Should You Eat More Lemons If You Have Diabetes?

Pucker Up and Reap the Benefits

Lemons and juicer on kitchen counter
Lemons and juicer on kitchen counter. Debby Lewis-Harrison

Lemons have a long history as a folk remedy for type 2 diabetes. But is there any truth to the claims? 

Nutrition of Lemons

Lemons have as much vitamin C as an orange. For that reason, they and other citrus fruits were taken on long sea voyages to help prevent scurvy (a disease that results from vitamin C deficiency). They also have a third the amount of sugar as oranges, although the two citrus fruits have equivalent amounts of carbohydrate.

Lemon and Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association includes lemons on their list of superfoods due to soluble fiber and the high amount of vitamin C. Both soluble fiber and vitamin C can benefit people with diabetes. Lemons also have a low glycemic index, and some studies even show that lemon may lower the glycemic index of other foods.

When it comes to research on the benefit of eating lemon for diabetes, however, the research is slim. A 2015 meta-analysis in Primary Care Diabetes found that eating citrus fruits didn't seem to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Citrus fruits do contain flavonoids, naringin, and naringenin, that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects, says a 2014 study in Advances in Nutrition. However, there's still not a whole lot of research into these compounds and their use in treating diabetes.

Two nutrients in lemons have notable benefits for diabetes:

  • Soluble fiber: High-fiber diets have been shown to reduce blood sugar. Soluble fiber can also help lower heart disease risk by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and help with weight loss.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that reduces free radical damage in the body. Free radicals damage cells and membranes in the body. Many people with diabetes have low levels of vitamin C. Because vitamin C helps with the production of collagen, it helps maintain the integrity of the walls of the arteries and can be helpful to people who have circulation problems and arterial damage. Some studies have shown that vitamin C may help decrease levels of fasting blood sugar, triglyceride, cholesterol, HbA1c, and inflammation. It may even improve insulin resistance. Keep in mind too much vitamin C, especially from supplements, may be harmful.

    Tips and Considerations

    • Check with your health care team before increasing the amount of lemon in your diet and attempting to use it to improve health. Ask for advice on how to incorporate it and how much. You do not need to drink high amounts of lemon juice to gain benefits.
    • Lemon can cause heartburn. If this happens to you, then you may need to cut back.
    • Lemon juice can erode tooth enamel and increase tooth sensitivity. If drinking lemon water or juice, drink through a straw and rinse your mouth.
    • Lemon peel contains a high amount of oxalates. Consuming a high amount of oxalates can cause problems such as kidney stones and pain from inflammation.
    • Lemon can act as a diuretic. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
    • Use lemon juice in place of salt to enhance the flavor of food.
    • Squeeze lemon on greens and use along with extra-virgin olive oil as a simple dressing. For more flavor try my go-to Lemony Diabetes Salad Dressing Recipe.


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    Diabetes Superfoods. American Diabetes Association. Accessed April 20, 2012.

    Fukuchi, Yoshiko; Hiramitsu, Masanori; Okada, Miki; Sayashi, Sanae; Nabeno, Yuka; Osawa, Toshihiko; Naito, Michitaka. "Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-Induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in B-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue." J Clin Biochem Nutr November 2008 43(3):201-209

    Harding PhD, Anne-Helen; Wareham FRCP PhD, Nocholas J; Bingham PhD, Sheila A: Khaw FRCP, KayTee; Luben BSC, Robert; Welch PhD, Ailsa; Gorouhi FFPH PhD, Nita G. "Plasma Vitamin C Level, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, and the Risk fo New-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus." Archives of Internal Medicine 2008 168(15):1493-1499

    Wursch PhD, Pierre; PI-Synyer MD, F Xavier. "The Role of Viscous Soluble Fiber in the Metabolic Control of Diabetes. Diabetes Care November 1997 20(11):1774-1780

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