Lemon is one of the healthiest, most versatile fruits on earth: It goes well with both sweet and savory dishes, has a refreshing taste and provides high doses of vitamin C. The lemon juice diet, which revolves around this fruit, guarantees fast weight loss, increased energy and better health — but can you really trust these claims?
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The lemon juice diet doesn’t say anything about calories or macronutrient ratios, so it’s hard to tell how much weight you can lose. The results will depend on your daily calorie intake and activity level.
Health organizations worldwide recommend losing no more than one to two pounds a week. Track your food intake and create a calorie deficit to reach your weight loss goals.
The Lemon Juice Diet Basics
The lemon juice diet was developed by bestselling spiritual author Theresa Cheung and published in the book with the same name in 2008. It's marketed as a safe way to lose weight quickly using lemon juice, a "magical" ingredient. Cheung claims that lemon juice improves digestion and nutrient absorption, detoxifies the body and increases satiety, in addition to its weight loss benefits. Unfortunately, little information is available about this detox plan.
Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, lemon juice has its place in a balanced diet. One serving (a half of a cup) provides 27 calories, 8.4 grams of carbs and less than 1 gram of fat and protein. It also contains small amounts of iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc. A single serving offers more than half of the daily recommended vitamin C intake.
Theresa Cheung's diet plan revolves around lemon juice. As the author points out, this ingredient supports digestive health, boosts your energy and reduces blood sugar levels while ridding your body of toxins.
The problem is that none of these claims has ever been proven. In fact, lemon juice is more acidic than soda and sports drinks and can damage your teeth, worsen heartburn and irritate mouth sores when consumed in excess.
Compared to other detox plans, the lemon juice diet offers more flexibility and convenience. It encourages the consumption of nuts, seeds, fatty fish, fresh produce and other healthy foods that nourish your body. At the same time, it limits sugar and processed foods. Most claims are overhyped, but the diet itself is easy to follow and may help you get leaner.
Start With a Mini-Detox
As mentioned, there is little information available about this diet from any source other than the book. According to anecdotal evidence, it has two phases: a one-day mini-detox followed by a seven-day diet plan.
The mini-detox lasts 24 hours and involves drinking a beverage made with filtered water, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Dieters can replace maple syrup with cinnamon. Whole foods, such as pulses, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are allowed, too. You can even eat small amounts of fish.
Read more: Lemon Water Detox Diet
The ingredients used in this beverage are supposed to lower your blood sugar levels and increase fat burning. Cinnamon, for example, has emerged as a natural hypoglycemic agent. According to a September 2013 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Family Medicine, this spice can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar, triglycerides and bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol in diabetic patients.
The study authors state that these findings may not be entirely accurate, though. Additionally, there is little known about the side effects of cinnamon in humans.
Another research paper, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in September 2012, states that there is insufficient evidence to confirm the potential benefits of using this spice in diabetes management. According to its authors, cinnamon is no better than a placebo.
Clean Up Your Diet
The next phase of the lemon juice diet lasts seven days. Cheung recommends making a small change to your diet every day, such as cutting down on sugar or eating more fruits and veggies. To lose weight, drink warm lemon water every morning and six to eight glasses of water throughout the day.
Over the next few days, you must gradually increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, add more protein to your meals, eliminate sugary foods and practice mindful eating. Take your meals in a quiet place, chew slowly and enjoy every bite. If possible, eat at regular times. Avoid stress as much as possible.
Slow eating gives your brain time to catch up with your stomach and process satiety signals. When you eat, your digestive tract releases digestive hormones that signal your brain that you're full. Additionally, if you're not fully chewing your food, it won't be properly broken down, which may lead to digestive distress.
Read more: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss
In fact, a February 2018 study conducted on people with diabetes and published in the BMJ suggests that eating speed affects waist circumference and body mass index. As the researchers note, eating more slowly may help prevent obesity and its complications. The same study indicates that skipping breakfast and eating dinner or snacks before bedtime may contribute to weight gain.
The lemon water diet also limits the consumption of saturated and trans fats. As the USDA points out, these fats may increase your risk for heart disease and affect cholesterol levels. They're commonly found in:
- Fatty meats
- Processed meats
- Whole milk and cream
- Palm oil
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
- Most types of cheese
- Fried foods
- Baked goods
To make this diet work, replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated fats. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds are all an excellent choice. Also, watch your portions and don't eat more than you need.
The Lemon Juice Diet also features meal plans and snack ideas that seem delicious. Chicken risotto, omelet with grated cheese, grilled banana with dark chocolate, strawberries, whole grain toast with butter and homemade pizza are just a few examples.
Cheung also recommends adding lemon juice to most meals. Alcohol, coffee, soft drinks and fatty meats are off limits.
Lemon Water Weight Loss Results
As you might have noticed, the lemon juice diet doesn't restrict calories or portion sizes. It only provides general recommendations on what to eat and what to avoid. If you follow the meal plan included in the book, you may find it easier to control your portions and make smart food choices.
The key to weight loss is to create a calorie deficit. To do that, it's necessary to exercise more, eat less — or both. Basically, you have to take in fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis.
According to Harvard Health Publishing and other health organizations, there are about 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat. This means that if you eat 500 fewer calories every day, you should lose one pound per week. Since the lemon juice diet doesn't require calorie counting, it can be hard to tell what your daily calorie intake looks like.
The general recommendation is to lose no more than one to two pounds per week. This can increase your chances of success and help keep the pounds off. Whether you create your own menu or use the one included in the book, consider tracking your daily calories.
Write down what you eat and how many calories are in each meal. Use an online calorie calculator to get a better idea of what's in your food. Monitor your progress and adjust your food portions accordingly.
- USDA: "Raw Lemon Juice"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Lemon Juice"
- American Dental Association: "Erosion: What You Eat and Drink Can Impact Teeth"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What to Eat When You Have Chronic Heartburn"
- American Dental Association: "Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth"
- NCBI: "Cinnamon Use in Type 2 Diabetes: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Cinnamon for Diabetes Mellitus"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Are You a Fast Eater? Slow Down to Eat (and Weigh) Less"
- BMJ Open: "Effects of Changes in Eating Speed on Obesity in Patients With Diabetes: A Secondary Analysis of Longitudinal Health Check-Up Data "
- USDA: "Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans Fats"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Simple Math Equals Easy Weight Loss"
- CDC.gov: "What Is Healthy Weight Loss?"
- Google Books: "The Lemon Juice Diet"