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Lime vs Lemon - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Lime
vs
Lemon

Summary

Overall, lemons and limes have very similar nutritional profiles. The two have approximately equal caloric values and are both low-calorie foods. However, 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. In general, limes are richer in minerals, containing higher levels of calcium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. 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.

Introduction

Lemons and limes are often interchangeably used in the kitchen, but how similar are they really? In this article, we will discuss what these two fruits have in common and what sets them apart, focusing on their nutrition and impact on health.

On the outside, lemons and limes are easy to differentiate; lemons look 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).

Both fruits grow year-round; however, lemon trees prefer moderate climates, while lime trees are recommended to grow in tropical and subtropical regions.

These fruits are quite similar in taste. Nevertheless, lemons are generally said to taste a little sweeter, whereas limes are more bitter or sour.

Varieties

Both lemons and limes belong to the Citrus genus. Consequently, they are known as citrus fruits; however, they are separate species. Lemons belong to the species Limon, whereas multiple species produce fruits that we know as lime. The most well-known lime species are Key lime, Kaffir or makrut lime, and Persian lime. 

Although Persian limes are used and referred to as limes, they are actually a hybrid between key limes and lemons.

Sweet lemons (Citrus limetta), also known as mosambi or sweet lime, are a cross between citrons and bitter oranges. These fruits can resemble limes, with their round shape and green color, but are actually considered a cultivar of lemons.

Nutrition

Nutritionally the two fruits are rather alike. Both lemons and limes consist of about 89 percent water.

One serving of a lemon weighs 58 grams, whereas lime’s serving portion is a little larger with 67g.

Macronutrients and Calories

Lemons and limes have very similar caloric values. Lemons contain only one calorie less compared to limes. The caloric value of lime is 30, consequently meaning that a serving of lemon contains 29 calories.

Lemons are richer in proteins and fats, but limes contain more carbohydrates. The two fruits have the same amount of dietary fiber, but limes are higher in total sugars.

Vitamins

Lemons and limes mostly contain the same vitamins and in similar amounts, with only a few differences. The most significant difference between the two is their vitamin C content. 

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits are known for their high content of vitamin C. Both lemons and limes are rich in vitamin C; however, lemons contain twice the amount compared to limes.

Other vitamins

Lemons contain a little more vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin B9 in the form of 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. Limes contain low levels of vitamin K, whereas this vitamin is entirely absent in lemons.

Both lemons and limes contain the same amount of vitamin B2 and completely lack vitamins D and B12. 

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Lime
5
:
4
Lemon
Contains more Vitamin A +127.3%
Contains more Vitamin E +46.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +14.2%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +82.1%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +33.3%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +86%
Contains more Folate +37.5%
Equal in Vitamin B2 - 0.02
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 3% 5% 0% 97% 8% 5% 4% 14% 10% 6% 0% 2%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 2% 3% 0% 177% 10% 5% 2% 12% 19% 9% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +127.3%
Contains more Vitamin E +46.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +14.2%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +82.1%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +33.3%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +86%
Contains more Folate +37.5%
Equal in Vitamin B2 - 0.02

Minerals

Overall, limes are richer in minerals, containing more calcium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. However, lemons have higher levels of potassium and magnesium.

Lemons and limes both contain similar levels of iron and sodium. 

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Lime
4
:
2
Lemon
Contains more Calcium +26.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +12.5%
Contains more Zinc +83.3%
Contains more Copper +75.7%
Contains more Magnesium +33.3%
Contains more Potassium +35.3%
Equal in Iron - 0.6
Equal in Sodium - 2
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 10% 23% 5% 8% 9% 1% 3% 22%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 8% 23% 6% 7% 13% 1% 2% 13%
Contains more Calcium +26.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +12.5%
Contains more Zinc +83.3%
Contains more Copper +75.7%
Contains more Magnesium +33.3%
Contains more Potassium +35.3%
Equal in Iron - 0.6
Equal in Sodium - 2

Glycemic Index

The glycemic values of lemons and limes have not yet been measured. However, adding citrus fruits to starchy meals has been recommended to lower the meal’s glycemic index.

To learn more information about this and the glycemic effect of lemons, you can go to this page.

The glycemic index of citrus honey has been calculated to be low, equal to 45, making it a good option as a honey substitute for people with diabetes (1).

