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Although lemons are the standard citrus for European and Mediterranean cooking, lime is quintessential to South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Latin American cooking. The bright sour flavor and subtle sweetness complement the fragrant spices and herbs common in these cuisines. Lime’s popularity in these regions is likely due to the fact that the fruit thrives in tropical climates.

Limes are both sweeter and more acidic than lemons. Persian limes and Key (Mexican) limes are the most widely grown worldwide; makrut limes are the next most common.

Flavonoids like quercetin, kaempferol, and tangeretin are all found in the juice, peel, and pulp of limes. Like other citrus fruits, they also contain hesperidin, an antioxidant with neuroprotective properties.

All these phytonutrients are antioxidants, which means limes can help support your immune system and safeguard against inflammatory disease.

One important tidbit to keep in mind the next time you’re squeezing limes: The compound furanocoumarin can cause phytophotodermatitis (a.k.a. “margarita burn”) if you go out into the sun with lime juice on your skin. Take care to wash your hands if you get any juice on your skin, especially if you’re heading outdoors.

Try this:

  • Spritz lime juice over home-made curries garnished with cilantro or lemongrass; the citrusy flavors in these herbs perfectly complement lime.
  • Add lime to guacamole or avocado salad to cut through the avocado’s creaminess and help prevent browning.
  • Season black beans with cumin and garlic and toss with juice and zest.
  • Squirt lime on Caribbean meals, such as stewed or jerk fish, or on other seafood.
  • Dollop a spoonful or so of Indian lime pickle (nimbu ka achar) over biryani or pulao to add a spicy, tangy, complex layer of flavor.
  • Keep things simple with homemade limeade.

Nutrient content per lime: Fiber: 1.9 g Sugar: 1.1 g Vitamin C: 29 mg

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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