Lime juice is high in vitamin C and contains flavanones, a type of polyphenols that provide many benefits to human health. The benefits of lime have been studied concerning everything from cancer prevention to reducing inflammation. The pulp and peel of lime also offer boosts for health.
Lime juice is high in vitamin C, flavonoids and bioactive compounds that make it ideal for fighting cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illness while providing a breadth of nutritional benefits.
Lime Juice Nutrition and Vitamin C
Most people associate limes and other citrus fruit with vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and for a good reason. Just one fluid ounce (31 grams) of lime juice contains 9.2 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, according to the USDA. For a person on a 2,000 calorie diet, that's 10 percent of your daily value in only one ounce.
One whole lime has, on average, 44 grams of juice, which is about 15 percent of your daily value for vitamin C. One lime's worth of juice contains 11 calories, 3.7 grams of carbohydrates and 0.2 grams of protein.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it is carried through bodily tissues without being stored in the body, Colorado State University explains. Humans, unlike most other animals, cannot synthesize vitamin C and as such, it must be replaced daily — so getting enough each day is essential. Since vitamin C is easily destroyed, it is best practice to keep your limes in the fridge to better preserve their rich vitamin C content.
Vitamin C is most concentrated in citrus fruits such as lime juice and the associated peel and pulp, and according to the information sheet produced by Colorado State University, is involved in:
- Protecting cells from free radicals (antioxidant)
- Improving iron absorption
- Regenerating vitamin E supplies
- Helping to build collagen, which holds bones, tissues and other bodily structures together
- Metabolizing cholesterol to bile acids
- Synthesizing norepinephrine (stress hormone and neurotransmitter) and carnitine (responsible for energy production)
- Immune system function
Not getting enough vitamin C can cause issues with poor wound healing, bruising and slow collagen rebuilding, as well as poor dental health, and in extreme cases, scurvy. Getting too much vitamin C is unusual, but megadoses over 2,000 milligrams per day can result in diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps and vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Read more: Citrus Fruits and Diarrhea
Most people can obtain the optimal amount of vitamin C from a healthy, varied diet that includes citrus fruits like lime juice.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 90 milligrams for men per day and 75 milligrams for women who are not pregnant or lactating. Pregnant women should aim for 85 milligrams per day, and lactating women should try to get 120 milligrams.
There is plenty of research that has been completed on the benefits of lime and vitamin C, including that which points to vitamin C as helping prevent certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease as well as other diseases that are caused by oxidative stress, says the NIH.
How Limes Can Prevent Cancer
The flavonoids in lime juice and peel include apigenin, hesperetin, kaempferol, nobiletin, quercetin, and rutin, naringin and tangeretin. Limes also contain many bioactive compounds studied for their contribution to preventing and treating cancer, such as limonene, β-pinene, γ-terpinene and citral.
A July 2016 review of research on key limes in Pharmacognosy Reviews examined evidence to support the anti-cancer properties of key limes. Several types of cancer are discussed in this review, including colon cancer, pancreatic, breast cancer and lymphoma.
In the case of colon cancer, several compounds in key limes were shown to inhibit the growth of specific colon cancer cells. In pancreatic cancer, several bioactive compounds in the juice and extract of key limes such as rutin, neohesperidin, hesperidin and hesperetin were shown to stop the growth of different types of pancreatic cancer cells. The fruit juice extract and fruit peel extract of key lime were shown to inhibit the growth of specific breast cancer cells after exposure.
In the case of lymphoma, different compounds of the key lime affected lymphoma cancer cells in distinct ways. Flavonoids for skin cancer, hesperetin and limonoids for colon cancer, nobiletin for gastric cancer and naringenin for prostate cancer, gastric cancer and hepatocarcinoma.
The studies showed protective effects against stomach cancer due to flavones in citrus. The researchers theorize that the flavones inhibit cancer formation through various pathways in the metastasis, cell mobility, proapoptosis and angiogenesis.
This review backs up an early August 2014 review in BioMed Research International that examined the anticarcinogenic effect of citrus flavonoids in cancer therapy. The study summarized that high citrus flavonoid intake could contribute to a reduced risk of developing colon cancer and a 10 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer.
Moreover, hesperidin, tangeretin and nobiletin could improve chemotherapy outcomes. Hesperidin could help to prevent the damage caused to genetic information due to chemotherapy.
More Health Benefits of Lime
The health benefits of lime extend far beyond its anti-cancer effects. Various studies and research reviews, including the 2016 Pharmacognosy Reviews and 2014 _BioMed Research International ,_say that limes are:
- High in fiber
An October 2012 article published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety explains that citrus fruit, including lime juice, plays a pivotal role in bolstering our supply of nutrients and energy.
