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All about “Lemon / Citrus”

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Nutritional value of lemon and lime

Lemon without peel, 1 medium (5.4 cm in diameter) / 60 g Fresh lemon juice, 63 ml (¼ cup) / 65 g Fresh lime juice, 63 ml (¼ cup) / 65 g
Calories 17 16 16
Protein 0.6g 0.3 g 0.3 g
Carbohydrates 5.4 g 5.6g 5.5g
Fat 0.2g 0.0 g 0.0 g
Dietary fiber 1.6g 0.3 g 0.3 g
Glycemic load  : No data available
Antioxidant power  : Low

Sources  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2010.

Lemon and its health benefits: understand everything in 2 min

The health benefits of lemon

Lemon and weight loss

Many weight loss diets tout the use of lemon and its juice for its impact on weight loss. It has been shown that obese people have lower levels of vitamin C than non-obese people and that low levels of vitamin C are linked to the accumulation of abdominal fat.

Indeed, individuals who consume enough vitamin C would oxidize 30% more body fat during a moderate exercise session compared to individuals with low vitamin C 40 consumption.

In short, low intakes of vitamin C would constitute a barrier to the loss of body fat in obese people. Still, no controlled clinical study to specifically assess the impact of lemon consumption on weight loss has been done to date. It will therefore be necessary to wait for additional studies to confirm their potential effects.

Cancer prevention

Several studies have shown that the consumption of citrus fruits is linked to the prevention of certain types of cancer3,4,18,33, such as cancer of the esophagus, cancer of the stomach, cancer of the colon, mouth and pharynx. According to one of these studies33, moderate consumption of citrus fruits (i.e. 1 to 4 servings per week) would reduce the risk of cancers affecting the digestive tract and the upper respiratory system. Regarding pancreatic or prostate cancer, studies remain controversial32,39.

A population study suggests that the daily consumption of citrus fruits combined with a high consumption of green tea (1 cup and more per day) is associated with a greater decrease in the incidence of cancer31.

Slowing cancer progression

Flavonoids, antioxidant compounds found in citrus fruits, have been shown to slow the proliferation of several cancer cell lines 9,16,35 and decrease the growth of metastases34. These properties could be used in the development of anti-tumor therapies8.

Other compounds found in citrus fruits (limonoids) have also shown anticancer effects in vitro or in animal models. They could decrease the proliferation of cancer cells12,13 in the breast15, stomach13, lung13, mouth12,17 and colon18.

Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Several epidemiological studies have shown that a regular intake of flavonoids from citrus fruits is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease37. Flavonoids are said to help improve coronary vasodilation, decrease the aggregation of blood platelets and prevent the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol (LDL).

Calm inflammation

Several studies have shown that citrus flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties. They would inhibit the synthesis and activity of mediators involved in inflammation (derivatives of arachidonic acid, prostaglandins E2, F2 and thromboxanes A2).

Reduction of high cholesterol

The flavonoids and limonoids of citrus fruits and their juices may have the potential to reduce high cholesterol. Studies in animals have shown that some of them lower blood cholesterol10,11,19. However, these studies have not been carried out using compounds extracted directly from lemon or lime. The bioavailability of citrus compounds and their absorption mechanisms should be studied in humans before any clinical efficacy can be decided.

Other benefits of lemon

Among other effects observed, two limonoids present in citrus fruits (limonin and nomiline) are said to inhibit replication of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), in addition to inhibiting the protease activity of the virus20. In addition, certain lemon limonoids demonstrate activity against certain pathogenic fungi21. Other limonoids22 and certain proteins26 would improve the immune system in animals. These results are promising, but have not been the subject of controlled clinical studies. It is therefore currently impossible to transpose these effects in humans.

Several prospective and epidemiological studies have revealed that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases28, certain cancers29 and other chronic diseases1,2,30.

Where do the benefits of lemon come from?

