to shed extra pounds either for better health or to fit into a favorite pair of jeans. One persistent diet myth is that drinking lemon water – either hot or room temperature, with or without honey – will flush away fat, leading to a slimmer you. The truth is, no single food or drink, including lemon or honey, is a magic bullet that will help you lose the weight you put on over time. Your best bet when you’re trying to trim down is to make your calories count, opting for nutrient-dense, fiber-rich whole foods over processed or fast foods. In conjunction with a healthy eating regimen, follow a regular schedule of exercise that you enjoy and will stick with. That said, both lemon and honey could have small roles to play in your weight-loss diet.
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Although lemon doesn’t hold the key to effective weight loss, it is a healthy addition to your diet that may have a variety of benefits. The juice of one lemon, which is about 3 tablespoons, contains just 11 calories -- good to remember when you're counting calories. This small portion is also rich in vitamin C, supplying 21 percent of a man’s daily needs for this powerful antioxidant and 25 percent of a woman’s. Health benefits of vitamin C include possible protection from cancer, cardiovascular disease and illnesses related to aging; it can also aid your weight-loss goals by helping you burn more fat. Lemons will help you meet your vitamin C requirements, but so will other vitamin C-rich whole foods, like oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, red and green peppers, broccoli and strawberries.
Lemon and Weight Loss
People with adequate intake of vitamin C from foods like lemons burn 30 percent more fat during exercise than those who are deficient, according to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2005. You don’t have to overdose on hot lemon water, though, to reap the diet-friendly benefits. A slice of lemon or lime in 8 ounces of plain or sparkling water may serve an important function in weight loss – helping you wean from sugary, high-calorie drinks, like sodas and fruit juices. Cucumber slices and fresh berries can play the same role of livening up your drinking water without adding a lot of calories. You can use lemon in other diet-friendly ways, too. Lemon will give a little zing to your morning smoothie or green juice. Swap out fatty salad dressings for a squirt of lemon on your salad greens, or use lemon juice to boost the flavor of baked fish and chicken or steamed veggies instead of creamy sauces. Lemon juice will also keep a fresh fruit salad from turning brown, and fruit is a good substitute for sugary desserts like cake or ice cream. Be aware, though, that too much lemon water – or other acidic drinks – can erode your tooth enamel over time, especially if you brush your teeth directly after drinking it.
Sugar in the American diet is a big factor in the rise of obesity and overweight, and ironically, artificial “diet” sweeteners may also affect weight gain. The same diets that advocate drinking lemon water for weight loss often suggest adding honey, a natural sweetener, to the mix. However, a teaspoon of honey contains 21 calories, which is actually 5 calories more than the same amount of granulated table sugar. Because honey is sweeter than table sugar, though, you can use less of it to get the same effect. Also, unlike table sugar, honey contains trace vitamins and minerals and may offer some health benefits. Scientists have studied honey for its anti-bacterial and wound-healing properties, for example. There is some evidence to support honey’s potential for weight loss, too, although more studies are needed. In one small study, diabetic patients who took honey for two months lost weight and improved their cholesterol levels; however, their blood sugar levels increased. These results were published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2009.
Using Honey in a Weight-Loss Diet
As with any food, if you eat too much honey and take in more calories than you burn off, you will gain weight. However, if you have a sweet tooth and find it hard to go cold turkey from sugar, using small amounts of honey as a substitute may help satisfy your cravings. Try a 1/2 teaspoon in your hot or iced tea, or mix a small dollop of honey into plain Greek yogurt instead of buying sugary yogurts with fruit on the bottom. Or try replacing sugar in baking recipes with honey. You will need significantly less – only half or three-quarters the amount of sugar the recipe calls for – but you will also need to subtract some liquid from the recipe and decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees, according to Whole New Mom website.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Women to Women: Natural Weight Loss
- The Kitchn: How Much Juice Is in a Lemon?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Lemon Juice, Raw
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin C
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Strategies for Healthy Weight Loss: From Vitamin C to the Glycemic Response
- Placerville Dental Group: Are Lemons Souring Your Teeth?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Honey
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Sugars, Granulated
- Columbia University Go Ask Alice: Honey vs. Sugar: Which Is Healthier?
- Obesity Society: U.S. Adult Consumption of Added Sugars Increased by More Than 30% Over Three Decades
- Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health: Artificial Sweeteners
- Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine: Honey: Its Medicinal Property and Antibacterial Activity
- International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: Effects of Natural Honey Consumption in Diabetic Patients: An 8-week Randomized Clinical Trial
- Whole New Mom: How to Substitute Sweeteners