We swear, summer's almost here! But until then, let this sunshine-packed fruit brighten up recipes. It's packed with vitamin C (no, not that Vitamin C), and was a favorite of Chinese Emperors. Who are we to argue with royalty?
Lemon Aid — The Need-to-Know
Lemons are packed with flavor, but (thankfully) not calories — the juice of an entire lemon has only 12 calories but a whopping third of the daily recommended value of vitamin C. But it's more than just a diet-friendly flavor-booster. In these post-scurvy days (yup, citrus fruits were the cure for scurvy back in the old days), lemons' vitamin C is still essential: It plays a role in building collagen in the body — that is, one of the key materials in blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Plus that vitamin C could reduce chances of catching a cold (though the jury's still out on just how much impact C has on immunity).
And lemons have another major plus: They're an antioxidant powerhouse (in addition to all the vitamin C) . Those antioxidants, known as flavonoids, could help lemons decrease heart disease risk, reduce inflammation, and fight some cancers (including pancreatic and stomach)   . Flavonoids (also found in other citrus fruits) are so powerful because they help find and eliminate free radicals, potentially harmful particles that can damage the body's cells and DNA. . More recent studies have even shown that lemons could play a role in protecting the brain and preventing strokes (at least in women) .
When Life Gives You Lemons… — Your Action Plan
When looking for the most efficient vitamin C and antioxidant fix, opt for the whole fruit rather than supplements . To get even more nutrition out of these sour sweeties, pair with foods high in iron (like leafy greens or red meat) as the vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. On a liquid diet? Try adding a little lemon to water for a soda substitute, or sub it in for the added sugar in a Tom Collins. Lemon is also the perfect complement to fish, grains, and veggies, or even baked in chicken dishes. The juice, zest, or flesh of fresh lemons can all be used for flavor, but the peel packs the most vitamin C.
When hitting the grocery aisles, stick to fresh lemons, as pre-squeezed juice loses its vitamin C very quickly. If fresh isn't an option, though, opt for juice in metal or glass containers over plastic for maintaining the vitamin content  . Also keep in mind lemon juice alone is not a healthy diet, so skip the juice cleanse and add lemon to an already healthy diet for flavor.