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Lime vs Lemon: How are they different?

It is fairly common to throw a slice of lime or lemon in a glass of water. Certainly, many folks love a twist of lime or lemon with a cocktail. But the lime vs lemon debate has now taken on some seriousness.  

However, limes and lemons are packed with vitamins and other healthy nutrients. And choosing between lime vs lemon may seem like a matter of taste. But there are some different characteristics that can change the way you look at lime vs lemon for a healthy sparkly in your drinks and meals. 

Lime vs lemon comes down to which nutrients you need most. Since both are quite similar, it takes some research to get to the bottom of the lime vs lemon debate. To make a choice between lime vs lemon we need to understand what exactly these common fruits are. 

What are limes and lemons? What are the health benefits of limes vs lemons? What do we make of the differences between limes and lemons? This guide will provide everything you need to make a choice between lime vs lemons, and how to put each to the best use toward your health and fitness goals. 

What are limes and lemons?

Lemons and limes are genetically different fruits, but they are closely related. There are some scientists who believe that lemons were originally produced as a hybrid fruit with limes and citrons which are a thick rind citrus fruit. This origin story of the lemon remains debated, but the fact remains that though limes and lemons appear to be similar, they are in fact distinctly different fruits.  

Both limes and lemons belong to the category of fruits called citrus fruits. This category includes oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, and citrons. Lemons belong to the scientific family called Citrus limon. Limes are part of the family called Citrus aurantifolia. Lemons can be grown successfully in moderate climates, but limes require a climate that leans more toward the tropical.  

Both limes and lemons are used in different industries in both fresh and processed forms. 

Limes and lemons are both known for their acidic and sour flavor. This had lent both lime and lemons their appeal to culinary traditions around the globe. Limes and lemons are both used in cooking, food preservations, and for flavor. 

The essential oils of limes and lemons are used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Many natural cleaning products use limes and lemons since the acids in both have antibacterial properties. 

Limes and lemons health benefits 

It is no surprise that limes and lemons are good for your health. Limes and lemons are strikingly similar in terms of their health benefits, and each offers these benefits in unique ways. 

Health benefits of lemons:

Great for your heart

Lemons are high in vitamin C. One average lemon contains about 31 mg of vitamin C. That is more than half the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Studies show that eating foods that are high in vitamin C reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Lemons are also high in fiber. A good source of fiber is also known to cut down on your risk of heart disease. For example, research has shown that eating 24 grams of citrus fiber from lemons a day can significantly reduce your blood cholesterol levels. 

There are two compounds found in lemons, hesperidin, and diosmin, that are also known to reduce cholesterol levels and therefore reduce your risk of heart disease. 

Can help you lose weight

People have long believed that lemons can help you lose weight. This is why many people insist on putting a lemon edge in their ice water. One theory behind this is that the pectin fiber found in lemons expands your stomach and makes you feel full.

Studies are going on right now that explore the ways that the polyphenols found in flavonoids in lemon peel cause people to lose weight since the peel is what appears to provide the compounds that help with weight loss.  

Helps prevent kidney stones

Kidney stones are crystals that form from waste products in the kidneys. They are quite common, and people who get them tend to get them repeatedly. 

The citric acid in lemons can help prevent kidney stones. The citric acid does this by increasing the volume of urine in the kidneys which helps prevent crystals from forming. Citric acid from lemons also raises the pH levels of urine which also helps dissolve crystals that lead to kidney stones.  

A half-cup of lemon juice reduced the recurrence of kidney stones in test subjects who suffer from recurring kidney stones. 

Protect against anemia 

Iron deficiency, or anemia, is common. We get iron from the foods we eat, but some sources of iron can be difficult for our bodies to process. Lemon juice contains little iron, but it works to assist the body in breaking down forms of iron found in other foods. Lemon juice helps convert iron into forms your body can absorb. 

Reduces your risk of cancer

It is already known that a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of cancer. Recent studies have shown that people who eat plenty of citrus fruits, including lemons, can further reduce their risk of developing certain types of cancer.  

There is evidence that suggests that lemons contain a compound called D-limonene that has cancer-fighting properties. Compounds such as these are known to prevent tumors from developing in the lungs, and colon. 

Improves digestion

Lemons consist of about 10 percent carbs. These are mostly soluble carbs and simple sugars. One of the main fibers in lemons is pectin and this is known to improve the health of the gut and it slows the digestion of carbs and sugars. All of this serves to improve your overall digestive health. 

Health benefits of limes

Limes share many of the same health benefits as lemons. But there are a few features of limes that stand out. 

May help treat sickle cell anemia 

Sickle cell anemia is a condition that causes the bone marrow to produce misshapen, sickle-shaped red blood cells. It can cause chronic fatigue as well as painful episodes, called crises, which can affect the chest, joints, or lower back. Recent studies have found that lime juice can reduce the frequency and severity crises associated with sickle cell anemia. 