The antioxidant power of lemon and lime is considered to be low, since it is calculated based on a normal portion, which is relatively small. Nevertheless, lemon and lime contain various components which can have a favorable effect on health and the prevention of several diseases.

  • Flavonoids

Lemon and lime contain different types of flavonoids. These antioxidant compounds allow, among other things, to neutralize the free radicals of the body and, thus, prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. The main flavonoids in lemon and lime are eerocitrine and hesperetin. Experiments on animals have shown that eerocitrine and hesperetin, extracted from the peel (skin) of lemon or its juice, can reduce or prevent the increase in damage linked to oxidative stress5,6. In addition, eriocitrine could induce apoptosis of leukemia cells. The white part of the lemon rind is the one that contains the most of these 2 flavonoids.

  • Nobiletine

This other type of flavonoid contained in citrus fruits, has antiangiogenic properties. It would help slow the growth of tumors and metastases34. Finally, according to a study carried out on cells of the pancreas, the ability to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in the lime is proportional to its content in flavonoids as well as in limonoids36.

  • Limonoids 

The main limonoids in citrus fruits are limonin and nomilin. They are mainly found in seeds12, but also in juice13. Limonoids have a certain antioxidant capacity14. They could also cause apoptosis of cancerous neuroblastic cells (embryonic nerve cells, which then differentiate into neurons) 16. Studies suggest that they could prevent certain types of cancer in animals. For example, obacunone, a type of limonoid, has been shown to reduce the incidence of colon tumors18 and to decrease the number of mouth tumors.12 However, there is currently no similar effect in humans. The synergistic action of several limonoids between them, or with other compounds (such as flavonoids),

  • Soluble fiber

Citrus fruits are rich in soluble fiber, mainly pectin, which is found in the bark and in the white membrane around the flesh (albedo). Through their ability to lower blood cholesterol, soluble fiber helps reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease23. Researchers have shown that lemon peel is effective in lowering blood and liver cholesterol levels in animals24. However, in addition to pectin, other compounds found in the rind of the lemon could participate in this process.

In addition, lemon pectin, compared to that of 3 other citrus fruits (grapefruit, tangerine and orange), has the best ability to inhibit the growth of certain cancerous tumors in vitro25. However, these data require further analysis before concluding that beneficial effects of lemon or lime pectin on cancer in humans.

  • Protein

A team of researchers has discovered that an extract of lime juice could improve the immune response in animals26. This effect would be attributable to a set of proteins present in the extract of lime juice. These same protein components could participate in the arrest of the proliferation of cancer cells observed in vitro27.

Main vitamins and minerals

Good source Vitamin C The lemon and lime juice are good sources of vitamin C. The file is a source of vitamin C .
Source Copper Lemon juice is a source of copper .
Source Iron Lime is a source of iron for humans only.



One should avoid consuming lemon or lime, or their juices, along with antacid drugs. Indeed, several citrus fruits increase the absorption of aluminum contained in antacids. It is better to space 3 hours between taking antacids and citrus fruits or their juice.

Lemon, lime and their juices should also be avoided by people with gastroesophageal reflux, peptic esophagitis and hiatal hernia (in the acute phase of these diseases). These foods can cause irritation of the lining of the esophagus or cause epigastric burns.

Choice and conservation

Choose your lemon

The skin of the juiciest lemons and limes is fine and shiny, never lumpy. The fruits should be firm and heavy in the hand.

The leaves of the combava (the lime tree of the Citrus hystrix species) are found fresh, dried or frozen in oriental grocery stores. Dried leaves quickly lose their aroma and have less culinary value than fresh and frozen leaves. Sometimes we also find the fruit of the combava, a lime with bumpy skin.

Keep the lemon

Lemons keep for 1 or 2 weeks at room temperature, lime for a shorter time because they dry out more quickly. By keeping lemons and limes in a container of water in the refrigerator or simply in a tightly closed container, they will keep longer.

