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Lemon is one of the most versatile citrus fruits: The juice brightens up savory foods and balances sweet ones.

Lemons also have a long history in folk medicine. The traditional Italian remedy canarino (so named for its canary-yellow hue) is made by boiling lemon peels in hot water; it’s used as a digestive aid and cold remedy.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, lemons (and limes) were instrumental in keeping scurvy at bay for mariners at sea. With their sturdy peels, lemons could stay fresh onboard for weeks at a time.

While lemons are not particularly palatable eaten whole, the juice from one lemon offers about a quarter or more of the daily requirement for vitamin C. The fruit also contains abundant flavonoids that boast powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and the citrate in lemons may even help prevent the formation of kidney stones.

One thing to note: The acidity in lemon juice can wear down tooth enamel over time, so dilution is important.

Nutrient content per lemon: Fiber: 2.35 g Sugar: 2 g Vitamin C: 44.5 mg

Try these tips to add more lemons to your day:

  • “Squeeze fresh lemon into your water or herbal tea,” suggests Lockhart. A glass of water with lemon first thing in the morning may also help stimulate liver function.
  • Mix up homemade lemonade with fresh lemon juice, water, and maple syrup.
  • Make a cough-soothing toddy with hot water, lemon, ginger, and honey. (Or try this ginger-lemon wellness shot.)
  • Liven up marinades and salad dressings with the juice and the zest.
  • Add lemon zest to vegetables before roasting.
  • Spritz lemon over cooked vegetables or any dish that needs a little life.
  • Tenderize meat — the acidity of lemon juice makes it a natural meat tenderizer.

This was excerpted from “The Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits” which was published in the January/February 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Camille Berry

Camille Berry is a wine and food writer based in San Francisco.

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