The Big Lemon Question
What gets you going in the morning: a cuppa workman’s or a shot of coffee? Both work for me, and on a Monday especially, I need both. But recently, I’ve been drinking warm lemon water first thing. Until now most of the lemon I've drunk has been heavily diluted with gin but I’ve heard so much recently about its benefits that I thought I should check it out. As Gwyneth Paltrow would tell you, it wakes you up, provides you with vitamins, rejuvenates the skin, helps you lose weight and (the one everybody talks about) it detoxes the body.
So does it? Well, it’s not as cranky as I’d feared. As long as you squeeze enough juice from your slice there’s a pleasant, energising taste. It’s where the zest in ‘zest for life’ came from after all. And, perhaps it helps you feel a bit more virtuous, which might stiffen your resolve to eat well for the morning at least. The bright sharp taste does encourage the idea that you’re doing yourself some good. Which reminds me of a joke.
An unmarried woman is confessing to her priest:
"Father forgive me," she says, "for I have sinned."
"Tell me your sins, my child," says the priest.
"Father, last night I had sex with my boyfriend seven times.”
The priest thinks for a while; "Go home and drink the juice of seven lemons," he says.
"Will this cleanse my soul?" she asks.
"No. But it'll wipe that smile off your face."
But I digress.
There’s no doubting lemon's role as a source of vitamin C – good for the immune system – plus it’s full of calcium, iron and potassium too. It’s refreshing and, at least unlike tea and coffee, it’s not a diuretic so it does hydrate you. Yes, just like water.
On the weight front, there’s nothing to declare. More calories than the none in a glass of water but not far off those in a cuppa, depending on the colour of your milk bottle top. Either way no big deal. But how it’s supposed to help you lose weight makes no sense. It all seems to be attached to the alluring promise of detox.
This, I understand, is appealing. The promise of flushing out bad stuff. Purging and purifying seems so likely to wipe out the bad effects of all those ‘toxic’ things you’ve eaten. But as I’m sure you’ll already know deep down, this is nonsense.
What I also understand is that the use of the word detox came from the treatments that people had to suffer to rid themselves of slightly more toxic substances. Like heroin.
‘Detox’ was coined in clinics where addicts suffered withdrawal symptoms when trying to kick various nasty habits. And because bad stuff is cool, it inevitably became something we all liked the sound of. Plus of course the clinics were all in LA and filled with Hollywood stars.
So now we ‘detox’ after sausages and cream buns. For goodness’ sake. We detox from our consumption of sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol and, heaven forbid we forget, gluten.
Now I’m not going to join the debate about which of these foods cause people problems or not. I’m not a nutritionist. But I do appreciate is that a two day detox or less still a morning glass of lemon juice isn’t going to do a better job than what my body is doing already. If you’ve got a functioning liver and kidneys then the trick to digestive health is eating good foods and not eating or drinking rubbish. The body has its own amazing detoxifying processes and there is no scientific evidence that you can make it detox harder by adding special supplements. Either cut out the toxins or let your body deal with them. Your choice. But don’t pretend you can detox from whatever toxins you eat by adding special supplements or procedures. Coffee enema? Really? Only if it's arabica.
What’s more if you do drink a bit and enjoy the odd cream bun, no end of lemon juice is going to help you lose weight. Detoxing does not remove any of the fat you’ve stored as a result of all the cream buns. The only reason you might lose weight on a five day detox is because you don’t eat much. It’s not because you spend hundreds of pounds on pre-bottled, cold pressed, vegetables.
So coffee, tea or lemon? It’s not going to cleanse your soul or detox your body, but maybe it helps you start off with slightly better intentions of a Monday morning. And remember, when life gives you lemons, at least you’ve got a slice for your GnT. And it gives you coffee I recommend that you drink it.