Ask a Dietitian: Does Lemon Water Encourage Weight Loss?

glasses of lemon water


There’s no denying that lemon water is a delicious alternative when the taste of plain water just isn’t cutting it. But beyond taste, we’ve also been hearing a lot of talk about lemon water being beneficial to weight loss (if that's your goal). To see if the claims are actually true, we reached out to some top-tier nutritionists for their expertise. Here’s what they have to say about lemon water, in terms of weight loss, hydration and other health benefits, and even protecting your teeth.

Meet the Expert

  • Lauren Sharpe is a registered dietitian who specializes in debunking fad diets and helping clients develop a healthy lifestyle and relationship with food.
  • Melissa Rifkin is a registered dietitian with over 14 years of experience in the nutrition industry (plus a whopping 380k+ followers on Instagram).

Lemon Water Benefits

  1. Sipping lemon water helps you stay hydrated: Adding a bit of lemon to your water might encourage you to drink more water throughout the day. This is a major win, because proper hydration supports so many different body processes, from temperature regulation to muscle health and more. If lemon water helps you stay hydrated, that’s definitely a good thing. 
  2. Lemon water contains vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important antioxidant with a bunch of health benefits, including helping us absorb iron from our meals, supporting heart health, and aiding in collagen production and skin repair. “Including [lemon] in your water can help increase your intake of this important antioxidant,” Rifkin says.
  3. Lemon water might support digestion: Drinking a glass of lemon water before or during your meal may help your body digest food more easily. “Per Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, lemon's sour taste stimulates bile release ahead of a meal,” Vettel says. Additionally, as we age, “the acidity of our stomach declines, and lemon water may be a helpful digestive aid,” Sharpe says.
  4. Like many other plant-based foods, lemons are packed with phytonutrients:
    “These phytonutrients have powerful antioxidants that help protect the body from disease,” Sharpe says.
  5. Lemon water may lower your risk of getting kidney stones: Lemons, like many other fruits, are high in citric acid and citrate. These are important because they can help prevent kidney stones from forming and can even break up stones that have already started to form. As a preventive measure, Physicians at UC San Diego Health recommend drinking four ounces of lemon juice in two liters of water each day. 

Side Effects of Drinking Lemon Water

While lemon water doesn’t typically carry any negative health impacts, it can contribute to acid reflux in some people. Others, such as those with histamine sensitivity, may simply have an intolerance for citrus, Vettel says. 

Too much lemon water can be problematic to your teeth as well since citric acid can erode the enamel that helps protect your teeth from decay. “Tooth health is the biggest downside to lemon consumption,” Rifkin says. “As long as the lemon is diluted with enough water and/or plain water is used between glasses of lemon water, that will help limit the negative impact lemon may have on tooth health.” 

Vettel has another workaround we like: protect your teeth by drinking your lemon water with a straw.

So, Does Lemon Water Work For Weight Loss?

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but lemon water doesn’t contain any special ingredients that promote weight loss. That said, it's still a generally healthy choice for a drink, especially if you’re reaching for a glass of lemon water instead of a more sugary option like juice or soda. Sharpe explains this pretty succinctly: “If you are exchanging a morning habit of orange juice for lemon water, then over time this may aid in weight loss,” she says. “However there is no research linking actual lemon juice and water with weight loss.”

Basically, by reaching for lemon water throughout the day, you may find that you aren’t drinking as many high-calorie, sugary beverages anymore. Additionally, drinking appropriate amounts of water can promote fullness, which may reduce the amount you snack or eat during meal times, Rifkin points out.

There’s one very important factor to keep in mind here: many of the benefits of drinking lemon water are tied to water consumption and hydration in general, not just to lemon water. “Lemon water can promote satiety before meals, is virtually calorie-free, and may have metabolic benefits—all of which can support a healthy weight,” says Sheri Vettel, a registered dietitian at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “It's important to note that these benefits are not specific to lemon water alone, but remain true with plain water consumption too.”

How to Incorporate Lemon Water Into Your Diet

In general, nutritionists recommend drinking lemon water in a way that works for you, since everyone’s body and preferences are different. “If it is helping you drink more water, I say add it into all your water bottles throughout the day,” Sharpe says. She also says there’s no reason to drink lemon water if you don’t enjoy it—so if you can’t stand lemon water, this isn’t something you need to force just because you’ve heard it’s good for you. 

Vettel suggests drinking a glass of warm lemon water when you wake up in the morning as a way to wake up the digestive system and start your daily hydration early.

How to Prepare Lemon Water For Maximum Taste and Benefits

When you’re making lemon water, any type of lemon will do, but you may want to be mindful about how much lemon you add. “Keeping your tooth health in mind, no more than a half lemon should be added to an 8-ounce cup of water.,” Rifkin says. “Adding more water to dilute this amount of lemon would be perfectly acceptable.” If you can, reach for filtered water—nutritionists say this can help reduce the presence of contaminants in your water. Likewise, organic lemons are a solid choice if you’re aiming to reduce the amount of pesticides in your food. 

If you’re looking to spice things up a bit, try adding some basil, mint, or other fresh herbs to your lemon water for an added infusion of flavor. “Mint infused lemon water is a great cooling choice for the summer heat,” Vettel says. 

The Takeaway

While lemon water doesn't contain any properties that specifically promote weight loss, it's a healthy substitute for juices, sodas, sugary teas, or energy drinks. If you drink these often, then replacing with lemon water may in turn help you lose weight. Aside from weight loss, there are a number of benefits to drinking lemon water, including increasing hydration, vitamin C, and phytonutrients. Just be aware that lemons are acidic, which can cause tooth sensitivity. Dietitian and dentists alike recommend drinking through a straw to prevent this, or to include no more than half a lemon per eight ounces of water.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of vitamin c in skin health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866.

  2. PENNISTON KL, NAKADA SY, HOLMES RP, ASSIMOS DG. Quantitative assessment of citric acid in lemon juice, lime juice, and commercially-available fruit juice products. J Endourol. 2008;22(3):567-570.

  3. Gul Z, Monga M. Medical and dietary therapy for kidney stone prevention. Korean J Urol. 2014;55(12):775-779.

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