Orange vs. Lemon — Nutrition Comparison and Health Impact
Oranges contain more calories and carbohydrates due to sugars, and lemons are richer in protein, fats, and fiber. The two are similar in the amounts of vitamin C.
Oranges are richer in both vitamins and minerals, containing more vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B9, as well as calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Lemons, on the other hand, contain higher concentrations of vitamin B6, iron, and phosphorus.
Both possess cardioprotective, antidiabetic, anticancer, and antimicrobial qualities.
Table of contents
- Health Impact
- Cardiovascular Health
- Antimicrobial Effects
Oranges and lemons are often the fruits that come to mind when we think of good sources of vitamin C. They are both citrus fruits belonging to the Rutaceae family and the Citrus genus and both hybrids. A genomic study has shown that oranges (Citrus × Sinensis) are a hybrid between pomelo and mandarin (1), whereas lemons are said to be a hybrid between sour (Seville, bitter or Citrus × aurantium) orange and citron (2). In this article, the word “orange” refers to the sweet orange or Citrus × sinensis, as it is the most commonly used species of orange.
One serving size of an orange is equal to one fruit that weighs around 131g. Lemon’s serving size is much smaller, equalling 58g.
If you are on a low-carb or a low-calorie diet, lemons are the right choice for you out of these two fruits. Orange is the preferable choice for a low-fat diet.
Oranges contain more calories and carbs due to sugar, while lemons are higher in protein, fats, and fiber. Both fruits naturally do not contain cholesterol.
Oranges are overall richer in vitamins, being higher in vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B9.
The only vitamin that lemons contain more of is vitamin B6.
Both oranges and lemons lack vitamin D, vitamin K, and vitamin B12.
Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients found in citrus fruits, for which they are famous. Lemons and oranges have approximately the same amount of vitamin C, with orange’s vitamin C content only slightly higher. Both oranges and lemons contain more vitamin C in their zests or peels.
However, raw lemon juice is richer in vitamin C compared to orange juice.
Oranges also win in the minerals category. They contain higher concentrations of calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, and zinc.
Lemons, on the other hand, are much higher in iron and contain more phosphorus as well. Lemons also contain sodium, whereas oranges do not.
When it comes to the glycemic index, both oranges and lemons, as most citrus fruits, fall under the classification of low glycemic index foods.
While an exact number has not yet been calculated for the glycemic index of lemons, the glycemic index of raw oranges is 45.
Lemons often taste sourer than oranges. The fruit’s acidity decides this difference in taste. The acidity of lemon varieties falls between 5 to 7%, primarily due to the citric acid content, as opposed to the 1% in oranges (3). The pH of oranges is calculated to be in the range of 3,69-4,34, whereas the pH of lemons is around 2 to 2,6 (4). The pH of lemon juice also ranges around the same numbers as the pH of a lemon. Therefore, lemons are more acidic than oranges.
Once oranges and lemons are fully digested and metabolized, the citric acid becomes alkaline in the body. Based on the potential renal acid load (PRAL), oranges are more alkaline-forming.
Oranges and lemons, like all citrus fruits, are rich in phytochemicals that provide many protective qualities. These phytochemicals include flavonoids (naringenin, hesperidin), carotenoids (beta-carotin, lutein), coumarins, phenolic acids, and many others.
Reactive oxygen species are the chemicals often involved in heart disease. These are chemically reactive compounds that can be toxic to cells, damaging macromolecules such as lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Phenolic compounds found in citrus fruits can directly absorb and neutralize these chemicals and inhibit enzymes associated with this pathogenesis. Polyphenols can also enhance natural human antioxidants (5).
Many studies have shown foods high in flavonoids to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Lemons, in particular, have been shown to reduce low-density lipoproteins, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol,” and increase high-density lipoproteins, often called “good cholesterol” (6).
Flavonoids can also prevent hyperglycemia by increasing the formation of glycogen molecules from glucose and inhibiting the synthesis of glucose in the liver (5)․
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Naringenin and hesperetin are flavonoids that also possess antiatherogenic abilities by promoting fatty acid breakdown. Oranges contain comparatively high levels of naringenin, whereas lemons are rich in hesperetin (7).
People with high blood pressure are advised to decrease their sodium intake. Luckily oranges do not contain sodium, and lemons are low in this mineral.
