Super Food Sunday: Lemons!

Feeling a little sour about the end to another weekend?  Slice in to this week’s Super Food Sunday post and we’ll see if I can take that “sour puss” off your face.

What Is It?
The Lemon is a member of the “Rutaceae” family.  Of all the members of the “Rue” family, the “Citrus” children are the most favored.  The Citrus Clan includes some of the most well-known and economically important fruits in the world – Oranges, Grapefruits, Limes and this week’s Super Food, Lemons!

Lemons are an ancient food. Their history traces back to Jerusalem in the 90s BC! They found their way to the Americas in1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola. (And, do you remember that Columbus was also responsible for introducing hot peppers to the new world?) The Spanish conquest of the new world quickly spread lemons throughout the Americas, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that lemons were increasingly planted in Florida and California.

A “C-Note” for Your Health
As ordinary as the lemon may seem, they pack a seriously sour punch of “superness.” At only 12 calories, the juice of an entire lemon has an incredible one-third of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C.  With all that Vitamin C, it’s no surprise that Columbus was so fond of the bright yellow fruit – remember that lemons were used to cure Scurvy, which was a big problem for sailors.

While Scurvy is no longer a problem, Vitamin C is still a critical nutrient. And, not just because it may reduce the chance of catching a cold. (It’s still unclear if Vitamin C has an impact on immunity). Vitamin C plays a role in building collagen – an important structural component of blood vessels, ligaments, tendons and bones.   In Vitamin C is also required for the “synthesis of carnitine, a small molecule that is essential for the transport of fat into cellular organelles called mitochondria (do you remember this Facebook Fun Fact Friday question?) where fat is converted into energy.” Translation: lemons help us burn fat, as opposed to carbohydrates, for energy…and this is a good thing.

Be Smart, and Make it Tart!
On top of the numerous benefits provided by the high levels of Vitamin C, Lemons can lay claim to many more health advantages. Interestingly enough, when the juice of a lemon is mixed with water the benefits of lemons become even greater…so, be smart and make it tart.

Balances pH
Strangely enough, lemons are an incredibly alkaline food.   Yes, on their own, they are acidic, but inside our bodies they become alkaline. And, as you may or may not know, an alkaline body is a healthy body.

Helps with Weight Loss
We’ve already discussed the role Vitamin C plays in helping the body to burn fat for energy, but the story gets even better.  Lemons are high in Pectin Fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings.   It has also been shown the people that maintain a more alkaline diet lose weight faster.

Aids Digestion & Acts as a Natural Diuretic:
Lemons are high in vitamins and minerals that help loosen toxins in the digestive tract and can help to alleviate digestive distress. Lemon juice also helps flush out unwanted substances (a.k.a. you make more trips to the loo.)

Powerful Antioxidant
Lemons pack an impressive punch of antioxidants, so get ready to pucker up.  Loaded with flavonoids (much like red wine & dark chocolate,) getting more lemon into your diet can help decrease the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and fight certain cancers (pancreatic and stomach to name a couple.)  More recent studies suggest that lemons play a role in helping protect the brain and preventing strokes.

If Life Gives You Lemons…Say “Thank You!”
It’s hard to deny the lemon’s place in the super food family. Not only do they add abundant flavor to a variety of dishes and drinks, but they also boast a ton of health benefits.  They are a tremendous “natural cure” for things like reducing fever and relieving the itch from poison ivy or insect bites.  They are widely available, affordable and they smell great.  The bottom line is, whoever coined the term “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” did not remotely understand that the lemon is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer
Koko FitClub
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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.

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