Lemons and limes are some of the most popular citrus fruits in the world.
Lemons and limes are often used interchangeably for cooking purposes, but what about their health purposes? Are lemons and limes alike? Though they have a lot in common, they’re also distinctly different in some ways.
These two fruits are well known for their acidity and sourness, which makes them useful in a variety of dishes, salads, soups and drinks.
Lemon and lime essential oils made from the rinds are often used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. They’re also included in many household cleaning products for their fragrance and antibacterial properties.
Many people often mistakenly think limes are just unripe lemons but that is not the case. Lemons and limes are two totally different citrus fruits but closely related.
Lemons grow on a small evergreen tree that is actually native to Asia. Limes are thought to be a hybridized fruit and actually come in several varieties from various parts of the world. Lemons and limes are now grown all over the world.
However, lemons — formally known as Citrus limon — are typically grown in moderate climates, while limes — or Citrus aurantifolia — grow better in tropical and subtropical regions.
Lemons and limes definitely look different—if you look closely. Lemons are bright yellow and oblong, while limes tend to be smaller, rounder, and green. Some types of limes actually do turn yellow when ripe, but they do not turn into lemons.
While limes are not unripe lemons, they are unripe limes and are harvested before they ripen. When harvested early and while still green, they have a rich, sour flavor and more citric acid. Once a lime is mature and yellow, they lose their acidity and their sour taste and become bitter.
Lemons are picked when ripe, yellow and mature.
Lemons and limes have a similar taste and are often used as substitutes for each other. But they do taste different. Lemons have a distinctly sour taste, while limes tend to be slightly more bitter but seem to have more flavor. Lemons contain about 2% sugar, while the bitter lime only contains 0.5% sugar. Limes tend to be more acidic than lemons. Some lemons, like Meyer lemons have a much mellower and sweeter taste.
While neither lemons or limes have huge amounts of vitamins and minerals, both lemons and limes have generous amounts of vitamin C. Lemons win out here though, as they have substantially more vitamin C than limes do.
Ounce for ounce, (or gram for gram) lemons have more vitamin C. For example, 100 g of lime contains approximately 29mg of vitamin C, while 100g of lemon contains 53mg of vitamin C. In addition, they also have more potassium, vitamin A, vitamins B6 and folate.
Both lemons and limes have some great health benefits—let’s take a look.
Lemons and limes contain a good amount of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, which helps to strengthen the immune system, helping your body fight colds, flu, and other pathogens. Vitamin C helps to increase white blood cells, our little ‘army’ that fight off illnesses and infections.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant which helps prevent damage to the DNA of our cells, protecting and helping insure we have healthy cell reproduction. This review from the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism shows that vitamin C helps reduce the duration and severity of respiratory tract infections.
Lemons and limes also fight inflammation. You can also keep your immune system strong by avoiding foods containing sugar or processed foods, eating probiotic rich foods and getting regular exercise.
Vitamin C is also valuable for the heart, helping you fight heart disease and lowering blood pressure. One study from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston looked at the diets of 126,399 adults over a period of eight to 14 years and found that each serving of fruits and vegetables was associated with a 4 percent decreased risk of heart disease. It was found that the vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies, like lemons or limes had the biggest impact.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2014 found daily consumption of lemons or limes was associated with a decrease in blood pressure, as well.
The citric acid in lemons or limes helps to prevent painful kidney stones. Lemons and limes are also slightly diuretic, helping to increase urine volume and cleanse the kidneys.
One small study published in the Journal of Urology treated 11 participants with lemonade therapy for nearly four years. Researchers found that stone formation dropped significantly, from an average of one kidney stone per year down to just 0.13 per year. And this study showed that treating kidney stone patients with lemon or lime juice increased urinary citrate levels and decreased the amount of calcium in the urine, suggesting that citric acid may be a potential alternative treatment for preventing kidney stones.
Lemons and limes share powerful cancer-fighting benefits. These citrus fruits have lots of antioxidants in them, fighting free radical damage which can negatively alter our cells and make us more prone to developing cancer. Lemons and limes’ phytochemicals include flavonoids, flavones, triterpenoids and limonoids.
Another compound identified in limes was found to block colon cancer cell growth by 67%. Other studies show both lemons and limes to be effective in fighting other types of cancer, including breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. This study from Saudi Arabia, showed that lemon fruit extract helped kill breast cancer cells.
Lemons and limes also contain compounds like hesperidin and d-limonene, which have both been shown to have cancer-preventing properties. This makes lemons and limes some of the most powerful weapons in the fight against cancer.
Iron is an important mineral for our bodies; it helps build red blood cells which carry oxygen to all parts of our bodies. Deficiencies in iron can cause anemia which can result in dizziness, weakness, fatigue and a lowered immune response. Vegans and vegetarians have a more difficult time absorbing iron, especially if they only eat plant-based foods. Women who are menstruating also have higher iron needs. Athletes and people who live at higher altitudes also need a great supply of iron in their diets.
Vitamin C, in the form of ascorbic acid helps to enhance iron absorption from foods. This is also why cooking foods high in iron with a type of acid, like lemons or limes to enhance absorption. One of the best ways to get some extra iron in your diet is to cook in a cast-iron skillet. Adding a squeeze or two of lemons and limes helps to leach iron from the skillet which cooks into your food.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even found that consuming 100 milligrams of vitamin C with a meal, increased iron absorption by 60 or more percent.
Lemons and limes are very low in calories, yet they add mouth-watering flavor to water and increase your saliva, preventing a dry mouth. Drinking lemon water can help with weight loss. Many times when we reach for a snack, we are actually just thirsty, so a glass of lemon or lime water helps to fulfill your thirst and help you stay away from munching. And the sour flavor actually help you feel slightly more satiated.
If every day you traded in a glass of high sugar juice or soda, you avoid almost 40,000 calories in a year! That is over 11 pounds of fat! Plus you avoid all the toxic corn syrup and its negative health benefits it has on your body.
Lemons and limes contain citric acid which actually helps your body absorb water better. Lemon water has gained a lot of popularity as ‘the’ drink to have first thing in the morning. The reason is that lemon water helps to hydrate you, helps your body wash out toxins and excess fluids, and balance your pH. Lemons and limes also contain a good balance of electrolytes which help your body re-establish its fluid levels better than plain water.
It is considered much healthier to have a more alkaline pH which helps to prevent disease and boosts the immune system. Even though lemons and limes are very acidic, they help our bodies become more alkaline. Some research shows that a more alkaline diet can be beneficial for things like pain relief, bone health, and preventing cancer.
Lemon or lime water provides a burst of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that isn’t found in regular water. While lemon water gets the spotlight as the new healthy drink, limes are also rich in vitamin C, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Lime water benefits are similar to the benefits of lemon water and can boost antioxidant intake, support weight loss, and keep you healthy and hydrated with an added dose of flavor.
Add lemon or lime juice to most all of your dishes. Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime can really enhance the flavor of vegetables—especially the more bitter ones like broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts and spinach. Lemon or lime juice, combined with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs or spices, makes a delicious all-purpose salad dressing or a great base for marinades, especially fish or chicken.
Lemon or lime—both of these are highly beneficial to your health and relay a variety of health benefits, so use them in drinks, dishes and desserts, and pucker up!!