Happy new year, everyone! So, it’s 3 January and the internet has blown up with posts about weight loss, detox, new gym regimes, yadda yadda yadda. One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone is raving about hot water and lemon like it’s the second coming of sliced bread, so because I’m in that kind of mood this morning (Christmas is over, I have to go back to being a productive, functional human, etc etc), I’m going to rain on their parade.
The thing about hot water and lemon is that the claims made for it are grounded in some truth if you squint, tilt your head and are prepared to concede a few technicalities, but in practical terms they’re largely wishful thinking.
Let’s take a look at the most common ones:
Hot lemon water helps ‘flush out toxins’, apparently. The internet loves this phrase, as though drinking hot lemon water has the same effect as throwing drain cleaner down your kitchen sink. Toxin BGone! No. Just no. It doesn’t. Your liver detoxifies, your kidneys detoxify, your skin and lungs and digestive system detoxify, and they’ll do it even if a drop of lemon juice never passes your lips. I wrote a blog post HERE about detoxification and what it actually is, which hopefully it makes it clear that adding One Superfood Trick Doctors Don’t Want You To Know to your day does nada. In fact, I’m going to go one further and say that if you want a really useful new year’s resolution, you should completely disregard anything the internet tells you about foods that detoxify the body. It’ll save you time and money. The only argument for hot lemon water improving detox is that the hot water can have a laxative effect. But that’s the hot water. You’ll get the same effects from any hot drink.
,People like to say this because lemons contain a substance called pectin, a type of soluble fibre that’s found in citrus fruit. Thing is… pectin is found mainly in the skin, with a little in the pulp. What’s going into your lemon water? The JUICE. In fact, pectin is used as a gelling agent in food production, and is sourced from the waste products of the juice industry. Ie. it isn’t going into the juice in any meaningful amount. Second (this is one of my favourite things Google University has told me in a while): “Warm water with other body liquids break down the foods in the stomach even faster”. Sorry, Person On Quora, but it isn’t hot water in your stomach breaking your food down; it’s hydrochloric acid. The effect of water on the pH of your stomach is very little and it returns to normal after a few minutes, but if anything, drinking water with your food would impair, not improve, digestion. Furthermore, if there’s one thing that fibre is not known for it’s speeding up digestion; it slows it down.
Nope. Will not help. The only argument to be made for this is the sensation of fullness the hot drink might give you (not specific to lemon water) or the fact that pectin delays gastric emptying – see above on pectin.
Ok, here we have something. There are indeed antioxidants in lemon juice. As there are in all fruits and veg. However, a squeeze of lemon juice diluted in water is not the most efficient way to get your antioxidants.
You’ll get some vitamin C from your lemon water, definitely. But if you squeezed in an entire lemon – and I mean wring that sucker dry, no homeopathic doses here – you’ll get about 50ml of juice, which will give you about 23mg of vit C. However when you consider that you’ll get more than 2x that from half a punnet of strawberries, or 16x that from half a red pepper, suddenly it doesn’t look quite so potent.
If you like hot lemon water it won’t do you any harm (potential for tooth enamel erosion aside) but unless the lemon therein is literally the ONLY plant-derived thing that you intend to consume, you can completely disregard all of the reasons the internet tells you to drink it.