So Hot Right Now

Is Water With Lemon Really a Wellness Game Changer?

March  9, 2018

Would my life be better if I started every day with water and lemon?

I know, “life” is a bold word choice there in my quandary, but if you flip through any magazine or scroll through any blog focused on health and wellness, you’ll quickly get the impression that you’re the outlier if you’re not starting your day with freshly squeezed lemon juice in your (preferably warm) water. In fact, a quick internet search pulled up millions of results for “starting your day with water and lemon,” so that basically confirms that I’m the only one not living my best life.

How people better than me start their days. Photo by Rocky Luten

There are a couple of things that have been holding me back, though:

  • I have a strong, irrational resistance to following trends. One example: I never watched the television show Lost because everyone talked about how good it was, you had to see it, etc., etc. I’m sure they were probably right, but here it is, nearly a decade after the show is over and I’m still stubbornly refusing to cave. (To be clear, this does not make me a trendsetter in my own right, merely a trend-resistor.)

  • I don’t really like water. (Love lemons though.)

The first one I can work through: I can get on board with most trends, if not immediately, then eventually (cases in point: I own multiple pairs of high-rise jeans and I watch This Is Us). That second one, drinking more water, though, is more of a challenge.

Avert your eyes! Naked lemons! Photo by James Ransom

My ideal daily progression of liquids would be coffee, sparkling water, wine. And, in truth, my reality is often very close to that ideal: The first liquid to hit my lips in the morning is usually coffee, probably much to the dismay of my internal organs, and once I make my way through all of the coffee in our French press, I switch to a La Croix or two in the afternoon (the wine is not an everyday occurrence). I know regular water should make an appearance in that list, but of all of the personal wellness things I know I should be doing, I think drinking regular water, with or without lemons, is the hardest, for a few reasons:

64 ounces is a lot of liquid

Have you heard how much water you’re supposed to be drinking every day?! Recommendations vary pretty widely (based on your sex, age, activity level, and who knows what else), but F52er Anne Danahy MS RDN (a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant who specializes in women's health and healthy aging) confirms that the classic eight 8-ounce glasses is easy and covers most people.

Shop the Story

Okay, great I don't need a formula to figure out how much to drink—but eight cups is still a lot! And it’s not just the drinking that’s the problem, it’s (TMI alert) the impact on my bladder—I might as well as well set up my office in the bathroom. Though, if you’re there, it’s an easy spot to tell if you’re hydrated, no calculations required, as Danahy notes: “Urine color is a great way to know if you're appropriately hydrated too: dark = dehydrated, light = perfect.” (Sorry. Moving on…)

Breakfast of champions, amiright? Photo by James Ransom

Tiny Bubbles, make me happy, make me feel fine

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but in case it’s not completely obvious: bubbles > no bubbles, so sparkling water > tap water. On the upside, at least my sparkling water addiction is still keeping me hydrated and counting towards my lofty eight-glass goal. Danahy says that sparkling water absolutely delivers as much hydration as flat water, and adds: “Really, any beverage, or food that's liquid at room temperature (ice cream, sorbet) is hydrating.” (Please note that was in no way an endorsement of meeting your daily hydration needs through ice cream alone.)

Flavorless is no fun

Yeah, yeah, fresh clean water is delicious in its own right, blah blah blah. Is it, though? I beg to differ. For me, the subtle flavor of tangerine (or coconut, or grapefruit) often found in sparkling water easily trumps the absence of any flavor. So plain water is an especially big challenge, but at least water with lemon has some fruity flavor going for it.

