Some of my earliest memories of childhood were playing around the huge lemon tree that stood central in my Grandparents back yard. It towered over us about 4 meters tall with huge lemons, too many to count. These lemons were were shared amongst family and friends, always with plenty left over on the tree. I have not seen a lemon tree to this day that matched the size and amount of fruit that this old tree produced.
The lemon is now a regular part of our family’s diet. Even though our trees are too young to be producing the amount of fruit we need, we still manage to get by without having to buy them. Our family of 5 consumes about 10-15 lemons a week. They are given to us from work mates, neighbours, family and friends. When we are just about to run out, another bag full arrives. The lemon tree is not that difficult to grow and when fully grown produces hundreds of fruit, usually too much for the average household to use. Given that there is at least 1 or 2 trees in each street in the area where we live, the lemon must top the list as the most shared fruit out of all the different varieties of fruit trees.
Nutritional and health benefits
High in anti-oxidants and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, the lemon is also a good source of folate, calcium and potassium. Most importantly (for those that suffer from frequent colds) it is a great source of vitamin C. One lemon will satisfy approximately 40% of your vitamin C needs based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against, and destroy harmful bacteria and infectious agents. When we consume enough for our daily requirements it helps to detoxify our bodies, promoting healing of our bodies cells.
So why do we reach out for the lemon and honey drink when we are suffering from a cold or the flu? Along with the vitamin C benefit, lemons act as a mild antiseptic and the lemon juice can help reduce the mucous built up in the throat.
The average sized fruit contains approximately 100 calories, the majority coming from natural sugar residing in the flesh. This makes the fruit a good alternative to oil or butter for dressing food such as fish. When compared to other fruit which has up to 30 carbohydrates, the average sized lemon has fewer than 10 carbohydrates. The lemon is also high in dietary fiber and its diuretic properties aid in helping to move food through the body and also purify the liver.
Lemons are a great antacid. You would think that the citric acid in them actually makes the body more acidic. However, what actually happens is that the acid quickly changes into an alkaline condition in the body. This helps the body to deal with the foundational cause of acidity rather than just suppressing the symptoms, like many off the shelf antacids.
Because of the above mentioned benefits, the lemon is said to be helpful in reducing the risk of many diseases such as cancer and arthritis.
There have been many claims that the lemon helps you to reduce weight. There is no evidence that consuming lemons along with your standard diet will help you to lose weight. However, the pectin fibers in the lemon do have the effect of reducing your appetite. If you use lemons to replace something else you would usually consume such as lemon water replacing a soda drink. The lower calorie intake will obviously have a direct benefit to weight loss.
Side effects of consuming Lemon
Along with the many health benefits of consuming lemons there are some side effects to be aware of…
Erodes tooth enamel
The citric acid in the lemon does erode tooth enamel, so be careful when consuming lemon water. The recommendation is to drink the lemon water through a straw to avoid contact with the teeth. I drink one glass of lemon juice every morning trying to avoid contact with my teeth. I also rinse my mouth out with water after drinking the juice to reduce the acidity levels and brush my teeth afterwards.
As the lemon is high in dietary fiber it does have diuretic properties. However, only consuming a few glasses a day will not have an impact on your hydration levels. The optimum form of hydration is purified water.
Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease
If you suffer from this condition, then lemon juice will aggravate the symptoms.
Other uses for the Lemon
Lemon oil – air freshener and perfume
The refreshing aroma of the oil makes it ideal for an air freshener. It is often combined with many other fragrances to be used in scented candles, potpourris and perfumes.
The lemon also absorbs odors from around the house. Combine some baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes to absorb odors in the fridge or kitchen.
Lemon is a great cleaner for the body. Due to its antiseptic nature, it is used in many body washes and skin care products to help cleanse the body. Due to the fact that the lemon is one of the strongest food acids, the antibacterial properties make it a great cleaning product for household items. These include chopping blocks, knives and barbeque plates. Before cooking on my barbeque, I rub a couple of halves of lemons over the surface of the plate to clean the surface. You can remove mold or mildew off surfaces by combining lemon juice with vinegar. Lemon combined with baking soda is also affective in polishing copper or brass. Combine borax with the juice to clean the toilet bowl. The acidic nature of the lemon also makes it a great product to remove unwanted stains.
Are you taking advantage of the many benefits of lemons today?
Now you know the many benefits that this fruit can bring to both your health and also to your household. So make sure you make the most of excess lemons on yours or your neighborhood’s trees. It is so disappointing to see a large lemon tree with fruit falling all over the ground and rotting in people’s yards. What is great to see is people in our neighbourhood filling up buckets of unwanted lemons and leave them on the nature strip for passersby to use. This helps to keep the tree healthy, promoting new fruit growth and also benefits those (like me 🙂 ) who don’t have fully established trees.
There are many varieties of lemon trees available today. They also come in many sizes, from dwarf to full size trees. They can be grown in pots, up against walls or fences, or simply in the middle of your backyard. I am growing 3 different varieties on 2 trees – the Meyer (a sweeter version great for pots), the Eureka (my grandparents variety) and the Lisborn. The Eureka and Lisborn are on the same tree. I have espaliered the Meyer tree against our front brick wall along with the lime tree to save some space. Next time you visit your local nursery, take a look at what is available and be sure to make use of this very healthy and useful fruit.