Lemons for health
Nutritionist Mikki Williden on the benefits of including lemons in your everyday diet
Lemon’s vitamin C content helps the absorption of iron from non-haem (or plant based) iron sources. A salad dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice tossed through kale, spinach or baby silverbeet is a great way to increase the absorption of iron from the dark leafy greens.
Most indigestion or heartburn cases actually stem from too little stomach acid and not – contrary to belief – too much (see note below). Therefore having lemon juice in a small amount of warm water around 20 minutes before a meal can help encourage stomach acid production.
Flavonoids are a phytochemical with antioxidant properties, and those found in citrus have significant potential to lower blood lipids and the overproduction of lipoproteins from the liver. Flavonoids in citrus can also prevent fatty acid build up in the liver and enhance insulin signalling in the body, improving insulin sensitivity which is important in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
The oil in lemon, d-liminol, has been found to upregulate glutathione transferase in the liver, an enzyme involved in the detoxification pathways. The liver is an important site for the removal of toxins from the system and this mechanism is the likely underpinning of the infamous Lemon Detox diet — however we don’t need to be drinking maple syrup water and cayenne pepper to get the detoxifying effects!
As the oil is found in the peel of the lemon, zest some lemon skin into a glass of warm water and lemon in the morning to take advantage of this health benefit. Lemon peel contains a compound called terpenes, a hydrocarbon which has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and interact with the brain. For that reason, d-liminol has been studied for its ability to inhibit cholinesterase activity, the mechanism responsible for breaking down two neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and butyrylcholine.
It’s also possible the antioxidant properties of d-liminol can protect the brain neurons from being attacked by reactive oxygen species. Both of these have been studied in relation to Alzheimer's disease and though this has been proven in a laboratory setting, we have yet to see if this is also applicable in human trials.
Note: The reason you get a burn in the oesophagus is because the small amount of stomach acid is not enough to break down the food in your stomach, therefore the acid is pushed back up the oesophagus. So the indigestion/heartburn medication works to suppress the acid and eliminate the burn — for sure! It’s not, though, addressing the actual problem.