Lemons with their delightful burst of citrusy freshness can liven up any meal. But you may not think of it as a “food” like you would a handful of nuts or some spinach. The juice and the flesh of the lemon do have more nutrient content than you’d realize, though. And some of these have benefits if you are diabetic. So how good are lemons for diabetes? Read on to find out!
1. Vitamin C In Lemons May Help Lower Blood Glucose Levels
Researchers have found a strong inverse relationship between the level of vitamin C in your body and your risk of diabetes. They also found that fruit and vegetable intake to some extent reduced the risk of developing diabetes, highlighting the importance of a diet rich in fresh produce.1 Thanks to their high vitamin C content, giving you nearly 50% of the daily value (DV) for the vitamin, lemons make an ideal candidate for helping boost your levels of this vitamin.2 3
[pullquote]The American Diabetes Association recommends citrus fruits like lemons as superfoods for diabetics thanks to their rich fiber, vitamin C, folate, and potassium content. Such superfoods are nutrient-rich and may also have health benefits, helping prevent or manage diabetes.4[/pullquote]
Some research also points to the use of vitamin C alongside medicines like metformin to help treat type 2 diabetes. In one study, researchers found that test subjects who took oral vitamin C along with metformin for a period of 12 weeks saw a drop in levels of fasting and post-meal blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c). These are measures of how much in control you are of your diabetes.5 Vitamin C supplementation could have potential side effects if consumed in overly large amounts, so it may be a smart idea to stick to natural sources like lemon juice.
2. Fiber Content Regulates Glucose And Lowers Risk Of Heart Trouble
Lemon contains a precious 2.4 grams of fiber in its flesh, which is about 9.6% DV.6 7 For diabetics, increasing fiber intake is important due to the elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. High-fiber diets may improve glycemic control, reduce your insulin requirements, bring down triglyceride levels, and even help with weight loss. Such diets may also help improve metabolic control for diabetics and even lower blood pressure levels.8 Fiber-rich foods also tend to be lower on the glycemic index, causing your blood glucose levels to fluctuate less and making you feel full for longer, preventing binges.9
3. Potassium In Lemons Also Fights Heart Problems
Potassium can lower your blood pressure and cut the risk of strokes and heart attacks – all problems diabetics may be more susceptible to due to their condition.10 One possible explanation for its cardiovascular health benefits is that it reduces the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) due to calcium buildup.11 It also balances the effects of a high sodium diet, which many of us are guilty of having today due to the consumption of processed foods.12
4. Ayurveda Recommends Warm Lemon Water To Aid Digestion
As someone with diabetes, you need to keep your digestive system working well. Diabetes that is poorly controlled can affect other systems in the body, including the digestive system. Among other things, it may result in acid reflux and gastroparesis which causes food to be digested slowly and for the stomach to be emptied slower than normal.13 While there are medications to help hasten stomach emptying, lemon water can offer a more natural route.
Ayurveda believes that there is a link between “ama” or undigested foods and toxins in the body and diabetes. Purging this ama by modifying the diet and adopting lifestyle changes (like increased activity) can help with the disease itself.14 You can get your metabolism going with some warm water with lemon juice as soon as you wake up every morning. It helps stimulate muscular contractions to purge your system of toxins and gets your digestion kick-started.15 If you have a weight problem, the warm water along with lemon juice may also amp up your metabolism, helping your body burn more calories through the day.16
A caveat here for anyone with diabetes is to start this lemon water regimen only after running it by your doctor. If you find that it makes you feel ill or causes your sugar levels to suddenly dip, this is not something you should continue with.
5. Lemon Is Also A Low-Calorie Ingredient To Meet Nutrient Needs
As a diabetic, you may sometimes struggle with finding ways to get your nutrition without consuming too much sugar, carbs, or calories. Lemon is one of those low-fat and low-calorie foods that you can consume freely as salad dressing instead of greasy sugar-laden mayo or as a base for homemade lemonade in lieu of sugary soda.
