We’ve all heard the old saying—when life gives you lemons, make lemonade (or perhaps a nice citrus-infused juice blend). The problem is that it’s not always clear how many lemons you’ll need to whip up one of these refreshing decoctions.
Juice quotients can also vary widely from fruit to fruit, further complicating what should be a simple matter. Is a lone lemon enough, or will you need a pair of the zesty yellow globes? Will the person at the checkout counter judge you for buying one lemon at a time?
Take a deep breath. We’re here to solve the mystery of how much juice is in one lemon.
How Much Lemon Juice Equals One Lemon?
Lemons come in many different sizes, especially the kinds that aren’t genetically modified or cultivated using growth-altering chemicals (a.k.a. the good ones).
As a rule, the bigger a fruit is, the more juice it’s going to have in it. But many factors combine to determine the juice payload of a given piece of fruit, such as its genetics, its nutrient distribution, and how mature it was when it was picked.
In other words, not all lemons are equally juicy. And until you cut into them, there’s no way to tell which ones will unleash a torrent of zesty, golden nectar and which ones will trickle out a few pitiful drops. Therefore, it can be hard to give an authoritative estimate of how much liquid you can expect to extract from any particular lemon.
However, generally speaking, an average-sized lemon will contain any amount between 3 and 5 tablespoons of juice. Erring on the side of conservatism, you can safely assume that the majority of lemons will yield around 3 tablespoons of juice. That’s roughly a shot glass’ worth.
Many juice recipes list smaller fruits in discrete, whole quantities—1 lemon, 2 lemons, etc., which takes a lot of the guesswork out of sizing up your citrus; if the recipe you’re following calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, you’ll know you need to use about half a lemon. Easy peasy lemon… Well, you know the rest.
Lemon Juice Substitutes
Knowing how much juice is in a lemon can save you time and brainpower both at the store and in the kitchen, but that knowledge won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t have any on hand. What to do then?
Don’t fret. There are a number of substitutes you can use that will fill that lemon-shaped void in your juice recipe.
Lemons and limes are remarkably similar in terms of appearance, taste, juiciness, and acidity. They’re so similar that you can use the latter as a one-to-one replacement for the former. Just keep in mind that lime juice is slightly more bitter than lemon juice so it could change the flavor profile of your juice a tad.
Another excellent alternative that can be implemented in equal quantities, orange juice is like lemon juice’s sweeter, mellower cousin. While you’re not likely to mistake oranges for lemons, they have enough overlapping characteristics to make them a serviceable stand-in.
Grapefruits, too, can be successfully swapped out for lemons, provided you’re willing to tinker with your recipe to balance everything out. Like limes, they’re more bitter than their little yellow counterparts, so be sure to take that into account when getting your squeeze on.
What Is the pH of Lemon Juice?
Lemon juice has a pH of around 2-3, meaning it’s highly acidic.
In fact, it’s between 10,000-100,000 times more acidic than water, which has a pH of 7. For reference, a pH level of 7 is considered neutral.
This fact should come as no surprise, considering that two of the main components of lemon juice are acids—citric acid and ascorbic acid (also known as vitamin C), to be precise. By some estimates, lemon juice is approximately 5-8% citric acid, while ascorbic acid can comprise as much as 30% of the fruit’s total weight.
Interestingly enough, lemon juice can be both acidic and basic.
In its raw, unprocessed state, it’s chock full of potent acids, as we’ve pointed out. Once your body goes to work digesting it, though, its pH level shoots up way above the 7 mark and becomes alkaline, a strange yet natural side effect of metabolism.
Consuming alkaline substances in moderate amounts may have a positive effect on your health, as we’ll explore in later sections.
Lemon Juice Calories — How Much Do They Matter?
Are you worried about exceeding your daily allotment of calories because you had an extra serving of juice at breakfast? Don’t be. There are only 50 or so calories in an entire cup of lemon juice, and you won’t be downing anywhere near that amount in your favorite juice-based beverages.
Even if you were to eat a whole lemon (we don’t recommend it, for the record), you’d only be taking in about 20 calories. Low caloric density is just one of the fruit’s many appeals.
Fresh Lemon Juice vs. Lemon Juice Concentrate
When many people get into cleaning eating, one of the first questions they have is whether from-concentrate juice is the same as fresh-squeezed.
The short answer is yes. As long as the reconstituted juice has had the right proportion of water added back in, it’s essentially identical to fresh-squeezed juice, at least from a nutritional standpoint.
That said, some juice concentrates contain preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other additives, which may be best avoided if you’re concerned about the potential downsides of processed foods.
You’ll also probably notice a difference in flavor. Lemon juice from concentrate tends to have an undercurrent of lip-puckering bitterness that’s absent from untouched juice. As such, we recommend using real juice from freshly squeezed lemons whenever possible, especially if your recipe makes use of other bitter ingredients.
Is Organic Lemon Juice Better?
There’s an ongoing debate in wellness circles about the virtues of organic fruits and vegetables vs. those grown using conventional means. Organic produce is raised with naturally-derived fertilizers and pesticides as opposed to the questionable chemicals used on most commercial crops.
Many health advocates claim that organic offerings are more nourishing than non-organic ones, but this isn’t necessarily the case—all fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients, no matter how they’re grown.
On the other hand, healthy eating isn’t just a matter of nutrition.
Researchers theorize that several pesticides commonly used for food production purposes in the U.S. are carcinogenic, meaning they have the ability to cause cancer with continual exposure. Many of these same pesticides have been linked to neurological issues like delayed mental development, poor motor control, and ADHD in young children.
The bottom line is that while organic foods aren’t inherently better for you, they may be safer in the sense that they’re less likely to lead to disease.
Benefits of Lemon Juice
You already know that lemon juice is delicious, refreshing, and endlessly versatile, but did you know that it’s also good for you?
Here are just a few examples of how lemon juice does a body good:
- It’s rich in vitamin C, which bolsters the immune system to fend off infection and promote healing.
- It lowers your overall risk of heart disease and stroke.
- It helps regulate blood sugar levels, resulting in reduced cravings and improved health outcomes.
- It’s full of key nutrients like calcium, potassium, folate, and iron that can be hard to get from other foods.
- It enhances the body’s ability to absorb water, making it more hydrating than water alone.
- Its powerful acids aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.
- It prevents the formation of painful kidney stones.
- It’s useful for relieving a sore throat after a bout of illness.
- It may help fight cancer—a few promising studies have shown that citrus fruits and their juices have tumor-fighting properties.
But that’s not all.
Last but certainly not least, lemon juice tastes great (that’s a benefit in itself if you ask us). Its tongue-teasing tartness, subtly sweet undercurrent and perfume-like floral notes make it a wonderful addition to any number of food and drink items.
Does Lemon Juice Help With Weight Loss?
If one of your goals is to lose weight or maintain a weight that makes you feel better in your body, we’ve got good news! There is some evidence to suggest that regularly consuming lemon juice may help you do just that.
How? You may ask. It all comes down to a special kind of fiber called pectin. Pectin has the unique ability to expand when heated, a behavior that can keep you feeling fuller for longer following your mid-day juice break. When you feel satiated, you’re much less likely to turn to high-calorie junk like chips, crackers, popcorn, cookies, and candy to satisfy your hunger.
The craving-canceling benefits only increase if you eat the whole fruit, as the flesh and peel of lemons and other citruses are excellent sources of dietary fiber, as well. Who knew?