Limes supply mostly carbohydrates in the form of sucrose, glucose and fructose, but also contain a healthy dose of dietary fiber to help prevent gastrointestinal diseases and high cholesterol levels. Limes also provide B vitamins, carotenoids, the flavonoids, as mentioned earlier, and limonoids, which help prevent a variety of chronic diseases.
The review goes on to explain that citrus contains micronutrients that are essential for growth and optimal health, such as thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium potassium, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and copper. These factors help prevent chronic diseases caused by nutrient deficiency, and citrus has been tied directly to helping prevent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
A September 2019 article published in Foods showed that limes have hypolipidaemic effects. This effect comes from the essential oils found in lime peel. Although the study was done on rats, it shows promising results for improving total serum cholesterol, triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, alanine aminotransferase and aspartate transaminase levels in those with too high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Using Lime on Skin
Although using lime on the skin may be a popular folk remedy for acne or dark skin spots, you should be careful when attempting this. A September 2014 case examined in the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives revealed that phytophotodermatitis could result from accidentally or purposefully getting lime juice on your skin.
Phytophotodermatitis is a type of skin condition called dermatitis. It is caused by exposure of the skin to photosensitizing compounds in plants. If the skin is then exposed to light, the condition can result. Phytophotodermatitis can cause tenderness, swelling and blistering of the skin.
While consuming limes and lime juice can benefit the skin due to the fruit's antioxidant properties and the collagen-boosting role of vitamin C, it is ill-advised to try placing juice from a lime on skin directly.
Benefits of Lime Essential Oil
Essential oils are popularly used for aromatherapy, as well as for their purported health benefits. Essential oils are volatile plant oils that are extracted from various parts of a plant such as the bark, leaves, stems, roots, fruits, flowers and peels. In the case of limes, the essential oil is found and extracted from the skin.
According to an August 2015 article published in The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, aromatherapy with plant essential oils aims to help provide relief from ailments such as:
- Respiratory problems
- Skin issues
- Swollen joins
- Muscle pain
Citrus essential oil is thought to be astringent, antiseptic and helps to prevent blemishes, brighten dull skin and boost the immune system. It is also believed to have anti-nausea properties and to boost mood. Note that, although vacuum distillation of essential oils removes its phytophotodermatitis effect, you should not apply lime essential oil directly to the skin, but add it to a carrier oil first.
A July 2018 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences revealed that key lime essential oil could aid in weight loss, suppress appetite and treat drug-induced obesity and obesity-related diseases. It was also shown to be antispasmolytic, could help treat Alzheimer's disease and has antibacterial and anti-insecticidal properties.
How to Consume Lime Juice
Lime is fresh, zesty and acidic. The juice and rind can both be used to add punch to your favorite dishes, including mains, sides and even dessert.
Try making LIVESTRONG.com's post-workout avocado and lime popsicle for a vitamin C, B and carbohydrate boost to your recovery. If a warm dish is more your thing, try our Mexican Tomato, Black Bean and Corn Pasta Soup, which contains a healthy dose of lime juice.
Or try our recipe for Shrimp and Mango Rolls with Cilantro Lime dressing. They are packed with protein, nutrients and healthy fats for only 230 calories. You could also make the dressing to use on salads, fish or chicken. Just blend the following ingredients:
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 2 yields lime juice
- 1/2 an avocado
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/3 cup Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
Adding lime juice to your diet is simple. The fruit is easy to squeeze on to a variety of cuisines. Lime juice pairs well with the cuisines of Mexico, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and more. Use it to flavor curries, salsa, sauces, beverages and plain water.
- USDA: "Lime Juice"
- Colorado State University: "Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C"
- NIH: "Vitamin C"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Is It Possible to Take Too Much Vitamin C?"
- The Linus Pauling Institute: "Flavonoids"
- Pharmacognosy Reviews: "Anticancer Activity of Key Lime, Citrus aurantifolia"
- BioMed Research International: "Anticancer Activities of Citrus Peel Polymethoxyflavones Related to Angiogenesis and Others"
- Foods: "Lime (Citrus aurantifolia (Christm.) Swingle) Essential Oils: Volatile Compounds, Antioxidant Capacity, and Hypolipidemic Effect"
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "History, Global Distribution, and Nutritional Importance of Citrus Fruits"
- Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives: "Lime-induced Phytophotodermatitis"
- Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine: "Essential Oils Used in Aromatherapy: A Systemic Review"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Biological Activities and Safety of Citrus spp. Essential Oils"