Acidity

The acidity of fruits can change, depending on growing conditions, as well as ripeness levels. However, 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 (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 acidity of foods can also be portrayed by the potential renal acid load (PRAL), which shows the capacity of base or acid production of the food inside the organism. 

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.

Weight Loss

Lemons and limes are both low-calorie foods. People often use lemon or lime water 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 found within these fruits, such as polyphenols (6).

Lemon detox diet

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 (7).

However, the lemon detox fasting diet can have side effects, such as fatigue, headaches, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal issues. This diet does not help in removing toxins from the body, as is often believed. There is also no evidence that the lost weight will not be rapidly regained after the initial weight loss when resuming to a regular diet. 

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Lemons and limes are rich in phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, limonoids, and polyphenols. These compounds have many beneficial effects on health.

Cardiovascular Health

Citrus fruits are overall rich in flavonoids, which have been correlated 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 found in citrus fruits express strong antioxidant and hypolipidemic activities (10). 

Kaffir lime has also been studied as a potential cardioprotector agent that can be used in chemotherapy (11).

Diabetes

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).

Cancer

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, breast cancers, as well as lymphomas (15).

Lemons and limes have also been studied to have antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and anti-obesity effects.

Downsides and Risks

Heartburn

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.

Oral Health

Limes and lemons can also cause tooth erosion by wearing away the dental enamel, making teeth more sensitive, yellow and eventually causing cavities. 

In order to avoid this, it is better not to consume concentrated lemon or lime juice but to water it down instead. You can also drink lemon or lime juice with a straw to avoid contact with teeth.

Irritation

A compound found in lemons and limes, called limonene, is a mild skin and eye irritant.

People who are allergic to limonene may experience contact dermatitis after touching these fruits (16).

Sources.

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/295397467
  2. https://www.idosi.org/abr/7(2)13/7.pdf
  3. https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/food2market/documents/ph_of_common_foods.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2637791/
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258514543
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2581754/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25912765/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17344514/
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889157505001456?via%3Dihub
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21425871/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23646300/
  12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02228-x
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5701400/
  14. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286122827
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5214556/
  16. https://www.nyallergy.com/citrus-allergy
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Lime vs Lemon infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Lime Lemon
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
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

Nutrient Lime Lemon Opinion
Net carbs 7.74g 6.52g Lime
Protein 0.7g 1.1g Lemon
Fats 0.2g 0.3g Lemon
Carbs 10.54g 9.32g Lime
Calories 30kcal 29kcal Lime
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 1.69g 2.5g Lime
Fiber 2.8g 2.8g
Calcium 33mg 26mg Lime
Iron 0.6mg 0.6mg
Magnesium 6mg 8mg Lemon
Phosphorus 18mg 16mg Lime
Potassium 102mg 138mg Lemon
Sodium 2mg 2mg
Zinc 0.11mg 0.06mg Lime
Copper 0.065mg 0.037mg Lime
Vitamin A 50IU 22IU Lime
Vitamin E 0.22mg 0.15mg Lime
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 29.1mg 53mg Lemon
Vitamin B1 0.03mg 0.04mg Lemon
Vitamin B2 0.02mg 0.02mg
Vitamin B3 0.2mg 0.1mg Lime
Vitamin B5 0.217mg 0.19mg Lime
Vitamin B6 0.043mg 0.08mg Lemon
Folate 8µg 11µg Lemon
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0.6µg 0µg Lime
Tryptophan 0.003mg mg Lime
Threonine mg mg
Isoleucine mg mg
Leucine mg mg
Lysine 0.014mg mg Lime
Methionine 0.002mg mg Lime
Phenylalanine mg mg
Valine mg mg
Histidine mg mg
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g 0g
Saturated Fat 0.022g 0.039g Lime
Monounsaturated Fat 0.019g 0.011g Lime
Polyunsaturated fat 0.055g 0.089g Lemon

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Lime Lemon
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
13
Lime
20
Lemon
Mineral Summary Score
10
Lime
9
Lemon

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
4%
Lime
7%
Lemon
Carbohydrates
11%
Lime
9%
Lemon
Fats
1%
Lime
1%
Lemon

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Lime
Lime is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.81g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Lime
Lime is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.017g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Lime
Lime is lower in glycemic index (difference - 32)
Which food contains less Sodium?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sodium (2 mg)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($0.5)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Lime - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168155/nutrients
  2. Lemon - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167746/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.