Coffee & Lemon Both Have Health Benefits — But Should You Combine Them?
Every so often, there's a new health fad that goes viral, with claims that almost sound too good to be true. One of the latest trends that's grabbing eyeballs is the coffee and lemon trend. Squeezing lemon juice into your coffee is supposed to help melt off fat and prevent diabetes, among other things.
Here, we'll break down whether this strange combo actually offers any benefits and share some ideas on how to amp up your coffee sans citrus.
Why are people combining coffee and lemon?
Like many other health fads, the coffee with lemon trend originated on TikTok. Videos with the hashtag #LemonCoffee have collectively accumulated millions of views, with people claiming it can help burn belly fat, regulate blood sugar, and even improve sexual function.
The idea is attractive because coffee and lemon are everyday ingredients you can find in most kitchens. Though many of the videos are candid about the fact that the mixture doesn't taste very good, the idea that such a simple combo can have health benefits is definitely appealing.
On their own, both coffee and lemon are rich sources of antioxidants. However, there isn't any significant evidence to suggest that adding lemon to coffee could offer additional health benefits apart from increasing antioxidant intake, says Crystal Scott, R.D., a nutritionist who specializes in diabetes and weight management.
Benefits of coffee
Coffee contains caffeine, which stimulates the nervous system1 and gives you a boost of energy. It helps you feel more awake and alert2 and supports memory3.
It's not surprising then that coffee is an integral part of the American diet. It is estimated that 75% of adults4 in the United States drink coffee and that almost 50%5 of adults drink it daily.
Research6 shows that drinking coffee regularly may benefit the brain by improving brain structure, preventing brain damage, and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease7.
There is also evidence to suggest that coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of other health conditions such as liver disease8, heart disease9, and certain types of cancer10, says Scott. In fact, drinking coffee regularly may even help you live longer9.
A lot of these benefits are attributed to coffee's high antioxidant content. Coffee contains polyphenols, like chlorogenic acid and ferulic acid, that protect critical cellular molecules such as DNA, proteins, and lipids from oxidative damage, functional nutritionist Abigail King, M.S., CNS, previously told mindbodygreen.
Benefits of lemon
Lemons are a citrus fruit that are used in cuisines around the world. After oranges and mandarins, they are the world's third most widely produced11 citrus fruit.
Lemons are a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants and have been used as a natural remedy12 in traditional cultures for centuries, to cure everything from scurvy, high blood pressure, irregular menstruation, and rheumatism to the common cold and flu.
In fact, Ayurvedic medicine recommends starting your day with a glass of warm water and lemon to support your immunity and cleanse your system.
Lemons are a good source of vitamin C and contain other beneficial compounds such as flavonoids and citric acid, says Scott. Vitamin C supports better immunity13 by helping your body fight viruses. It also promotes collagen synthesis14 and helps keep your skin looking younger.
Like coffee, lemons are also a rich source of flavonoids with antioxidant properties11 that combat oxidative stress and protect your cells against harmful free radicals.
Are there benefits of combining lemon and coffee?
The coffee and lemon combo went viral due to claims it can promote weight loss, prevent diabetes, and improve sexual function. So, can it? We asked nutritionists to weigh in.
Does it help with weight loss?
There is no strong evidence to suggest that drinking coffee with lemon in it specifically can aid in weight loss, says Scott. "However, coffee on its own has been shown to have some potential benefits for weight loss, such as increasing metabolism15 and reducing appetite16."
For instance, a 2019 study notes that drinking coffee improves lipid metabolism15 and may be able to help prevent obesity and metabolic syndrome. Another study notes that drinking coffee before a meal can help reduce your appetite16 and calorie intake at that meal. Research also shows that coffee can help promote favorable changes in body fat17.
Does it help with diabetes risk?
There is some evidence to suggest that coffee consumption, particularly caffeinated coffee, may be associated with a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes18, says Scott. However, she says more research is needed to fully understand whether combining coffee and lemon has any effect on diabetes.