If you have large quantities of these fruits, you can squeeze them and freeze the juice in an ice cube tray.

Limes and candied lemons. Split the limes or lemons lengthwise, keeping them attached to one end, fill them with coarse salt (about 125 ml – ½ cup for 4 lemons), put them in a Mason-type jar. packing them well and cover with lemon (or lime) juice. Let macerate for about 1 week, then put in the refrigerator. Candied fruit will easily keep there for 6 months, even longer.

Dehydrated bark. Dried at room temperature, they keep for a very long time in a spice jar. They will lose part of their flavor on drying, but will still help to enhance a dish. The white part being more bitter, you can only dry the zest, which you will take with a vegetable peeler or a zester.

Recipe ideas

Lemon flavor

The tangy taste of lemon and lime stimulates the taste buds, which is great for digestion. They are rich in vitamin C and contain different compounds that would prevent cancer

Lemon recipe

Use of lemon juice

Citrus fruits are juicier when they are at room temperature. Therefore, it is best to take them out of the refrigerator for some time before consuming them. To extract as much juice as possible, roll the fruit with your hand on a work surface before passing it through the juicer.

  • In ice creams, sorbets, granita.
  • In creams, pies and cakes.
  • In the dressing, replacing the vinegar.
  • In lemonade, in tea, hot or iced, or in infusions.
  • Fillet on fish and seafood.
  • On raw oysters, to enhance the taste in addition to destroying the majority of bacteria that could be found there.
  • To deglaze a pan.
  • To make a homemade sour cream, add a little lemon juice to the cream, let set and drain.
  • In Mexico, people drink beer seasoned with a drizzle of lemon or lime juice.
  • Butter of hotel supervisor. Beat the butter in cream, add salt, pepper, chopped parsley then, still beating, add a few drops of lemon juice. Coat a grilled meat with this sauce.
  • Lime juice is better for Mexican salsa than lemon. Try the salsa cruda by mixing, in equal parts, sweet onion, coriander leaves and chopped tomatillos. Add a chopped jalapeno pepper and the juice of one or two limes, depending on the amount of vegetables.
  • In Japan, we mix lemon juice, soy sauce, dashi and spring onions to prepare the Ponzu sauce that accompanies grilled meat dishes.
  • Prepare the fish in a ceviche, in Peruvian fashion, by simply macerating in lemon or lime. The acid juice has the effect of “cooking” the fish, which can be eaten without further preparation.

Consume lemon zest

See the Ecology and Environment section for the precautions to take before consuming the zest. Dare the zest (the outer layer of the rind) of lime or lemon in mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.

Gremolata is an Italian aromatic blend made up of equal parts of orange and lemon zest, finely chopped garlic and parsley. It is added, at the time of serving, on an osso-buco, a leg of veal or any other braised meat.

In Japan, cut the lemon peel into thin strips and add it at the very end in salads, on vegetables or grilled tofu, in scrambled eggs or soup.

Consumption of pulp

The pulp of lemon and lime is rarely eaten because it is very acidic. With the exception, however, candied lemons, essential in North African cuisine. One of the classics of this cuisine is the chicken with olives and candied lemons, cooked in a tagine (see how to prepare candied lemons in Choice and storage).

You can also serve the pulp and zest with rice, fish or lamb.

The little story of lemon and lime

Common name  : lemon.
Scientific name  : Citrus limon .
Family  : rutaceae.
Common names  : lime, lime.
Scientific name  : Citrus aurantifolia .
Family  : rutaceae.

The lemon was first called ”  limon  “, a term borrowed from the Italian limone , which itself came from the Arab-Persian limûn . The word appeared in the French language in 1351. Hence the word “limonade” which, unlike “limon”, still exists today. The term ”  lemon  “, born in 1398, is derived from the Latin citrus . It gradually replaced “silt” in popular language.