Why yes, everything *is* better with bubbles and berries. Photo by Bobbi Lin

By the time I typed all of these complaints out, I realized that it sounded a little whiny (which it is), so I decided to ask around to see if I was off base. Lo and behold, nearly everyone I asked starts their day with a glass of water, some with lemon and some without. Nearly convinced—but not quite ready to throw in the towel—I shared my disdain for water with my husband and his reaction was incredulous: “What?! Water’s refreshing and it’s good for you.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Nic, what are you doing here? You joined in Dec. clearly to be antagonist . There are so many articles,recipes, ideas and products. Give it a chance! Food 52 is a wonderful place for all those interested in all things food or foodie stuff.”
— Picholine

I caved; he was right. It is good for me. Though I don’t think warm water with lemon holds any special magical powers—first thing in the morning or otherwise—and Danahy concurs, saying, “if it were that easy, we'd all be the perfect picture of health!” She notes that the practice does have a few points in its favor though:

  • "Drinking some warm lemon water can have a mild diuretic/laxative effect which can be helpful for some people in the A.M." I'm going to let that one stand without further comment.
  • "The fragrant oils from lemon peel can definitely be a mood booster, and they have some purifying properties." See! I'm claiming this as proof that flavored water is superior to unflavored water.
  • "Drinking a clean and refreshing glass of lemon water first thing in the morning may very well set the tone for your day, and help you make healthier choices throughout the rest of the day." I'm not sure that this is going to stop me from reaching for gummy candies during my mid-afternoon slump... but maybe?

Danahy’s only caution is that “lemon is very acidic and can cause tooth enamel erosion, so don't go overboard, and swish your mouth with plain water or brush your teeth afterward!”

Another fruity option that won't erode enamel. But I'd still prefer it with bubbles. Photo by James Ransom

So warm water and lemon has some benefits, if not an end-all-and-be-all approach to healthy living. If it’s a more enjoyable way for you to get that first glass of water in, then keep it up—as for me, I started my day with a plain glass of water today and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m reminding myself that some positive habits take time to feel good rather than like a chore, so I’m counting on repetition to help make my new water routine stick (and continuing to revel in the fact that a can of bubbly water counts toward my eight glasses).

