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Orange 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
Orange
vs
Lemon

Summary

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 overall 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.

Both oranges and lemons can be very beneficial if used correctly, and the choice depends on the situation and personal preference.

Introduction

Oranges and lemons are often the fruits that come to mind when we think of good sources for 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 oranges.

Nutrition

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.

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 from Canada is 40.

You can find full texts on the glycemic impact of orange and lemon.

One serving size of an orange is equal to one fruit that weighs around 131g. Lemon’s serving size is much smaller, equalling 58 grams.

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.

Acidity

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.

Vitamins

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

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.

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
Orange
8
:
1
Lemon
Contains more Vitamin A +922.7%
Contains more Vitamin E +20%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +117.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +182%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +31.6%
Contains more Folate +172.7%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +33.3%
Equal in Vitamin C - 53
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 14% 4% 0% 178% 22% 10% 6% 15% 14% 23% 0% 0%
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 +922.7%
Contains more Vitamin E +20%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +117.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +182%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +31.6%
Contains more Folate +172.7%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +33.3%
Equal in Vitamin C - 53

Minerals

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.

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
Orange
6
:
2
Lemon
Contains more Calcium +53.8%
Contains more Magnesium +25%
Contains more Potassium +31.2%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Zinc +16.7%
Contains more Copper +21.6%
Contains more Iron +500%
Contains more Phosphorus +14.3%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 12% 4% 8% 6% 16% 0% 2% 15%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 8% 23% 6% 7% 13% 1% 2% 13%
Contains more Calcium +53.8%
Contains more Magnesium +25%
Contains more Potassium +31.2%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Zinc +16.7%
Contains more Copper +21.6%
Contains more Iron +500%
Contains more Phosphorus +14.3%

Health Impact

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.

Cardiovascular Health

Antioxidant Effects

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, neutralize these chemicals and inhibit enzymes associated with this pathogenesis. Polyphenols can also enhance the natural human antioxidants (5).

Cardioprotective Effecfts

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).

Antihypertensive Effects

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).

Cerebrovascular Protection

One research has concluded that citrus consumption reduces the risk of cerebrovascular diseases, such as ischemic stroke and intracerebral hemorrhage (10).

Diabetes

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).

Obesity

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

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).

Cancer

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, formation of lung tumors, 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).

Antimicrobial Effects

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).

Allergy

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, and 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).

Antiallergic Qualities

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).

Sources.

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.2906
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110118101600.htm
  3. https://www.yara.us/crop-nutrition/citrus/managing-fruit-acidity/#
  4. https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/food2market/documents/ph_of_common_foods.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690266/
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261276322
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713510003944
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16202862/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003767/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19646291/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6431442/
  12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02228-x
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18160753/
  14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0023643814001376
  15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333463016
  16. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286122827
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23117440/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491624/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21168230/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20163489/
  21. https://www.nyallergy.com/citrus-allergy
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3537725/
  23. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091674917312642
  24. https://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/citric-acid-citrus-allergy
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22903244/
  26. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257805832
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Orange 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.
Orange Lemon
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Orange Lemon Opinion
Net carbs 9.35g 6.52g Orange
Protein 0.94g 1.1g Lemon
Fats 0.12g 0.3g Lemon
Carbs 11.75g 9.32g Orange
Calories 47kcal 29kcal Orange
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 9.35g 2.5g Lemon
Fiber 2.4g 2.8g Lemon
Calcium 40mg 26mg Orange
Iron 0.1mg 0.6mg Lemon
Magnesium 10mg 8mg Orange
Phosphorus 14mg 16mg Lemon
Potassium 181mg 138mg Orange
Sodium 0mg 2mg Orange
Zinc 0.07mg 0.06mg Orange
Copper 0.045mg 0.037mg Orange
Vitamin A 225IU 22IU Orange
Vitamin E 0.18mg 0.15mg Orange
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 53.2mg 53mg Orange
Vitamin B1 0.087mg 0.04mg Orange
Vitamin B2 0.04mg 0.02mg Orange
Vitamin B3 0.282mg 0.1mg Orange
Vitamin B5 0.25mg 0.19mg Orange
Vitamin B6 0.06mg 0.08mg Lemon
Folate 30µg 11µg Orange
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0µg 0µg
Tryptophan 0.009mg mg Orange
Threonine 0.015mg mg Orange
Isoleucine 0.025mg mg Orange
Leucine 0.023mg mg Orange
Lysine 0.047mg mg Orange
Methionine 0.02mg mg Orange
Phenylalanine 0.031mg mg Orange
Valine 0.04mg mg Orange
Histidine 0.018mg mg Orange
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g 0g
Saturated Fat 0.015g 0.039g Orange
Monounsaturated Fat 0.023g 0.011g Orange
Polyunsaturated fat 0.025g 0.089g Lemon

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Orange 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
24
Orange
20
Lemon
Mineral Summary Score
8
Orange
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
6%
Orange
7%
Lemon
Carbohydrates
12%
Orange
9%
Lemon
Fats
1%
Orange
1%
Lemon

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Orange
Orange contains less Sodium (difference - 2mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Orange
Orange is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.024g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Orange
Orange is lower in glycemic index (difference - 45)
Which food is cheaper?
Orange
Orange is cheaper (difference - $0.1)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Orange
Orange is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Lemon
Lemon is lower in Sugar (difference - 6.85g)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
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.

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. Orange - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169097/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.