It is in Chinese writings that reference is first made to lemon. A first mention dates from 1175, while a detailed description appears in a work published in 1178. These mentions, as well as certain other elements noted by historians, indicate that the lemon was probably introduced into China between the tenth century and the middle of the XII th  century. There is no archaeological evidence allowing to determine with certainty its origin, but the researchers believe to be able to affirm that it comes from the east of the Himalayan region, in the south of China, more precisely of Upper Burma.

The lemon was perhaps cultivated by the Greeks and Romans and even the Egyptians, but there are hardly any traces of this culture, if not on the mosaics of the time. It could also be the citron ( Citrus medica), its probable ancestor, known for a long time, both in the east and in the west, for its medicinal properties. Over the course of invasions and climatic fluctuations, the lemon may have disappeared from southern Europe a few times and be reintroduced later. After the barbarian invasions (350 to 400 AD), it was the Arabs who took over the reins of commerce. They will spread the lemon, introducing it to North Africa, Africa and Spain, as well as throughout the Mediterranean basin, with the exception of the Italian and French coasts. Finally, during the Crusades in the Near East, western, eastern and northern Europeans will discover citrus fruitsand develop a taste for these acidic and juicy fruits which they will bring back to their respective countries. From there will be born the first greenhouses, called orangeries , in which we will grow first orange and lemon trees , then all kinds of tropical plants.

Lime and lime

Peel or bark?
The thick skin of citrus fruits is called peel rather than peel: an apple peel, but a lemon peel.

The term ”  lime  ” would come from Provençal limo . It appeared in the language in 1555, while ”  lime  ” did in 1782. A large number of vernacular names (lemon gallet, bou corn, citrus-lime, lemon-lime, lime, lime from Persia, Italian lime, sweet lime, sour lime) were given to this fruit, depending on the region and variety. The fruit they designate normally belongs to the Citrus aurantifolia species , the real lime or lime. It can also be attached to the species Citrus limon (lemon), Citrus reticulata (mandarin) or Citrus hystrix , called lime kaffir or combava, a fruit with bumpy skin. We use the leaves of the tree as well as the zest and sometimes the juice of the fruit in Thai cuisine.

The file generally means the bitter fruit and acid from a variety of lime. The lime rather refers to a variety whose fruit has a sweet flavor .

The first written mention of lime date from the XIII th  century and would be the fact an Arab author. As is the case with lemon , it was probably the Arabs who, at that time, introduced its cultivation to India, Persia, Palestine, Egypt and Europe. The lime tree comes from the Indian archipelago where it grows in the wild. Although close to lemon in some of its culinary uses, it is an entirely different botanical species ( Citrus aurantifolia ). Besides, it requires warmer temperatures to flourish. It crosses spontaneously with other citrus species, which gave birth to some hybrids, being the best known.

Lemon and lime

The lemon and lime were probably introduced into the New World by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage in 1493, as he landed in Isabella (Haiti and Dominican Republic) in order to establish the first permanent settlement. From there, the fruits will quickly reach Central America. At the same time, the Portuguese planted the first citrus trees in Brazil. In the middle of the XVI th  century, these trees grew in all of South America. Then, sowing at will, large orchards were established practically without human intervention.

Towards the end of the XVI th  century, the first citrus fruits – lemons, limes, oranges – are introduced in the city of St. Augustine in Florida . Their culture will gradually spread throughout the southeastern United States and, later, in California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Today, lemon and lime are grown in all tropical and subtropical regions of the planet.

The powerful scent of essential oils

Citrus peel contains essential oils that can be obtained by pressure or by distillation. They have always been used in perfumery and in the manufacture of insecticides for home gardens.
Today, they are used in many other products: paints, dyes, solvents, deodorants and insecticides against pet fleas and ants. They are also included in many cleaners, soaps for dishes and laundry and disinfectants (oils with germicidal properties).
We are looking for other industrial and domestic uses for these oils. They are more ecological than their chemical equivalents and they come from waste from the food industry – juice processing plants, in particular.

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