Although lemons can leave us with a sour face, they are packed with beneficial properties to keep us feeling our best. Ancient Egyptians were well aware of the potent health effects of the humble lemon. They believed that by eating lemons and drinking lemon juice they would be protected against various ailments and poisons. Today there is a plethora of research praising this sunny citrus.
Lemons are probably best known for being a rich source of vitamin C or ascorbic acid, a pungent water-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin C helps boost the body’s immune system and attacks free radicals and toxins in our bodies.
Lemons are also a good source of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and heart rate. If this is not enough to convince you that lemons are the kings of citrus, they also have antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Sore throat? Try a gargle of equal parts lemon juice and warm water twice a day.
There are also several plants and herbs that share lemon’s lovely fresh citrus scent and, like lemons, are good for our health. Lemongrass, for example, is often used to add a herbal lemon flavour to many Asian dishes. However, it has also been used for centuries for its numerous healing and health properties, which include being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and having antibacterial effects.
Lemon verbena is good for digestive health, and it is also thought to stimulate brain function when used in aromatherapy. Lemon balm, lemon mint, lemon thyme, and lemon basil also have a strong lemon scent. This distinctive scent is said to help promote calm and ease anxiety and stress.
Next time you are preparing a meal, try adding a squeeze of lemon juice or gratings of fresh rind, and enjoy the benefits of this superstar citrus.
Pick of the crop
Eureka lemons, the kind most often found in supermarkets, are available year-round, while sweeter Meyer lemons are available November through March.
To ensure you get the most flavour and health benefits from a lemon, be sure to choose lemons that are ripe. Select those that are firm, plump, and heavy for their size. The peel should be bright yellow, smooth, and have a strong lemon scent. Avoid lemons that have a green tinge to them, as they are immature and will not be as juicy as fully ripe lemons.
Once home, lemons can be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight for one week. They also store very well sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four weeks. Lemon juice and grated lemon rind also freeze wonderfully.
The secret to an improved complexion may be in your kitchen right now. The antiseptic properties of lemon juice may be effective in clearing up mild acne, while its antioxidant properties nourish your skin. To freshen your breath, chew on a slice of lemon or rinse with the juice of one lemon in a glass of warm water.
Sparkle and Shine
Lemons are a fabulous natural cleaner and deodorizer to use around the house. Half a lemon dipped in kosher salt makes a wonderful scouring paste for restoring shine to copper or silver cookware.
A squeeze of lemon juice added to your dishwashing soap will help cut through grease, while a 1/2 cup (125 mL) of lemon juice added to the laundry rinse cycle will help brighten your whites.
Run a couple of lemon halves through your garbage disposal to clean and deodorize it, or wash your hands with the juice of half a lemon to neutralize garlic or fish odours.