Strictly speaking, because lemons and limes are fruits, they’re by definition, not slow carb friendly.  Yet there is a lot of debate about whether you can add lemon juice to water or food.  As lemons and limes are similar, I’m using “lemon” as a catchall to prevent me having to type lemon/lime every paragraph.

Lets start off by looking at the macro breakdown:

credit: Self Nutrition Data

2% sugar is nothing to be sniffed at if you’re drinking pints, but the juice of 1 lemon is approximately 50ml (size dependant of course), meaning if you consume the juice of a whole lemon, that’s 1 gram of sugar.  ONE GRAM.

One Gram Of Sugar
credit: The Iron You

I’m ok with an extra 1 gram of fructose (marginally better than sucrose) in my diet, but can we justify it further?

Can lemon juice actually help at all?

If we refer to our slow carb bible “The 4 Hour Body”, Tim Ferriss talks extensively about the benefits of citrus juice for weight loss.

Insulin release is minimized by blunting sharp jumps in blood sugar:
Consume citric juices, whether lime juice squeezed into water, lemon juice on food, or a beverage like the citrus kombucha I had.

He focuses on lemon and lime juice – both in water as a drink, and on/in foods – for their blood sugar blunting affect on insulin release.

It’s not as open and shut as “drink lemons” though, there are other far easier and more affective methods of blunting blood sugar spikes.

The easiest thing you can do to decrease glucose spikes is slow down.  It also helps to drink more water to dilute digestion (I’m fantastic at this), eat smaller portions (not so good at this), and chew more (Orca is terrible at this).

…so citrus isn’t the fat antidote we were hoping for, but if all we need is enough to justify it in our diets, what would that look like?

In my personal trials, three tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice just prior to eating (not shop-bought with preservatives and artificial additives) appeared to lower blood sugar peaks by approximately 10%.

Ahah, there’s the evidence (anecdote, whatever!) we were looking for!  10% isn’t a whole lot, but I’m happy to consider that enough to more than offset the 1 gram of fructose per whole lemon.

How can you consume lemon juice?

I like to add a couple of lemon or lime wedges to iced water.  If I’m not going to use the whole lemon, I cut the rest into wedges and add it to the bag of ice in our freezer, I then add the frozen wedges whole to water.  When fresh, I can give the wedge a little squeeze as I add it, it’s bit more difficult when the wedge is frozen solid!

They’re great squeezed over salads, in dips such as Hummus or Baba Ganoush, over grilled fish, or in marinades for chicken.  Don’t forget the zest, it’s great in marinades!


credit: Self Nutrition Data

Lemon zest contains very little of anything, and is used in such tiny quantities that it doesn’t need to be looked at terribly closely to decide it’s totally safe.  Zero sugar, 3 calories, it’s fine, don’t waste your life wondering 🙂

Have I missed anything?

If you think I’ve missed anything, or glossed over something, let me know in the comments or on Reddit.  I’d love to add your thoughts to this article and give you credit.


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