04/04/2017 06:12 EDT | Updated 04/04/2017 06:12 EDT

Is Lemon Water Actually Good For You?

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Sparcling water glass with lemon, view from the top

Hot water with lemon is a popular and soothing elixir. Some of the benefits of lemon water are that it's caffeine free, warming (or cooling) and a great way to stay hydrated. But it's often touted as a magical cure-all, one that helps us detoxify, lose weight, burn fat and even fight cancer. Unfortunately, very little of this is true.

Debunking the Health Benefits of Lemon Water

1. Lemon water won't help you lose weight.

There is research that links pectin (a fiber found in certain fruits) with increasing the feeling of fullness. The Cleveland Clinic says that taking 500 mg of pectin twice a day at the start of a meal can help slow the passage of food from the stomach to the intestines, keeping you fuller for longer. But lemon water only contains trace amounts of pectin, so it's not a viable weight loss aid.

2. Lemon water will not burn belly fat.

No food or drink can automatically burn belly fat. Lemon water is a low-calorie drink, which makes it a great substitute for sugary juices, soda, iced tea and other sweetened beverages. But belly burn fat? Nope.

3. Lemon water isn't a detoxifying drink.

Detox drinks aren't supported by science. Plain lemon water or lemon water enhanced with apple cider vinegar, ginger, or cayenne pepper won't detoxify your body. The human body already has an impressive built-in detoxification system that's made up of skin, kidneys, liver and intestines.

Monica Reinagel, certified nutritionist and frequent contributor to Lifetime Daily, recently wrote about this very same subject, noting that, "A better way to keep your system regular is to eat plenty of fiber (high fiber cereals, ancient grains, legumes, nuts and flaxseed are all good sources), stay well hydrated and get regular exercise."

She adds that, "The best way to support your body's detoxification processes is to give your liver and kidneys less to do by reducing your exposure to toxic compounds. This includes minimizing your alcohol consumption, avoiding second-hand smoke, wood smoke, paint and gas fumes, and using a water filter if there are any concerns about your local water supply."


4. Lemon water won't boost your immunity.

These days it seems that any food or drink that contains antioxidants is an immune-system booster. Since lemons contain vitamin C, a natural antioxidant, they automatically fall into that category. Unfortunately, no food is known to boost immune cells. In fact, there are so few studies on the effects of nutrition on the immune system that it's impossible to assert that water with lemon boosts immunity.

The Real Benefits of Lemon Water

Lemon water is a great way to get a quick hit of two essential nutrients: potassium and vitamin C. The juice of half a lemon contains a total of 12 calories, 112 mg of potassium and 44 mg of vitamin C. To reap the nutritional benefits, the key is to squeeze the juice out of a lemon rather than simply tossing a lemon wedge into your glass.

If you enjoy a glass of water with lemon every day, or want to start, a quick word of caution. Lemons are acidic, which studies show can harm tooth enamel.

In one study, researchers analyzed the loss of tooth enamel and dentine after exposure to different beverages. They found that lemon juice on its own without water showed a higher degree of tooth erosion compared to other drinks, including soda and orange juice. Try drinking lemon water through a straw or rinsing with water once you're done to help wash away acid. Milk and eating cheese can also help neutralize acid and help reduce dental erosion.

Cara Rosenbloom is a Toronto-based registered dietitian, writer and recipe developer. She's the co-author of the best-selling cookbook Nourish: Whole Food Recipes featuring Seeds, Nuts and Beans (Whitecap, 2016) and writes a health column for the the Washington Post.

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