Is Drinking Lemon Juice Safe for Pregnant Women?

As a mama-to-be, no doubt you're brimming with both excitement and nervousness about the little bundle of joy growing inside you. And you're probably getting all kinds of advice from mama veterans on what to eat and not eat to keep both you and your baby healthy.

Use the juice of fresh lemons to make your homemade lemonade — just watch the added sugar. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/GettyImages)

When it comes to lemon juice, there's nothing wrong with adding it to your water or seltzer for flavor, especially if it helps you get the fluids your body needs to stay hydrated. But the acidity from the lemon juice may aggravate your heartburn, and you may want to avoid sweetened drinks, including lemonade, calamansi juice or nimbu pani, during pregnancy to avoid empty calories.

Tip

Drinking lemon juice is safe for pregnant women. However, if you suffer from heartburn, lemon juice may aggravate your symptoms.

Good Nutrition for Healthy Pregnancies

During that first visit with your obstetrician, nutrition will no doubt be a topic of conversation. What you eat or don't eat ensures that both you and your baby stay healthy throughout those nine months of gestation. You don't need to eat special foods, but you do need to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all the food groups to support both you and your growing baby's nutritional needs.

Your pregnancy eating plan should include:

  • Whole grains: whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, quinoa, bulgur
  • Fruits and vegetables: fresh and frozen
  • Low-fat dairy foods or dairy alternatives: milk, cheese, fortified plant-based milks
  • Lean proteins: seafood, poultry, lean red meat, beans
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados

Your nutrient needs increase during pregnancy, which means you need to make a sincere effort at maximizing the nutritional quality of every bite you take. To prevent excessive weight gain and support good health, you should limit foods with added sugar and unhealthy fats. Yes, that means limiting foods like ice cream, cake, cookies, fried foods and even sugary drinks like lemonade or calamansi juice.

Focus on Iron and Folate

While all essential nutrients are needed for a healthy pregnancy, certain nutrients are especially important, including folic acid and iron.

An inadequate intake of folate before and during pregnancy increases your baby's risk of birth defects such as spina bifida. Women need 400 micrograms of folate a day during childbearing years and 600 micrograms during pregnancy. In addition to a vitamin supplement, you can also up your folate intake by adding spinach, beans, avocados and fortified breakfast cereals to your daily diet. Although it's not a significant source of folate, lemon juice can also help you up your intake a bit.

During pregnancy, your blood volume doubles to help deliver the blood, oxygen and nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop. This increase in blood count means you need to up your intake of iron from 18 milligrams a day to 27 milligrams. You can improve your body's iron absorption when you combine an iron rich food — meat, poultry, beans or fortified cereals — with a vitamin C-rich food, such as lemon juice, oranges or tomatoes.

Calcium for You and Baby

In addition to iron and folate, you also need to ensure you get enough calcium in your diet. If you don't get enough calcium-rich foods to meet your daily calcium needs when you're pregnant — 1,300 milligrams a day — your body takes it from your bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis later in life. Calcium is also needed to support the development of your baby's heart and muscles.

Be sure to include plenty of calcium-rich foods in your healthy pregnancy diet to meet your increased needs and support your bone health, including milk, fortified plant milk, spinach or yogurt.

Eating for Two

When it comes to pregnancy, there is a lot of misinformation, especially when it comes to diet. Yes, you are eating for two, but that doesn't mean you get to eat twice as much. Your daily calorie needs do increase during pregnancy, but not until the second trimester, and your calorie needs may vary depending on your pregnancy weight-gain goals.

In general, your needs increase by about 300 calories during the second trimester and 500 calories during the third trimester. You need the extra energy to support the growth and development of your baby, and those extra calories should come from nutrient-rich foods so you and your baby also get the vital vitamins and minerals necessary to support that growth and development.

Lemon Juice Nutrition

Lemon juice is low in calories and provides some of the essential nutrients your body needs during pregnancy. To maximize nutrient intake, especially vitamin C, you're better off using juice from fresh lemons rather than lemon juice concentrate.

Nutrition in the juice from one lemon:

  • 11 calories
  • 3.3 grams of carbohydrates
  • Less than 1 gram of fat or protein
  • 21 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C
  • 2 percent of the DV for folate
  • 1 percent of the DV for potassium, thiamine, magnesium, copper, riboflavin and pantothenic acid

By comparison, nutrition in 3 tablespoons of lemon juice concentrate (which is approximately equal to the amount of juice from one lemon):

  • 11 calories
  • 2.4 grams of carbohydrates
  • Less than 1 gram of fat or protein
  • Zero vitamin C
  • 1 percent DV for folate
  • 1 percent of the DV for potassium, thiamin, magnesium, copper, riboflavin and pantothenic acid

Lemon Water While Pregnant

Like your nutrient and calorie needs, your fluid needs also increase during pregnancy. According to the Institute of Medicine, you need more than 12 cups of water a day to stay hydrated, assist with the circulation of nutrients to your growing baby and prevent constipation.

While any fluid counts toward your daily needs, including milk, soup and fluids found in your favorite fruits, water is the best choice when it comes to beverages. If you have a hard time drinking plain water, sipping on lemon water while pregnant may help you meet your daily fluid needs. Consider drinking lemon water with your meals to help you get a little extra vitamin C to assist with the absorption of iron from your food.

However, if you suffer from heartburn, the lemon water while pregnant may exacerbate your symptoms, and you may be better off with plain water. Or you can try water flavored with watermelon or cucumbers.

Limit Sweetened Lemon Juices

Fresh lemon juice in your water adds some nutritional value without any unnecessary calories. But sweetened juices with added sugar, like old-fashioned lemonade, may negate any nutritional value you gain from the lemon juice. One cup of lemonade has 110 calories, 29 grams of carbs (28 grams of that is sugar) and provides only 8 percent of the DV for vitamin C.

Nimbu pani, an Indian spiced lemonade that contains fresh lemon juice, sugar, spices and mint, may not work either. While it tastes refreshing, drinking nimbu pani during pregnancy also adds empty calories from the added sugar and can irritate your heartburn from both the acidity and spice.

Whether it's old-fashioned lemonade or nimbu pani, during pregnancy you're better off with plain water flavored with fresh lemon.

Calamansi Juice for Pregnant Women

Calamansi juice is a sour Filipino beverage similar to lemonade made from the juice of the calamansi, which is a cross between a lemon and lime, plus sugar and water. Like nimbu pani and lemonade, calamansi juice for pregnant women may add extra unneeded calories.

Instead of sugary calamansi juice for pregnant women, use the juice of the calamansi and squirt it into a glass of plain ice water to get the sour, refreshing flavor. You can also use the calamansi juice to add flavor to your favorite Filipino foods, such as pancit.

Warning

When using fresh lemon or calamansi juice for pregnant women, be sure to thoroughly wash the skin of the fruit in a fruit wash or with soapy water to remove any harmful bacteria. During pregnancy, your immune system is suppressed, making both you and your baby more susceptible to illness.

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