A study has shown that high flavonoid juice consumption can reduce diastolic blood pressure due to flavonoids such as naringin and narirutin (8).
Intake of lemon has also been proven to have an inverse association with systolic blood pressure (9).
One research has concluded that citrus consumption reduces the risk of cerebrovascular diseases, such as ischemic stroke and intracerebral hemorrhage (10).
Glucose and Insulin Response
Studies in experimental diabetes models demonstrate the efficacy of citrus flavonoids to improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin secretion and sensitivity, decrease insulin resistance, reduce hepatic glucose production and intestinal glucose absorption, enhance peripheral glucose uptake, suppress inflammation, and modulate the activity of enzymes and transporters involved in glucose and lipid metabolism (11). The flavonoids with strong antidiabetic activities are hesperidin, naringin, and nobiletin (5)
Consuming lemon or lemon juice along with bread or other starchy foods has been proven to reduce the impact of glycemic response through premature inhibition of the α-amylase enzyme in the saliva that breaks down carbohydrates (12).
A study has also shown that 1000mg of vitamin C consumption a day leads to decreased levels of blood sugar, total cholesterol, triglycerides, low and high-density lipoproteins, as well as serum insulin (13).
Citrus flavonoids modulate different signaling pathways involved in adiposity and fat cell differentiation and hence could be of significant value for the development of antiobesity agents (11).
Polyphenols found in citrus fruits can assist obesity management since they cause a reduction in fat cell differentiation, lipid content in the cell, and programmed death of fat cells. They can also potentially alleviate complications present in obesity by reducing cytokines, which are responsible for inflammatory processes (14).
Diabetic nephropathy is a severe complication due to diabetes mellitus type 2, which leads to end-stage renal disease. A study has concluded that red orange and lemon extract has the ability to prevent this complication, owing to the strong antioxidant qualities of anthocyanins (15).
The phytochemicals within citrus fruits have been associated with a reduced risk of cancers, especially digestive and upper respiratory tract cancers. This effect was significant even with moderate citrus fruit consumption (16).
The phytochemicals that have shown anticancer abilities include flavonoids, limonenes, and coumarins. The effects have been studied against gastric cancer, breast cancer, the formation of lung tumors, the formation of tumors of the colon, hepatocarcinogenesis, and blood stem cell malignancies (5).
Lemons are particularly rich in limonenes, which have been studied to have antiproliferative effects on human breast cancer cells (17). This effect is stronger in estrogen-responsive breast cancers due to limonene’s anti-aromatase quality, which inhibits androgens’ transformation into estrogens.
Not only fresh citrus fruits but also their juices and other derivatives can act as a potential resource against various cancers (18).
Essential oils of orange and lemon fruits have expressed bacteriostatic (stopping bacteria’s reproduction) and bactericidal (killing the bacteria) effects, primarily due to the limonene concentration (7).
Another phytochemical naringenin, a flavonoid that oranges are especially rich in, has been shown to repress Salmonella bacterium’s pathogenicity and cell motility (19). This flavonoid and some others may also modulate intestinal microflora by serving as an antipathogenic agent against Escherichia Coli (20).
Citrus allergies are quite rare but do occur. A person allergic to citrus fruits may have symptoms shortly after coming in contact with fruits such as oranges and lemons. An allergy to the compound called limonene can cause contact dermatitis (21). However, food allergies are more common, causing symptoms such as oral allergy syndrome (itching, swelling, tingling, or redness of the mouth area), nausea, diarrhea, and in rare cases, even anaphylaxis.
The allergens identified in citrus fruits are lipid transfer proteins, profiling, pectin, as well as limonene. Some of these allergens may have cross-reactions with other common allergens, such as pollen, apples, or peaches (22, 23).
People can also be sensitive to citric acid, which is not considered to be an allergy, as citric acid does not cause an immune response in the organism (24).
For allergic people who are not sensitive to citrus fruits, these fruits may serve as natural medicine. Flavonoids, naringenin, and hesperidin, which oranges and lemons are rich in, have been studied to reduce allergy symptoms and suppress inflammatory compounds (25).
Oral administration of aqueous extracts of citrus fruit peels has also been studied to demonstrate antiallergic and anti-inflammatory qualities (26).
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||11µg||1µg|
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
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.
- Orange - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169097/nutrients
- 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.