Who’s with me? Is it hard for you to drink as much water as you’re supposed to, too? Spill in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mary Ann Gomez
    Mary Ann Gomez
  • BJ Thorn
    BJ Thorn
  • Nik Frengle
    Nik Frengle
  • Dawn Cunningham
    Dawn Cunningham
  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Mary A. October 4, 2019
I am so very tired of all the info on what we should and eat or drink. I enjoyed hearing that your article says that there are many different types of liquids besides water that are considered ok.
BJ T. January 28, 2019
I too, hated drinking water. I love “Eternal” water...with 🍋 FYI!
Nik F. December 21, 2018
What a fatuous and fact-free article you have written! Despite your narcissistic nattering, you didn’t even bother to mention how you actually got on with it. Or maybe all that was just you explaining why you couldn’t be bothered?
Lindsay-Jean H. December 22, 2018
Sorry you didn’t enjoy it Nik. Luckily, there’s a lot of content and many different voices on Food52, hopefully something else resonates with you.
Picholine December 28, 2018
Nic, what are you doing here? You joined in Dec. clearly to be antagonist . There are so many articles,recipes, ideas and products. Give it a chance! Food 52 is a wonderful place for all those interested in all things food or foodie stuff.
Dawn C. March 12, 2018
I am not related or employed by the company I am about to endorse. I LOVE carbonated/sparkling water. Invest in a Soda Stream. You will save SO much coin. If you need flavor, just squeeze a wedge of lime or lemon.
nancy E. March 12, 2018
You'll excuse me for not taking this article seriously. A dietician and a writer decide something we should all swallow! I think I will listen to my body and the doctors and naturopaths.
Beth G. March 12, 2018
So, we've got one data point suggesting that lemon water can have a diuretic and/or laxative effect, and two "well it might be a good habit/start to your day" because? It sounds reasonable? It makes good copy?
I mean, if you like drinking lemon water, go for it - we all like our rituals - but it's pretty bogus as a "wellness" boost.
aargersi March 12, 2018
LJH if you moved to Texas where as you may recall it’s HOTTER THAN THE SURFACE OF THE SUN in the summer, you would find yourself drinking all of the water, and sitting in the water, and dreaming water, and maybe even enjoying the movie Water World :-)
Lindsay-Jean H. March 12, 2018
Okay, okay. I'll give you sitting in water. AND I'll concede that I neglected to add beer and margaritas to my list, both of which seemed to have extra hydrating powers in the Texas heat.
Sarah March 11, 2018
y'all 64oz is like...5 lacroix. if you're not getting that in different liquids (doesn't have to be plain tap water, and coffee, while a diuretic, definitely counts), then idk, you could probably be feeling a lot better? also most cups hold about 12oz so you're probably reaching the mark more easily than you think.
Beth G. March 12, 2018
We also get a fair amount of water from the food we eat. Honestly, there's really no reason to pound fluids.
claire M. March 9, 2018
I actually put a water drinking app on my phone, and it worked great for a while, but now I resent it every time it buzzes at me, and I find that I actually drink less water now in protest. I know how ridiculous that sounds. An app is not my Mom telling me what to do. That said, I'm trying to stop being such a teenager about it. Time to get back on that water wagon.
BerryBaby March 10, 2018
My love of water started as a kid.
Mom’s rule come in the house after school or playing, you wash your hands and get a glass of water. Never thought I’d end up in trouble for drinking too much. The was a week ago. I’ve cut it somewhat, use a smaller glass, fill only halfway. I think it’s working.🚰
zwieback March 9, 2018
I grew up in Germany and we only drank bubbly water ("Sprudel"), drinking from the tap was for weird emergencies only. I've been contemplating one of those carbon dioxide infusers but don't need another gadget to clutter up my house.
BerryBaby March 9, 2018
I’m at the opposite end, I love water. Ended up in ER because I drink too much. They said the rarely have to tell anyone to cutback on water, but I’ve heard this more than once.
Janet B. March 9, 2018
I also don't like water and am a resistor when it comes to super popular things (it took me 5 seasons to finally start watching Game of Thrones, because that's all everyone could talk about and I was like...nope, must be terrible - I am of course now obsessed). I don't know if lemon water is supposed to be good for you or not, but I like it, so I drink it. Otherwise, hardly any water would ever get inside of me.
healthierkitchen March 9, 2018
My grandmother had a mug of hot water with lemon every. single. morning.
So funny that it's a thing again! I drink mostly plain water, but have discovered that unless it's brutally hot, I prefer it lukewarm or just slightly chilled. Weird, I guess
70&holding March 11, 2018
Usually plain, I do drink a cup of hot water before coffee. The hot water in the cup helps keep the coffee hot a little longer. 2 positives! After finishing my last cup of the, morning, my next cup of water goes straight into the same cup, no rinsing! When I was younger, water only when I was super thirsty! Now, at 71, if not well hydrated, I will find myself in the ER! Once was enough!! I also believe citrus is important, but in moderation!
I also know if I have a glass of water before I eat, wait a few minutes, I eat less! If you struggle with, knowing 'that' number, try not keeping track! But, always have a glass where you sit, sipping will become something you do with out thinking!! Sipping, not, gulping!!!!!!raf
HalfPint March 9, 2018
Hard for me to get the recommend 64oz per day. It was incredibly hard when I was pregnant since they wanted me to drink double that amount. Plain water gets real old, real fast. So any chance to switch it up is welcome.
Kate F. March 9, 2018
I like it. When I have my act together, I have lemon water every morning. I find it helps my skin and since I try to actually exceed 64 ounces of water a day, it’s a good start to those efforts. It’s not really life changing though.
iris March 11, 2018
Sparkling water is acidic and hard on tooth enamel, too. Tap water with ice cubes is qute satisfying and so is hot water from the kettle. Sometimes I add a bit of 2% milk to the hot water. All liquids, even coffee, count as fluid intake.