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Much has been written on the many uses of lemons in food and household cleaning. This yellow to yellow-green citrus fruit which has Asian origins grows as a small tree or shrub bearing fruit all year round. Production has increased in the United States since the 1940s, and more than 50 percent of crops are used as juice and other drink products. Because it is always available and affordable, lemon juice has been studied for its health benefits.
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One fluid ounce (30 g) of raw lemon juice contains approximately 8 calories, 27.7 g water, 2.6 g of carbohydrates and 0.1 g of proteins. It contains no fats or cholesterol.
An ounce of lemon juice also contains vitamins A and C, folate and choline. Mineral content includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. The amount of vitamin C in lemons, 40 to 50 mg in a 100 g lemon, is twice that found in oranges.
Important information to diabetics about lemons is that it has an estimated 0 glycemic load, which means it has no effect on blood sugar levels.
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Lemon Juice and Diabetes
Diabetics have been found to have low blood levels of vitamin C. This may be because the increased blood sugar levels hamper the absorption of this vitamin in the cells. Since pure lemon juice is a rich source of vitamin C and has no effect on blood sugar levels, its role in the diabetic diet has been considered.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, or a substance that destroys free radicals in the body. Free radicals are products of normal metabolism that are produced by cells in the natural aging process and during periods of stress, including diseases. Antioxidants are also known to prevent cancer, hypertension and heart disease. They are also important in fighting infection and reversing or delaying premature aging of the skin. As a source of vitamin C, lemon juice also has the following beneficial effects particularly in diabetics:
- Vitamin C in lemon juice causes an increase in collagen production. Collagen is a substance which is important in skin elasticity, strength of bones and cartilages and integrity of blood vessels.
- It decreases blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. Although there are conflicting studies that suggest this, it is now accepted that high doses (at least 1000 mg) of vitamin C can decrease blood glucose levels.
- Vitamin C reduces insulin resistance in type II diabetics though its action on the cell membranes, thus improving blood sugar levels.
- It decreases lipid, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, also in high doses mentioned above.
- By its action on the lining of blood vessels and collagen production, vitamin C improves blood flow and prevents undesirable blood clotting. This is particularly important in diabetics because they usually suffer from complications to the heart and kidneys secondary to poor circulation.
Therefore, being a rich source of vitamin C (double that of orange juice) that potentially decreases blood sugar levels, lemon juice is good for diabetes and may be considered a natural supplement in the management of diabetes.
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Are There Any Risks or Disadvantages in Taking Lemon Juice?
For the health benefits to be maximized it must be noted that vitamin C such as found in lemon juice has to be taken in relatively large amounts. Although lemon juice itself carries no risks since it does not cause any toxicity or allergies, taking large amounts may have some disadvantages such as:
- Increased acidity in the stomach and worsening of gastroesophageal reflux symptoms
- Its acidity has adverse effects on the tooth enamel and the surrounding gums.
Care must be taken as to the ingestion of large amounts of lemon juice so that these undesirable effects are not experienced.
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Nutrition Data, “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for lemon juice, Raw", http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1938/3
Joslin Diabetes Center, “What Are the Best Vitamins and Minerals to Take?", http://www.joslin.org/info/what_are_the_best_vitamins_and_minerals_to_take.html
Indian Council of medical Research, “Effect of vitamin C on blood glucose, serum lipids & serum insulin in type 2 diabetes patients", http://icmr.nic.in/ijmr/2007/november/1111.pdf