Lemon vs. Lime — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
Lemons contain more protein and fats in small amounts, whereas limes are higher in carbohydrates due to total sugars.
Lemons contain two times more vitamin C, but limes are much richer in vitamin A. Limes generally are richer in minerals, containing higher calcium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus levels. Lemons, on the other hand, are richer in potassium and magnesium.
Both lemons and limes can aid with weight loss and possess cardioprotective, blood glucose-reducing, and anticancer effects. Both can also act as irritants and cause heartburn and enamel erosion due to their acidity.
Table of contents
Lemons and limes are often interchangeably used in the kitchen, but how similar are they? This article will discuss what these two fruits have in common and what sets them apart, focusing on their nutrition and impact on health.
Taste and Appearance
On the outside, lemons and limes are easy to differentiate; lemons look bright yellow and oval, and limes appear in shades of green and round forms. Limes are also usually smaller than lemons, with an average size of 3 to 6 centimeters (1.2- 2.4 inches), as opposed to lemons’ 5 to 8cm (2- 3 inches).
Lemon trees prefer moderate climates, while lime trees are recommended to grow in tropical and subtropical regions.
Lemons are generally said to taste a little sweeter, whereas limes have a more acidic and sour flavor; however, both fruits may are used in cooking (salads, dishes, lemonade, pastries, and desserts) for their specific flavor.
The key lime is even more acidic than lemons and limes and is often used to make key lime pie.
Both lemons and limes belong to the Citrus genus. Consequently, they are known as citrus fruits but are separate species.
Lemons belong to the species Limon, whereas multiple species produce fruits known as lime. The most well-known lime species are Key lime, Kaffir or makrut lime, and Persian lime.
Sweet lemons (Citrus limetta) cross (hybrid) between citrons and bitter oranges. These fruits can resemble limes, with their round shape and green color, but are considered a cultivar of lemons.
Can You Substitute Limes for Lemons?
Although lemons tend to be sweeter, and limes have a more bitter flavor; however lemons can usually be used instead of limes since both are acidic and sour. They both can be used in savory dishes, sweet dishes, and cocktails.
Fortunately, the picture is also the same for lemon and lime juices. So yes, you can use lime juice instead of lemon juice because of their similar taste.
Lemons and limes are rich in several nutrients. Both consist of about 89 percent water.
One serving of a lemon weighs 58g, whereas a lime’s serving portion is a little more significant at 67g.
Macronutrients and Calories
Lemons and limes have very similar caloric values. Limes have 30 calories per 100g, and lemons have 29 calories. Lemons contain only one calorie less compared to limes.
Lemons are richer in proteins and fats.
Limes contain more carbohydrates than lemons. The two fruits have the same amount of dietary fiber, but limes are higher in total sugars.
Lemons contain two times more vitamin C than limes. They also contain a little more vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin K, and folate.
On the other hand, limes contain two times more vitamin A. They are also slightly higher in vitamin E, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5.
Both lemons and limes contain the same amount of vitamin B2 and completely lack vitamins D and B12.
Overall, limes are richer in minerals, containing more calcium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. However, lemons have higher levels of potassium and magnesium.
Most studies show limes to be more acidic than lemons. One research has concluded that lemons’ pH is 3.1, whereas limes (Key lime) had a pH value of 2.4 (1)(2).
The acidity of limes depends on the variety and can range from 2 to 2.4 (3).
Studies have also shown that lemon juice contains higher levels of citric acid when compared to lime juice (4). Consequently, lemon juice is slightly more acidic than lime juice.
The PRAL for lemons has been calculated to be -2.3 for lemons and -1.7 for limes. This shows that both fruits are alkaline inside the body, lemons more so than limes.
People often use lemon or lime water in low-calorie and low-glycemic diets as a means to lose weight. Studies have shown both fruits to have the potential to reduce the levels of blood cholesterol and help with weight loss (5). However, these studies have been only carried out on mice and have not yet been proven for humans.
The lipid-lowering and anti-obesity effects may be due to the phytochemicals in these fruits, such as polyphenols.
Lemon detox diet
You may ask, what happens if you drink lemon water every day? Unfortunately, it does not help remove toxins from the body, as is often believed. However, there's a diet type which is called a lemon detox diet that has many benefits. Let's discuss this.
The lemon detox diet is a fasting program that is often kept for 5 to 10 days, during which people consume only lemon-based mixtures with no solid foods.
One study has concluded that a lemon detox program, consisting of organic maple and palm syrups with lemon juice, and kept for seven days, reduces body fat and insulin resistance without hematological changes (6).
However, the lemon detox fasting diet can have side effects like fatigue, headaches, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal issues. There is also no evidence that the lost weight will not be rapidly regained after the initial weight loss when resuming a regular diet.
Lemons and limes are rich in phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, limonoids, and polyphenols. These compounds have many beneficial effects on health.
Both lemon and lime contain limonene, a chemical found in the rind of citrus fruits. Research shows the therapeutic effects of limonene, which include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antinociceptive, anticancer, antidiabetic, antihyperalgesic, antiviral, and gastroprotective properties, among others (7).
Citrus fruits are rich in flavonoids, which correlate with reduced cardiovascular mortality and morbidity (8). A prominent member of the flavonoid family is a compound called flavanone. While both fruits are rich in this substance, lemons are higher in flavanones than limes (9).
These and other phytochemicals in citrus fruits express potent antioxidant and hypolipidemic activities (10).
Kaffir lime has also been studied as a potential cardioprotector agent that can be used in chemotherapy (11).
Adding lemon juice to a meal significantly lowered the mean blood glucose concentration. This effect is assumed to be due to the acidity of lemon juice slowing down starch digestion (12). Hypothetically, as lime juice also has an acidic pH, we will see the same effect by using lime juice with high glycemic index foods.
Citrus limetta or sweet lime has also been studied as a source of a functional compound for controlling diabetes mellitus due to its hypoglycemic effects (13).
Phytochemicals of citrus fruits have been associated with a decreased risk of cancers, specifically in the digestive and upper respiratory tract. This effect was evident even with moderate citrus fruit consumption (14).
Key lime, in particular, has been studied to have anticancer effects against colon, pancreatic, and breast cancers and lymphomas (15).
Downsides and Risks
Due to their acidic nature, lemons and limes can cause heartburn and aggravation of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms, especially when consumed on an empty stomach.
However, paradoxically, watered-down lemon juice has been said to help some people reduce heartburn due to its alkalizing nature (16).
Limes and lemons can also cause tooth erosion by wearing away the dental enamel, making teeth more sensitive, yellow and eventually causing cavities.
To avoid this, it is better not to consume concentrated lemon or lime juice but to water them down instead. You can also drink lemon or lime juice with a straw to avoid contact with teeth (16).
As mentioned above, limonene is a compound in lemons and limes.
Despite its wide range of health benefits, it may cause mild skin and eye irritants.
People allergic to limonene may experience contact dermatitis after touching these fruits (17).
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Lower in Sodium||Equal|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in price||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||1µg||2µg|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.
- Lemon - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167746/nutrients
- Lime - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168155/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.