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that adding lemon juice to your meals may be more beneficial instead. A 2021 study found that lemon juice can help slow down your glycemic response19, or the rate at which your body digests starchy carbs, which can help ensure that you have a more gradual and controlled rise in blood sugar after your meal.
Does it improve sexual function?
Drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction20 by stimulating blood flow. However, there isn't much evidence to suggest that drinking coffee with lemon in it can particularly improve sexual function, says Scott.
In general, there are no known risks or side effects associated with combining coffee and lemon, says Scott, other than the strange taste it will leave in your mouth.
However, she cautions that consuming large amounts of coffee can lead to side effects21 such as jitters, anxiety, headaches, and disrupted sleep patterns. Coffee can also trigger acid reflux22 in some people and aggravate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, King previously told mindbodygreen.
Coffee may not be safe for everyone to consume. People with anxiety23 or uncontrolled high blood pressure9 should avoid large doses of coffee. Pregnant people21 may also want to limit their caffeine intake, and people with irritable bowel syndrome should also avoid it.
As for lemon, it contains citric acid, which can erode the enamel of your teeth.
Should you combine them?
The combination of coffee and lemon hasn't been studied in any meaningful way, so nutritionists can't say it offers any significant health benefits. However, it doesn't come with many risks either.
"If you happen to enjoy the taste or find it refreshing, there's no harm in trying it out," says Scott.
However, if you do decide to drink coffee with lemon juice in it, it's important to manage your expectations. While drinking coffee with lemon may have some potential health benefits, remember that there's no magic bullet for health, says Scott.
A balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep are some of the most important factors for maintaining overall health and achieving health goals such as weight loss and diabetes prevention, Scott explains. Drinking coffee with lemon in it can be just one part of a healthy lifestyle.
Alternatives to add to your coffee
If you're trying to optimize your morning beverage, there are some alternatives you could add to your coffee that have science behind them and make for a more natural pairing than lemon:
- Cinnamon: A pinch of cinnamon can add a burst of delicious flavor to your coffee. Cinnamon24 has powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Collagen: Adding collagen to your coffee can boost its protein content and may help improve the elasticity of your skin25.
- Coconut oil: Putting coconut oil in your coffee can help cushion some of the jitteriness you experience afterward. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that promote satiety26.
- Turmeric: A dash of turmeric will give your coffee a golden hue. Turmeric contains curcumin27, a polyphenol that shows promising anticancer properties.
Is it better to drink coffee or lemon water in the morning?
This ultimately depends on your personal preferences and health goals, says Scott. Scott explains that coffee can provide a caffeine boost and offers potential health benefits such as increased metabolism and better cognitive performance. "On the other hand, lemon water can provide hydration and vitamin C, as well as potentially improve immunity, digestion, and skin health," she says.
What coffee burns the most fat?
There isn't much evidence to suggest that certain types of coffee are more beneficial for weight loss than others, says Scott. "However, it's generally recommended to opt for black coffee rather than coffee drinks that are high in sugar and calories," she says, as these can inadvertently lead to weight gain. Caffeinated coffee also tends to be better for fat burn than decaf coffee.
Is coffee with lemon good for diabetes?
Lemon and coffee both have properties that can help with diabetes. However, there is no evidence that you must consume them together to avail these benefits. In fact, you may be better off squeezing lemon juice over your meal instead.
Though it's a viral social media trend, there isn't much scientific evidence to suggest that adding lemon to coffee has any significant health benefits. You can choose to do it if you prefer, or you can opt for other alternatives like pairing your coffee with collagen for a protein-rich breakfast to start the day right.
Sanjana Gupta has been a health writer and editor since 2014. She has written extensively for platforms like Insider, Livestrong.com, and Verywell Mind. Her work spans various health-related topics, including nutrition, fitness, mental health, medical conditions, and wellness.
Sanjana has a master's degree in digital journalism from New York University. She also holds a master's degree in management from the University of Mumbai.
She balances her love for chocolate with a penchant for fun workouts like aerial yoga and kickboxing.