Good for heart health

Limes are filled with antioxidants. These are great for the health of arteries and your heart. The antioxidants found in limes are known to slow down the process of atherogenesis which is the unhealthy build-up of plaque on the lining of the arteries. 

Antibacterial properties 

Limes contain chemicals that can actively fight bacteria especially, the Kaffir lime, a variety grown in Southeast Asia, contains significant concentrations to chemicals that can destroy E coli, a major cause of food poisoning. 

Great for your skin and complexion

The same antibacterial properties that can reduce the risk of food poisoning also work toward making your skin healthy. Some types of limes can kill acne-causing bacteria. A simple essential oil made from limes has been found to significantly improve skin in a short time. 

Limes and lemons similarities

In terms of nutrition and chemical make-up, limes and lemons are virtually identical. The breakdown of nutritional content shows us how they match up.

A 3.5-ounce serving of limes and lemons provides the following nutrients. 

Lemons 
 Limes
Calories
29
30
Carbs
9 grams
11 grams
Fiber 
3 grams 
3 grams 
Fat 
0 grams
0 grams
Protein 
1 gram
1 gram
Vitamin C
88 % RDI
48% RDI
Iron
3% RDI
3% RDI
Potassium
4% RDI
3% RDI
Vitamin B6
4% RDI
2% RDI
Vitamin B12
3% RDI
2% RDI

 

As you can see, the differences between lemons and limes are negligible. Both limes and lemons provide approximately the same levels of nutrition. The only real differences between the two fruits are flavors, shape, and color.  

Limes and lemons differences

Limes and lemons differ most notably in their physical appearance. Lemons are bright yellow. Limes are a bright shade of green. Some limes will turn a light shade of yellow as they ripen. 

Limes are generally more rounded than lemons. Limes are usually between 1-2 inches in diameter while lemons are usually around 2-4 inches in diameter.  

As for flavor, limes and lemons are similar. Both are extremely tart. They are usually too tart to eat by themselves. However, lemons tend to be slightly sweeter, and limes are more bitter. Limes are often described as bitter lemons.  

Lime and lemons tend to be used differently in cooking. Lemons are slightly sweeter and lend themselves to pastries and other sweet foods. Limes are more often used in savory dishes like meats and fish.  However, since limes and lemons are not that different, this is not a hard and fast rule. Limes do turn up in pastries, and lemons are often used in savory cooking. 

Use of limes and lemons

Limes and lemons have culinary uses. There are too many ways to use limes and lemons in the kitchen to list them all here. But some of the major uses of limes and lemons include: 

  • Fresh drinks like limeade and lemonade
  • Flavoring fish, poultry, and meats
  • Preserving foods
  • Pastries
  • Cocktails
  • Simple flavors for sparkling water

The acid content and other chemical components of lemons and limes are similar. Both can be used in a variety of ways beyond food and beverages. Here are some sued for lemons and limes around the house: 

  • Polish pots and pans
  • Descale coffee makers
  • Remove stains from marble countertops
  • Remove stains from dishes and storage containers
  • Remove odors from microwaves and refrigerators
  • Get rid of yellow stains in white fabrics
  • Natural air freshener
  • Wards off bugs
  • Natural glass cleaner

This is not an exhaustive list. The natural citric acid in limes and lemons works as a great cleaning and deodorizing agent on just about any surface. 

Risks of limes and lemons

Consuming lemons or limes in moderate amounts is generally safe. However, the fruits can cause a stinging pain when in contact with open wounds, such as a cut lip or a mouth ulcer.

Their high acidity also means that they may worsen heartburn or digestive issues in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

In large amounts, citric fruits can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities over time.

When using cleaning products that contain citrus or other irritating chemicals, use gloves, and avoid contact with the skin.

Conclusion

It is no real surprise to most of us that limes and lemons are a healthy addition to the day. Whether we are juicing limes and lemons for a pitcher of limeade or lemonade, grating the peels to add a special accent to fresh fish, or simply twisting a wedge of lime or lemon into some freshwater, limes, and lemons are a natural enhancement to almost anything. 

Limes and lemons can also be put to use around the house. Rather than relying on toxic chemicals in our cleaning products, we can put a little lime or lemon juice (or a little of both) in a solution to clean up and remove stains. These DIY cleaners also make the house smell good. They also save you money. 

But there is much more to simple limes and lemons. These tart fruits are loaded with nutrition. Vitamin C alone can help fight cancer and heart disease. They contain several compounds that help ward of chronic diseases and make for a healthy heart. Limes and lemons can also help lower your blood pressure. 

While limes and lemons have largely been used in culinary practices in the western world, they have long been a staple in traditional medicine in other parts of the world. Medical science is catching up with these medicinal practices and we are finding the small miracles in a simple glass of lemonade or a twist of lime in sparkling water. 

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