There are plenty of watered-down excuses for not drinking enough H2O each day. "I add water when making my coffee.” Or, “I’m afraid of water poisoning.” And our personal favorite: “It was raining. So I’m good for the day.”
While there are countless rationales people give for not regularly drinking water, there are also a number of reasons why you need to stay hydrated—among them, for glowing skin, good metabolism, and mental acuity.
Generally speaking, a healthy man needs approximately 125 ounces of water every day and a healthy woman requires about 91 ounces—which sounds like a lot. But, when you add some flavor, plain old water transforms into something a little more exciting and tasty. In particular, adding lemon zest or juice (or even a little lemon essential oil) steps it up even further, giving your drink a more citrusy flavor and a number of other surprising health benefits.
9 benefits of drinking lemon water
Jumpstart your metabolism
Drinking two glasses of room temperature water first thing in the morning awakens organs and increases metabolic rates by as much as 30 percent. Adding lemon will also provide a dose of pectin, a fiber found in some fruits that helps to fight hunger pangs. So, why warm water? It’s easier to handle on an empty stomach. Drinking cold water the rest of the day is fine; in fact, your body burns even more calories as it labors to heat the fluid.
Flush toxins from vital organs
While you sleep, your liver and other vital organs are still actively eliminating toxins. Drinking water in the morning promotes circulation and enables your body to flush those metabolic byproducts away rather than holding onto them. With a dash of lemon, the extra alkaline content also helps to restore your body’s pH balance and encourages the liver to replenish the bile that was used overnight to break down fats.
Feel more energetic
Many of us get crabby without our morning coffee, but the effects of caffeine are short-lived and usually vanish by lunch. Instead of reaching for caffeinated soda, pour yourself a glass of lemon water. Citric acid has the same energy-boosting effect without the impending crash—and as an added bonus, it won’t dehydrate you.
Give your immune system a boost
Lemons are loaded with antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals and keep the body healthy. Of the bunch, vitamin C is probably the most well known, but lemons also contain:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
Mayo Clinic recommends that adult males receive 90 milligrams of vitamin C each day, and adult females 75 milligrams, which can be easily imbibed in lemon water. The exact amount of vitamin C you get from a glass of lemon water will depend on how diluted it is, but adding a few drops of essential lemon oil is a great way to meet the requirements and give your immune system the boost it needs to stave off sickness and infection.
Increase your mental acuity
Another benefit of drinking water is that it increases your brain power and keeps you firing on all cylinders. Approximately 75 percent of the brain is made up of water, so when you are dehydrated your cognitive powers suffer. A study conducted at the University of East London shows that drinking water before an academic exam increased mental abilities by 14 percent. Lemon is also packed with potassium—a nutrient crucial to nerve and brain functions, so drinking a glass of lemon water before an important meeting will lower stress levels and boost your mood.
Improve your complexion
More than half of our body weight is water, much of which is contained in our skin. Dehydration makes skin appear dry, saggy, and wrinkly. With proper hydration, however, it appears firmer and more radiant. Adding lemon to water will smooth out your complexion even more. Since vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, it helps your body create collagen, which improves elasticity.
And, if you happen to find a blemish, you can get a natural quick fix by dabbing a drop of the lemon essential oil on the affected spot—lemon’s antiseptic properties quickly dry out acne.
The upper respiratory system is comprised of the nose, throat, and ears. It’s uncomfortable to breathe when the mucus membranes are too dry, but staying properly hydrated keeps everything in your upper respiratory system lubricated so that you can breathe easier. When you drink lemon water, the natural antioxidants found in citrus will also help relieve discomfort from asthma and allergies and help you fight off respiratory ailments such as:
- Sore throat
- Cold and cough
If you ate too much at last night’s dinner party and are paying for it today, drink a glass of warm lemon water after every meal. Doing so stimulates bile production and normalizes the level of hydrochloric acid in your stomach—both of which aid in digestion. You can also add a pinch of Himalayan salt to stimulate glands and assist with the process.
