Lemons grow on small evergreen trees in the Rutaceae family native to Asia. These fruits have been used across the globe, from Italy and Sicily to Greece, France, and Morocco, making them a worldwide commodity.
Due to their acidic citrus makeup, lemons are used for both culinary and non-culinary uses. Outside the realm of cooking, lemons are used as cleaning agents for brightening copper, removing grease, deodorizing, and disinfecting; for fermenting; and medicinally for aromatherapy, boosting the immune system, and increasing energy levels. They’ve even been used in the science classroom as a battery.
When it comes to cooking, lemons have a variety of uses. Lemon juice helps to amplify flavor and enhance freshness, while the peel can be grated into zest and used as an herb or spice to add bitterness and texture.
While lemons may lack in the carbohydrate department — dietary fiber (5.1 grams) and protein (1.3 grams) — they excel when it comes to minerals and vitamins. One raw, seedless lemon has Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids (96.1 grams), vitamins A (32.4 IU), B6 (.1 mg), and C (83.2 mg), calcium (65.9 mg), iron (.8 mg), magnesium (13 grams), phosphorous (16.2 mg), potassium (157 mg), and sodium (3.2 mg). Lemons also have trace amounts of other essential vitamins and minerals including thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, zinc, and copper.
Health Benefits of Lemon
Due to their vitamin and acid-rich design, lemons have been proven to be incredibly beneficial on many fronts, making this fruit a great addition to any plant-based diet.
Lemon juice has been attributed to helping alleviate digestive issues such as constipation. While the large intestine carries most of the responsibility for breaking down food into food waste, the process begins with acid in your stomach. The acidity of lemon helps to break down food before heading off to the large intestine, therefore aiding in the overall digestive process.
Hair and Skin
When it comes to hair and skin, lemon works two-fold. First, lemon is an astringent and naturally tightens skin and decreases the size of pores. This means less oil for both your scalp and your face. Secondly, lemon has alpha hydroxy acid — a natural acid found in food and food products — which exfoliates the skin and removes dead cells helping to alleviate skin issues such as acne and eczema.
Along with having strong antiseptic properties, antimicrobial substances that reduce the possibility of infection, lemon also has coagulant properties meaning it can help stem the flow of bleeding. While it may not be strong enough to stop severe internal bleeds, applying a small amount of lemon juice to cuts, dry skin, and nose bleeds can have an amazing effect.
The key to lemon juice aiding with weight management or weight loss stems from its high levels of vitamin C and antioxidant flavonoids. Vitamin C has been shown to help break down fat during exercise, while also repairing body tissue that is constantly damaged during high exertion activities. Antioxidant flavonoids, in particular, hesperetin, have been shown to help with weight loss due to recent studies performed on mice. While more research is being conducted, the connection between weight management and loss and hesperetin is undeniable.
Once again, the high levels of vitamin C in lemons are great for those fighting cancer. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which helps support the immune system while also protecting cells from free radicals. On top of that, lemons also have limonoids — phytochemicals present in citrus fruits and other plants — which are also disease-fighting compounds.
Cooking with Lemon
Lemons have incredibly culinary properties. Use them to bring life back to wilted lettuces. Sprinkle the juice on cooked vegetables to enhance their natural flavors. Interchange lemon zest for salt in order to add a bitter-sweet bite without adding extra sodium. From your morning tincture of energy to a sweet delight at the end of the day, lemon recipes are endless!
Drink it Up
Jal Jeera: Refreshing Indian Spice Lemonade/One Green Planet
Lemons have been traditionally used in drinks, from refreshing lemonade on a hot summer day to immune-boosting and energizing teas. While a simple mix of fresh lemon juice and honey will do wonders for energy and can even stymie hunger pangs, lemons can also exist cohesively with other flavors. Try a few of these lemon-based drink recipes: Chia Ginger Fresca, Flu Fighter Immunity-Boosting Lemon Ginger Turmeric Tonic, or Jal Jeera: Refreshing Indian Spice Lemonade.
Breaking Your Fast With Lemons
Lemon Blueberry Oatcakes/One Green Planet
Start your day with a zip of energy and body refresher! While lemons often are seen as tart and sour, when pulp or juice is added to thickeners (such as oats and flour) or sweeteners (such as non-citrus fruits and nuts), the sweet side of lemon becomes enhanced. These recipes are great examples of this culinary technique: Lemon Blueberry Oatcakes, Lemon Coconut Granola With Cashews, and Fluffy Lemon Waffles.
Interchangeable Lunch and Dinner
Lemon and Herb Tofu/One Green Planet
Main meals of the day, such as lunch and dinner, don’t have to be heavy to be filling. This is where lemon truly shines! Vegetarians and vegans often struggle to find filling meals without resolving to constant carbs. Lemon can enliven the flavors of any dish making it more filling and savory. The following recipes integrate lemon in creative ways to enhance the body of the overall dish: Lemon ‘Parmesan’ Pasta, Lemon and Herb Tofu, and Lemon and Garlic Oyster Mushroom Scallops.
Raw Carrot Cake With Cashew Lemon Frosting/One Green Planet
Lemonade may be the most traditional of recipes, but if you haven’t had a lemon dessert, you’re definitely missing out! As mentioned earlier, when lemons combine with the right ingredient, the severe sourness can become downplayed. Then, the sweetness becomes enhanced. Try a few of these delightful lemon-based dessert recipes: Lemon Zucchini Cake, Mini Lemon Bundt Cake, and Raw Carrot Cake With Cashew Lemon Frosting.
For more lemon-based recipes to diversify your culinary experience, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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