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Lemon or Lime?

Living in a tropical country means that every now and again the heat gets unbearable. Staying hydrated is key to keeping your sanity on such days. Double whammy, I teach hot yoga, which means I drink water like a camel. Some days, however, even for me, plain water gets to be a real drag and I feel for something with flavour. Opening my refrigerator I spied both lemons and limes, but which one do I pick? Decisions, decisions... I picked one each, added a sprig of mint and voila! A refreshing beverage for the ages! It did get me to thinking though, is there a difference between lemon and lime? Is one better than the other? Can you substitute one for the other?

While both fruits are in the citrus family, limes tend to be small, round, meanwhile lemons are usually larger, oval-shaped. Both can be either green or bright yellow depending on when you pick them. From a nutritional standpoint, they are almost identical and share many of the same potential health benefits. With respect to flavour, both fruits are acidic and sour, but lemons tend to be sweeter than limes. They are both used for a variety of culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and household purposes.

Physical Differences and Appearance

The biggest difference between the two is their shape: limes tend to be smaller and rounder than lemons, whereas, lemons are usually more oval or oblong in shape. While most lemons are yellow and limes are green, some limes turn yellow as they ripen.


Lemons have a sweeter flavour than limes. Limes are slightly more bitter. In culinary dishes lemons tend to be used in both savoury or sweet dishes, their rind also easier to peel/zest, while limes are used more in savoury dishes. Although there are no hard and fast rules to cooking, limes work well for more tropical menu items and cocktails, whereas lemons are more suitable for European inspired cuisine.

Health Benefits

Both have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. They contain antibacterial properties, as well as, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

  1. They are both packed with Vitamin C, which among other things helps to support the body's immune system; reduce inflammation, protect the body's cells; maintain health skin, bones, blood vessels and cartilage and assist with wound healing. It also helps your body to absorb iron from food and supplements.

  2. They contain flavornoids, which are phytochemicals that may have several health benefits, for heart disease, cancer and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Flavornoids also help reduce inflammation in the body.

  3. Some studies suggest that they may help treat kidney stones, since both vitamin C and citric acid helped break up or prevent the formation of some types of kidney stones.

  4. There have been studies which suggest that they may help with weight loss, since drinking lemon/lime water helps with overeating. Additionally, the citric acid found in the juice helps boost your metabolism, helping you burn more calories and store less fat.

  5. Adding lemon/lime to water may aid in digestion. They contain compounds which help to stimulate digestive secretions in the stomach. Also, the acid in both lemon and lime juice helps the saliva to break down food.

  6. Lemons have significantly more citric acid than limes and are an excellent source of potassium and magnesium. Limes on the other hand, contain higher concentrations of phosphorous, vitamins A and C, calcium, and folate.

It should be noted that research on the potential medicinal and pharmacological benefits of lemons and limes is currently limited to animal and test-tube studies, and not yet on humans. Research is still ongoing.

Now that you know the difference you can make a more informed decision which one you use. Stay hydrated my friends!

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