It may not seem like it, but lemons do have a lot of vitamins and minerals like most citrus fruit. The flesh of an 84 gm lemon contains 44.5 mg of vitamin C (49.4% DV), 2.4 gm of fiber (9.6% DV), 22 mg of calcium (1.7% DV), 116 mg of potassium (2.5% DV), and 9 mcg of folate (2.3% DV).1718 You can even eat the lemon segments in a salad or tagine – an entire fruit has 17 to 24 calories. Lemon does contain 7.8 gm of carbohydrates and 2 gm of sugar.19
The juice of one lemon, on the other hand, has just 3.3 gm of carbohydrates, 1.2 gm of sugar, and 11 calories. While it has virtually no fiber, it does have 18.6 mg of vitamin C (20.7% DV), 10 mcg of folate (2.5% DV), 49 mg of potassium (1% DV).20 21 So go ahead and use the lemon in your food and drink, just for the love of its tangy flavor or for the health benefits it could offer.
How To Use Lemons In Your Diet
Here are some ways you can use lemons in your diet. You’ll see that the citrus fruit is quite versatile and really freshens up any meal with its zingy flavor.
- Go for the simplest lemon juice or warm lemon water.
- Low-calorie dressing for salads instead of mayonnaise. Simply add in a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Increase the spice by adding mustard or herbs.
- Use it to season and flavor grilled meat, fish, or poultry – it is much lower calorie and virtually fat-free compared to barbecue sauces.
- Toss steamed or roasted vegetables in lemon juice for some tang and without a calorie burden that comes with other sauces.
- Make up some preserved lemons and add them to tagines or other exotic Moroccan inspired recipes.
Too Much Lemon May Cause Problems So Don’t Go Overboard
As with any natural remedies, lemon too must be had in moderation, because of some potential side effects.
- Too much lemon may cause heartburn for some people though there isn’t scientific evidence to back this up. Diarrhea and mild nausea have been associated with vitamin C supplement intake, although the same may not result from lemons.22
- A citrus fruit allergy is also not uncommon, so do test to see you don’t have any adverse reaction to the juice or fruit.
- The acidic nature of lemon can also cause tooth enamel to erode, so if you’re having lemon on a regular basis, rinse with water immediately after or drink your lemon juice diluted.
- Consuming high quantities of vitamin C has been linked to increased risk of kidney stone formation in those who are at risk of calcium oxalate stone formation.23
- Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, so if you are at risk of iron overload (too much iron in the body), you may want to limit intake or avoid lemons altogether, depending on what your doctor suggests.24
And last but not least, don’t use lemon or lemon juice as a substitute for treatment with medication your doctor has prescribed.
|↑1||Harding, Anne-Helen, Nicholas J. Wareham, Sheila A. Bingham, KayTee Khaw, Robert Luben, Ailsa Welch, and Nita G. Forouhi. “Plasma vitamin C level, fruit and vegetable consumption, and the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes mellitus: the European prospective investigation of cancer–Norfolk prospective study.” Archives of internal medicine 168, no. 14 (2008): 1493-1499.|
|↑2, ↑17, ↑21||Labeling Daily Values. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Lemons, raw, without peel. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑4||Diabetes Superfoods. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑5||Dakhale, Ganesh N., Harshal V. Chaudhari, and Meena Shrivastava. “Supplementation of vitamin C reduces blood glucose and improves glycosylated hemoglobin in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, double-blind study.” Advances in pharmacological sciences 2011 (2011).|
|↑6, ↑18||Dietary Fiber. The Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑7||Lemons, raw, without peel. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑8||Anderson, James W., N. J. Gustafson, C. A. Bryant, and J. Tietyen-Clark. “Dietary fiber and diabetes: a comprehensive review and practical application.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 87, no. 9 (1987): 1189-1197.|
|↑9||Fibre and diabetes. Diabetes UK.|
|↑10||Potassium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑11||How too little potassium may contribute to cardiovascular disease. NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑12||Potassium and sodium out of balance. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑13||Gastroparesis. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑14||Panda, Ashok Kumar. “Comprehensive Ayurvedic Care in Type-2 Diabetes.” J Homeop Ayurv Med 3 (2014): e111.|
|↑15||9 Ayurvedic Morning Rituals. The Yoga Journal (Aug 28,2007).|
|↑16||Patel,Suchita,Jinal Patel, Mona Patel, and Prof. Dr. Dhrubo Jyoti Sen.“Say yes to warm to remove harm.”EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH 015,2(4):444-460.|
|↑19||Lemons, raw, without peel. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑20||Lemon juice, raw. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑22, ↑24||Sestili, M. A. “Possible adverse health effects of vitamin C and ascorbic acid.” In Seminars in oncology, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 299-304. 1983.|
|↑23||Assimos, Dean G. “Vitamin C supplementation and urinary oxalate excretion.” Reviews in urology 6, no. 3 (2004): 167.|