Once food is digested, the water will keep things moving in your gastrointestinal tract, preventing constipation. Drinking a glass after meals also clears your palate and kills bacteria that can cause bad breath.
Soda, juice, coffee, and other beverages are laden with empty calories. Even diet soda, which might seem like a healthy alternative by saving you plenty of calories, has tons of artificial sweeteners that are bad for both your teeth and body. A tall glass of lemon water, on the other hand, contains just one calorie and promotes better health.
How to make lemon water
It sounds simple, but making lemon water is more than just cutting citrus wedges and throwing them into a glass. The greatest detox agents are actually concentrated in lemon skin, which contains limonoids—a natural compound found in citrus that has been shown to fight cancer cells.
There are two different ways to harness the power of the peel, either by zesting a fresh lemon yourself or buying a bottle of lemon essential oil. Here’s how to use both:
Wash any store-bought fruit thoroughly with water. Grate the lemon peel for zest and add one teaspoon to eight ounces of water. Then, cut the lemon and squeeze juice from two wedges into your glass (check out our easy tip). If desired, add more juice to taste.
Lemon essential oil
Lemon essential oil is also extracted from lemon peels. Cold-pressing one ton of fresh lemon yields six or seven pounds of oil. Because the concentration is so high, you only need to add a few drops of food-grade oil to a glass of water. But first you'll want to make sure that your oil is edible. Some brands will say "not for internal use," while others, like NOW Solutions' variety, are technically food-grade since they are made purely from lemons. The concentration will be strong so be sure to dilute the oil before drinking. As well, drinking lemon water can take some getting used to, so you may want to start with a single drop and work your way up to two or three.
Tips for making lemon water a habit
If you’re still fighting the idea of drinking water all day, every day, here are tips to help you increase your fluid intake and reap the rewards.
Start by drinking one glass in the morning, then slowly increase your intake each day.
The cleansing properties of citrus can actually cause stomach cramps or diarrhea for those that aren’t used to drinking lemon water on the regular. A gradual shift however will allow your body time to adjust without the possible side effects, which means you will be more likely to enjoy drinking your new citrus cocktail—and enjoyment is half the battle.
Make a half-gallon (64 ounces) of lemon water in the morning to drink throughout the day.
Keep it in a glass pitcher or fill a few reusable water bottles to make it easier to grab a drink on the go. Either way, the more convenient water is to drink, the higher the probability you will stay the course.
Experiment with other variations that you enjoy.
After a while, even the refreshing flavor of lemon water can get a little ho-hum. Try adding raw honey to your morning citrus water for a soothing variation, or put a few ginger slices in a cup of hot lemon water for an afternoon pick-me-up. Other popular add-ins include:
- Fresh or frozen blueberries
- Cucumber slices
Most of these variations can be made by the glass or in large batches. Though, when making half a gallon or more, be sure to allow the flavors to infuse for at least two hours while refrigerated.
Eat up, too.
Every ounce of required water doesn’t have to come from the tap. You can get up to 20 percent of your daily water intake from other beverages and foods, such as:
Stock your refrigerator with these fresh goodies to nosh on—you can even make a tasty juice smoothie with lemon water as your base.
Listen to your body.
When your body starts to get dehydrated, you’ll feel thirsty. Don’t ignore it—especially after a strenuous spin class or on a hot summer day. Even if your calculations indicate you’re drinking enough ounces, your body is telling you otherwise. Pay close attention to the cues and pour yourself another glass of water when you are feeling parched.
Keep a bottle of essential lemon oil in your purse, desk, or car.
Even when your daily rituals are interrupted (and let’s be honest, most days don’t go exactly as planned), you’ll have some lemon close at hand that you can add to a bottle of water and stay on track. Of course, if lemons aren’t available, you’ll still be doing your body good by drinking plain water all day too—no excuses.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho, Paul Delmont