You know that drinking plenty of fluids when you have a cold or the flu is key for staying hydrated, but you might be wondering if lemonade is an especially effective drink.
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After all, the sip is made from citrus, which is an excellent source of immunity-boosting vitamin C, right? The answer may not be so black and white. Read on to find out if drinking lemonade can make you feel better when you're sick.
The Downsides of Drinking Lemonade
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends drinking fluids when you have the flu to prevent dehydration including water and broth. According to Michele Sidorenkov, RDN, trained chef and dietitian, drinking sweetened beverages — like lemonade — may seem like a good way to stay hydrated, but sipping these can be a slippery slope.
"When compared to whole fruit, sweetened and processed juice don't provide any real nutritional benefit and can be an easy way to mindlessly gulp down lots of unnecessary added sugar," she tells LIVESTRONG.com.
What's more, when we're sick and losing bodily fluids (for example, through sweat, vomiting or diarrhea), we also lose electrolytes, which is why drinking lots of fluids is so important.
"You can still drink lemonade," Sidorenkov says, "but lemonade — even lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemons — does not provide a significant amount of the rehydrating electrolytes you need." Coconut water or Pedialyte may be better options if you're looking for more natural electrolyte drinks.
What about the vitamin C in lemonade — won't that help treat the flu? There's conflicting evidence on whether vitamin C can actually boost the immune system and ward off harmful viruses and bacteria.
However, a meta-analysis of nine clinical trials, published in BioMed Research International in July 2018, found that a higher dosage of vitamin C, taken at the onset of a cold, helped reduce the duration of the illness and lessen its symptoms.
That said, the benefits of vitamin C come from taking vitamin C long-term on a daily basis (the recommended daily amount is 75 milligrams for women ages 19 and older and 90 milligrams for men), not just taking it when someone is already sick.
The Bottom Line
Just because there's no evidence suggesting that lemonade can treat the flu, that doesn't mean you should avoid it altogether. Of course, as with anything, moderation is key.
The American Heart Association recommends women get no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day while men cap their intake at 36 grams.
If you want to avoid the excess sugar, Sidorenkov recommends making lemonade yourself with fresh lemons instead of buying it at the store. Make your lemonade in a large batch to drink throughout the day and only add as much sugar as absolutely necessary without overdoing it, Sidorenkov says. "And you can also substitute honey for sugar, too."
Additionally, if you experience vomiting with the flu and want to introduce lemonade when it stops, dilute it with water first because the potency could irritate an empty stomach if left at its full strength.
Read more: 10 Ultimate Smoothies for Any Time of Day
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "The Flu: Caring for Someone Sick at Home"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin C"
- BioMed Research International: "Extra Dose of Vitamin C Based on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugar"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.