I’ve recently become convinced that the secret to wealth, happiness, and success is drinking hot water with lemon. I have come to this conclusion, in part, because it seems as if every wealthy, happy, and successful woman I follow on Instagram — from Emily Weiss to Gwenyth Paltrow — has proclaimed at one point or another that they’re devoted to drinking the beverage every single morning. These women are always very well hydrated and moisturized. They have great skin. I drink a moderate amount of fluids and often forget to use toner. If drinking a cup of hot water with lemon in the morning is the first step towards becoming my best self, then let’s make some damn lemonade.
But despite my eagerness to join the lemon water cult, a part of me has always had a sneaking suspicion that the real reason so many people drink hot water with lemon in the morning is because it’s a thing to drink hot water with lemon in the morning. So I decided to ask the experts: Is this a thing I should be doing?
“I’m all for anything that will get people drinking more water,” says Joy Bauer, resident nutritionist on “The Today Show.” “Adding lemons is a way to flavor it up without adding any extra calories or sugar, and it gets a huge check for that.”
Furthermore, Bauer says, lemons are rich in vitamin C, which can help to boost your immune system, promote a radiant complexion, and “enhance thick, healthy hair.” She makes it clear, however, that the real benefit to drinking water with lemon is more to do with the water than with the lemon: “Staying hydrated with lots of water is going to help to move things along — in other words, it’s going to help you to go to the bathroom and stay regular. It’s also going to boost your energy, because it allows every single cell and organ in your body to function optimally.”
This isn’t to say that adding lemon doesn’t make a difference, however. According to Dr. Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, research shows that because lemon is a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant, it “may help protect our cells from damage.”
“Another benefit of taking in vitamin C is that it can help people absorb iron from foods, which may be particularly useful for vegetarians, since vegetarian diets are often low in iron,” she says. “Lemons [also] provide flavanols, which may help with digestion; and lemon juice contains pectin, a type of soluble fiber, which can help with colon health.”
But both Bauer and Sheth warn that lemons don’t have super powers — and drinking a cup of hot water with lemon isn’t going to be some sort of magical cure-all for your beauty/health woes.
“You gotta manage your expectations — because lemon water will not directly detoxify your system or expedite weight loss or cure serious conditions,” Bauer says. “Never believe that hype for one second. In that respect, I would say it’s highly overrated.”
And it’s not without its risks, however small: Sheth cautions that while there’s nothing wrong with drinking lemon water instead of plain water if that’s what you prefer, you should “be mindful of the acidic nature and harm that [lemons] can cause to your teeth.”
“While warm water may be soothing and increases hydration, depending on the concentration of lemon, the acidity could cause decalcification of the enamel,” says Dr. Robert Rifkin, cosmetic dentist to the stars. “Over time, this may result in greater tooth sensitivity.”
In other words, as long as you aren’t overdoing it, the risks are relatively low — and overall, while it might not be a magic beauty elixir, adding hot water with lemon to your daily routine likely won’t do your body any harm.