More than just a versatile cooking ingredient, lemons are superbly good for your health, and come in very handy in the kitchen, too.
“Lemons are high in vitamin C – just one lemon contains 50 per cent of your daily vitamin C intake,” says dietitian Olivia Bates. Plus they’re full of fibre, potassium and B vitamins.
Add them to fresh juices and salads for an instant antioxidant hit to boost the immune system before winter colds and flu strike.Keep them on hand in the kitchen and they do double duty as a natural cleaning aid. Use the fragrant juice to banish unpleasant smells from bins and chopping boards, to sanitise and clean surfaces and to keep pesky creepy crawlies at bay.
Here’s how to maximise the benefits of lemons:
1. Add to your tea
Drinking green tea is good for your health but adding lemon juice can make it even healthier.
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins, which may inhibit cancer cell activity and help prevent heart attacks and strokes. But after drinking a cup of green tea, less than 20 per cent of these antioxidants remain in your body. By mixing lemon juice in your tea, Bates says your body is able to absorb more than five times the amount of catechins, so you’ll reap more of their benefits.
2. Use the entire fruit
Don’t throw away the flesh or rind – use the whole lemon in your cooking or in a juicer to get the most fibre benefits.
Lemons are high in a fibre called pectin, a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in your gut – and a healthy gut means good digestion and better nutrient absorption. You’re also less likely to suffer from bloating, constipation or diarrhoea. As lemon juice contains very little or no pectin, you have to use the entire fruit to get the real benefits, so try it whole in a fresh juice or smoothie.
3. Around the kitchen
When your kitchen needs a clean, lemons make an effective natural deodoriser and sanitiser.
- After cleaning out your refrigerator, place a sponge soaked in lemon juice in the fridge for a few hours to remove odours.
- Place a few pieces of lemon peel into the bottom of a garbage bag to freshen your bin odour.
- Rubbing a wooden chopping board with half a lemon can help get rid of onion, fish and garlic smells.
- If insects are a problem, squirt some juice on areas where they can get in, like windowsills. To deter ants and cockroaches, try mopping your floors with a mixture of juice from four lemons plus their rinds and two litres of water.
4. Preserve other foods
You can prevent fresh food from turning brown with a squeeze of lemon.
When you want to save half an avocado for later, Bates suggests squeezing a generous amount of lemon juice on the cut surface then wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap so it’s not exposed to oxygen. To keep cauliflowers bright-white during cooking, drizzle a little lemon juice on the florets when raw.
5. Drink with water
For a simple remedy to help prevent kidney stones, try a glass of water with lemon juice.
“Lemons have a high concentration of citrate, which is a natural inhibitor of kidney stones,” explains specialist Dr Roger Sur. If you have had stones or have existing small stones, Sur recommends drinking 118ml of lemon juice with water daily.
What you need to know
- You can buy lemons all year round, though they’re at their best between June and September.
- Choose bright yellow, firm, heavy fruit. Keep them at room temperature away from sunlight if you plan on using them straight away.
- Store them in the fridge in an airtight bag to extend their shelf life. They will keep for up to four weeks.
- Cut a lemon in half and heat it in the microwave on high for 30 seconds to get more juice from it.
- If you slice or squeeze a lemon before you’re ready to use it, store the pieces or juice in the freezer to avoid bacterial growth.
Make your own preserved lemons
Preserving lemons is a great way to retain the nutrients in the whole fruit, and a jar of homemade preserved lemons will last for up to two years, says nutritionist Pip Reed.
Try this simple recipe:
1 cup sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
Sprinkle of fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1. Cut 10 washed lemons into quarters lengthways and place in a bowl.
2. Add sea salt and massage gently into lemon skins.
3. Add peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, fennel seeds and bay leaves, then pack everything tightly into a jar.
4. Squeeze the juice of two more lemons over the ingredients until they’re submerged in the jar.
5. Seal and set aside for one month. Eat them whole or add them to Mediterranean dishes and curries.