There can be no doubt that lemons offer health benefits and many of us already include them in our diets. But, what about lemon peel benefits?
As it turns out, you shouldn’t be throwing that peel away. Instead, it actually contains more nutrients than lemon juice itself, not to mention significant fiber content.
In this post, we take a look at precisely why lemon peel is so relevant for health.
Not only that, but we consider how you can actually use it. After all, lemon peel is not eaten nearly as often as lemons themselves.
Lemon Peel Health Benefits
Many of the benefits of lemons come from one compound, limonene. This is responsible for the scent of lemon and is used in a range of practical applications (1). Limonene is a key reason for focusing on lemon peel because the concentration is much higher here than in lemon juice (2,3).
At the same time, lemon peel contains other significant compounds, including vitamin C, along with hesperidin and diosmin. Those latter two chemicals may seem like a mouthful but they are both connected to reducing cholesterol levels (4,5).
Indeed, lowering cholesterol is a key health benefit from lemon peel and seems to happen through a range of mechanisms. For example, the pectin in the lemon rind and limonene have both been associated with this effect (6,7).
There are also other benefits and advantages associated with lemon peel, including the following:
Source of Nutrients. Lemon peel isn’t packed with nutrients but it has some important ones, including soluble fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and some calcium (8).
Low in Sugar. Lemons and lemon peel are lower in sugar than most other types of fruit. This alone makes them appealing, especially for anybody focusing on weight loss.
Promotes Weight Loss. For that matter, lemon peel can be useful for weight loss in general. This isn’t because of any specific compounds. Instead, lemon can be a good way to add flavor without dramatically increasing calorie count. For that matter, weight loss is one of the key reasons that people turn to lemon water, which can work well for that purpose.
Fighting Inflammation. The most powerful way to fight inflammation is through the diet and lemon peel is one good option. It does have significant anti-inflammatory effects and this could even help reduce disease risk or pain (12,13,14,15).
Reducing Aging Symptoms. Lemons are a key source of antioxidants, many of which are prevalent in the peel (16,17). Antioxidants are thought to have many roles in health, including reducing some of the symptoms associated with aging. Now, the antioxidant capability of lemons isn’t as powerful as options like tart cherry juice and blueberries. Nevertheless, getting a variety of antioxidant sources in your diet is important and lemon peel is one way to do so.
Lowers Oxidative Stress. The antioxidants in lemons also make them relevant for decreasing oxidative stress. In doing so, lemon peel could help to promote positive health overall and reduce disease risk.
Slow Down Cartilage Destruction. Lemon peel may be directly beneficial for people with osteoarthritis, as some research suggests limonene can slow down aspects of cartilage destruction (18).
Fighting Stress. Research indicates that limonene can help reduce stress (19). Furthermore, the aroma of lemons often has a relaxing and de-stressing effect and that aroma is especially strong in lemon peel. Lemon essential oil (affiliate link) may also be relevant for that use.
Improving Iron Absorption. Lemons don’t contain a large amount of iron but they can help iron to be absorbed. This is the result of specific compounds, including citric acid, vitamin C and ascorbic acid (26,27). As a result, lemon peel can reduce the risk of iron deficiency as long as you are getting iron in your diet.
There are other areas that continue to be examined and researched as well. After all, lemon peel does contain a large range of compounds. We still don’t know what the health implications of all of these are, especially not in the long-term.
As a result, it’s possible that more benefits may be discovered in the future.
Regardless, evidence increasingly suggests that a diet filled with a wide range of fruits, vegetables and whole foods will tend to promote better health outcomes overall. Lemon peel itself may not revolutionize your diet but it can be one important component of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
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Getting Lemon Peel in your Diet
For the most part, obtaining the lemon peel is easy – the tricky part is figuring out what to do with it. In particular, you can simply grate the outside of your lemon using a regular grater (like you would for cheese).
Likewise, there are specialized products like zesters that can help as well (such as in the image below). These are perfect if you want thin strips of lemon peel. At a pinch, you can even take the peel off with a knife.
It is also possible to freeze the lemon before you take the peel off. Some people find that this makes the process easier, while others prefer using the lemon fresh.
Regardless of the tool and technique you use, the general idea is to get as much of the bright yellow peel as you can – while minimizing the white pith beneath it. This is because the nutrients are in the peel and the pith also has a bitter and unappealing taste.
If you’re going to use lemon peel, it’s also best to focus on organic lemons and you can even buy them from Amazon (affiliate link). These will tend to involve fewer pesticides than conventional options.
Additionally, you need to make sure the lemon isn’t coated with wax. In many cases, a wax coating is used to help lemons be shelf stable but that isn’t appealing if you want to use the lemon zest. In most cases, you could find this out by researching or asking the producer, or by looking at the questions and answers section if you are buying online.
So, once you’ve got it, how do you use lemon peel?
Effective Ways to Use Lemon Peel
Drinks offer a great way to get health benefits from a range of ingredients, including lemon peel. For example, people often rely on lemon water to stay hydrated and it is possible to include lemon zest in this as well.
One variation is the idea of Mediterranean-style lemonade. Here, you are relying on the juice, pulp and often the lemon zest as well. By using the whole lemon, you have a greater opportunity to get health benefits (28).
Likewise, you can make lemon cordial using lemon juice and peels. This makes for a great gift, as well as a drink that can be consumed either hot or cold.
For example, a common drink on winter days includes hot water, lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon and raw honey. You could even add whiskey to it to create a hot toddy, if you were so inclined.
You can also add lemon zest into smoothies and it could be an interesting extra flavor in drinks like turmeric golden milk.
Of course, there is no shortage of dishes that include lemon zest as well. Baking is the most common example but lemon peel is also common in salad dressings and in salads themselves.
For that matter, you can simply sprinkle lemon zest over many dishes to get the health benefits and kick the flavor up a notch.
Want to Improve Your Health?
Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use.
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