A Guide to Using Lemons as a Folk Remedy
Pucker up and reap the benefits
By Elizabeth Woolley | Reviewed by a board-certified physician
Updated July 22, 2017
Woman squeezing lemon juice into glass of homemade smoothie
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Lemons have a long history as a folk remedy for type 2 diabetes. But is there any truth to the claim that lemon has curative properties?
Lemons have definite benefits for people with diabetes but are not a cure-all.
Nutrition of Lemons
Lemons have as much vitamin C as an orange. For that reason, they and other citrus fruits were taken on long sea voyages to help prevent scurvy, which is a disease that results from a vitamin C deficiency.
Lemons also have a third the amount of sugar as oranges, although both citrus fruits have the same amounts of carbohydrates.
Lemons and Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association includes lemons on their list of superfoods due to soluble fiber and the high amount of vitamin C. Both soluble fiber and vitamin C can benefit people with diabetes. Lemons also have a low glycemic index, and some studies show that lemon may lower the glycemic index of other foods.
When it comes to research on the benefit of eating lemon for diabetes, there is very little to back it up. A 2015 meta-analysis in Primary Care Diabetes found that eating citrus fruits did not seem to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Citrus fruits do contain flavonoids, naringin, and naringenin, that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects, according to a 2014 study in Advances in Nutrition. However, there is still not a whole lot of research into these compounds and their use in treating diabetes.
Fiber and Vitamin C
There are two components in lemons that are definite benefits if you have diabetes: soluble fiber and vitamin C.
High-fiber diets have been shown to reduce blood sugar. Soluble fiber can also help lower heart disease risk by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and help with weight loss.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that reduces free radical damage in the body. Free radicals damage cells and membranes in the body. Many people with diabetes have low levels of vitamin C. Because vitamin C helps with the production of collagen, it helps maintain the integrity of the walls of the arteries and can be helpful to people who have circulation problems and arterial damage.
Some studies have shown that vitamin C may help decrease levels of fasting blood sugar, triglyceride, cholesterol, and inflammation. It may even improve insulin resistance. Keep in mind too much vitamin C, especially from supplements, may be harmful.
Food for Thought
If you have diabetes, and you think you might want to go on a lemon diet, consult your doctor first. There are a few tips and considerations you should additionally think about.
Tips and Considerations
Ask for expert advice on how to incorporate lemon in your diet and how much is ok. You do not need to drink high amounts of lemon juice to gain benefits.
Lemon can cause heartburn. If this happens to you, then you may need to cut back.
Lemon juice can erode tooth enamel and increase tooth sensitivity. If drinking lemon water or juice, drink through a straw and rinse your mouth.
Lemon peel contains a high amount of oxalates. Consuming a high amount of oxalates can cause problems such as kidney stones and pain from inflammation.
Lemon can act as a diuretic. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Squeeze lemon on greens and use along with extra-virgin olive oil as a simple dressing or try the following dressing: Lemony diabetes salad dressing recipe.
American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Superfoods. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/diabetes-superfoods.html?loc=ff-slabnav.
Jia X, Zhong L, Song Y, Hu Y, Wang G, Sun S. Consumption of Citrus and Cruciferous Vegetables with Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Based on a Meta-Analysis of Prospective Study. Prim Care Diabetes. 2016 Aug;10(4):272-80.
Ashraful Alam M, Subham N, Mahbubur Rahman M, Uddin S, Reza H, Sarkar S. Effect of Citrus Flavonoids, Naringin and Naringenin, on Metabolic Syndrome and Their Mechanisms of Action. Advances in Nutrition. 2014.
, Masanori; Okada, Miki; Sayashi, Sanae; Nabeno, Yuka; Osawa, Toshihiko; Naito, Michitaka. “Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-Induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in B-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue.” J Clin Biochem Nutr November 2008 43(3):201-209
Harding PhD, Anne-Helen; Wareham FRCP PhD,
J; Bingham PhD, Sheila A: Khaw FRCP,
; Luben BSC, Robert; Welch PhD, Ailsa; Gorouhi FFPH PhD, Nita G. ” Plasma Vitamin C Level, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, and the Risk
New-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Archives of Internal Medicine 2008;168(15):1493-1499.