Lemons, Limes, Lemonsito — why you should never run out of them

Lemons are quite visible on social media today as some sort of cure-all for most every illness, including the big C. Let’s look at the facts. Lemons in the Philippines go by the names of calamansi, lemonsito, agridulce and kalamonding are commonly used as lemonades, marinade, or salad dressing.

Lemons were first catapulted to medical fame during the exploration stage when seafarers discovered that the lowly fruits prevented the occurrence of the deadly scurvy which has claimed the lives of many sailors. Long months of being on board ships in intercontinental voyages have deprived sailors of Vitamin C which a steady supply of lemons solved.

I know the lemons we have here in the Philippines look different than the ones in temperate countries. What we have are the small, spherical green ones which have a tough rind while Western lemons are yellow and bigger. The fact is that Philippine lemons are a lot closer to limes than to lemons. 

The following information pertains to Western lemons but could be applied to our lemons as well as all citrus fruits in general.

What are the possible health benefits of lemons?
Fights cancer
Lemons are an excellent soure of Vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant that prevents the formation of free radicals which set the stage for cancer. Lemons also have a host of phytonutrients which all help to fight cancer.

  • Modified Citrus Pection (MCP) found in the rinds and pulp of lemons have been found to inhibit the metastasis or spread of prostate, breast and skin cancer to other body organs
  • Limonoids in citrus peels have been found to induce apoptosis or cell suicide of cancer cells, both in animal and in  vitro studies.
  • All in all thus far, lemons have been found to contain 22 anti-cancer compounds

Reduces risks of stroke

The American Heart Association reports that those who eat the highest amount of citrus fruits had 19% less probability to develop stroke compared to those who eat the least.

Improves complexion
Vitamin C in lemons support the formation of collagen which serves as the structural framework of the skin, preventing premature wrinkling. Vitamin C also fends off free radicals which hasten skin aging.

Increases absorption of iron
Iron cannot be absorbed without Vitamin C. I find it amazing that iron-rich foods such as salad greens just go so well with Vitamin-C-rich lemons — and may be the reason why we seem to be hard-wired to pair our greens with a lemon dressing.

Flavonol glycosides in lemons are antibiotics and have even stopped symptoms of cholera in a Western African study.

Here are some ways I have been sneaking in lemons into our diet:
I prepare lemon juice almost every day. 
I try my best to always buy fresh lemons and to never run out of lemons in my kitchen. I know slicing and squeezing all those lemons can be a hassle but I take pains to do it as I know lemon juice is probably the most kid-friendly way I can do to get my kids to have fresh, unprocessed, fruit juice that is not in any way adulterated by artificial food colors and flavors. Three lemons in a glass of water is the best proportion to use. Muscovado sugar, coco sugar and honey are the best sweeteners.

From time to time, I also prepare all sort of herbal decoctions — boiled lagundi leaves, boiled sweet potato leaves or boiled screwpine leaves — and then cool the decoction down so I can make them as a base for my lemonade.

Lacto-ferment lemons into a sweetener. One wonderful way you can use lemons is to lacto-ferment them along with other herbs in raw, unrefined sugar such as muscovado sugar. You can find my photo-laden recipe for lacto-fermented herbal sweetener here. This will give you a probiotic sweetener that has an aromatic taste and aroma and can sweeten your teas in a delightful way.

Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning. I have not investigated all the claims this one habit makes but I think a tall glass of warm lemon water on an empty stomach would be a detoxifying, hydrating and nourishing habit for your morning routine.

Drink lemon-infused water. Before going to bed at night, take some time to slice a whole lemon or two into thin circles (with the peels on), drop the lemon slices into a glass bottle and let it sit overnight in the ref. The next day, remember to drink up this lemon-infused water for extra doses of antioxidants and nutrients.

Use lemons in salad dressings such as pako or fiddlehead fern salad, lukot or sea slug secretion salad and others.

Note: I do not usually buy pasteurized or heat-treated lemon juices as Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat.

What are your ways of consuming lemons?


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