Honey with lemon: weight loss aid or not?

honey lemon water for weight lossMany people are promoting the benefit of drinking warm water, lemon and honey in the morning on an empty stomach. They believe it boosts the metabolism and promotes weight loss. I wanted to find out for myself if this claim could be substantiated. Honey with lemon: weight loss aid or just another fallacy?

It’s all about the calories

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories (units of energy)  than you consume.  When you eat more calories than you burn through physical activity, you put on weight.  When you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight. For honey and lemon to make you lose weight, they would either have to reduce the amount of calories you consume or increase the rate at which you burn calories (your metabolic rate).

A teaspoon of honey contains 21 calories. A teaspoon of granulated table sugar contains 16 calories. 

It stands to reason that if you are looking at calorie content, eating too much honey will negatively affect weight loss. If you eat too much honey and don’t burn off the extra calories, you will gain weight. However, if you have sugar cravings, a small amount of honey may go a long way to satisfy them and has numerous health benefits too, unlike refined sugar that provides ’empty’ calories.

The juice of one lemon, which is about 3 tablespoons, contains only 11 calories – a good thing to bear in mind when counting calories.

A slice of lemon with a little honey in plain or sparkling water may help you to lose weight by using this as a substitute for high-calorie fruit juices and sodas. A can of soda (368g) contains about 150 calories.

What do studies reveal?

When looking for studies to find out whether drinking honey and lemon water help with weight loss, I could not find much evidence to suggest that this is true.

One study compared the effects of honey and sugar on obesity in rats. The results showed that the rats fed with honey ate less during the day than rats who were given sugar. They also gained less weight than the rats who were fed sugar. However, what applies to rats does not necessarily apply to humans.

A study done in 2008 investigated the effect of lemon polyphenols on fat metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet. It was found that lemon polyphenols did help to suppress weight gain in the mice.  However, again, what applies to mice may not apply to humans and most of the polyphenols are found in the lemon peel.

Some human studies have been done, where the diets of overweight people were supplemented with honey for a month or more. The participants did not gain weight but did seem to lose it either. It was found, however, that cardiovascular risk factors were definitely reduced.

Can drinking lemon and water can help with weight loss?

There is no question that lemons contain many beneficial nutrients and we all know how important it is to drink enough water. Drinking a glass of lemon and water in the morning can definitely help to start your day in the right way. However, does it really help with weight loss?  Here are some of the qualities that could be beneficial when it comes to weight loss.

  • Lemons are low in calories but high in pectin – this can help you with hunger pangs and keep you from snacking on junk food. They add flavor without adding too many calories – instead of adding high-calorie sauces to food, squeeze lemon on fish, chicken, cooked veggies, or salads to add flavor.
  • Lemons are known for their rich vitamin C content. According to a study on strategies for healthy weight loss, Individuals with adequate vitamin C status were able to oxidize 30% more fat when doing moderate exercise than individuals with low vitamin C status. The conclusion was that individuals who did not have enough vitamin C may be more resistant to fat mass loss.
  • Lemon juice and water acts as a mild, natural diuretic: The rate of urination increases and unwanted toxins are flushed out at a faster rate, keeping the urinary tract healthy. The citric acid in the lemon juice helps in detoxification by maximizing enzyme function and  stimulating the liver.
  • Lemons improve digestion: they encourage the liver to produce more bile. This means your digestive system works better and breaks down complex foods more efficiently.
  • Lemons boost the immune system: They are rich in vitamin C, an essential nutrient for many bodily functions. It also enhances absorption of iron in the body and iron has an important role in immune function.
  • Lemons  contain antioxidants that help you to beat tiredness. The scent of a lemon can also help uplift your mood.
  • Lemons and water hydrate your body: When your body is deprived of water, you feel many side effects such as tiredness, sluggishness, constipation, low/high blood pressure and lack of mental clarity to name just a few. Adding lemon to water helps to flavor it without adding too many calories.

What about the honey?

honey and lemonsHoney is so sweet that many people associate it with sugar-laden foods and think they need to eliminate it if they want to lose weight. However, honey is so nutrient rich that even a small amount is beneficial to the diet and it gives an immediate boost of energy.

In fact, honey might actually offer some weight loss benefits due to its effect on hunger, according to a 2010 study. In this study of healthy women, the effects of sugar and honey were compared. It was found that honey had less of an effect on blood sugar than table sugar.  When trying to control your appetite, swinging blood sugar levels can cause havoc. They make you crave sweet foods, even though you are not hungry.

Honey and lemon water helps to cleanse the colon. It increases the peristalsis of the gastrointestinal tract and thus helps to expel any undigested food and toxins that have built up. When toxins are removed, nutrients are absorbed more efficiently.

Common questions

Question: Does lemon juice dissolve animal fats when sprinkled onto foods, reducing the calorie content of the food?

Answer: People often think this is true because lemon juice is acidic. Sprinkle it on a steak and it has a similar effect as gastric acid from the stomach on the fat. The acid in the stomach is there for a purpose – it  breaks down the food so it can be digested. Gastric acid has a pH of between 1.5 and 3.5,  so it is more acidic than lemon juice which has a pH of  about 2 to 2.3. So, sprinkling lemon juice on fatty foods may help to break down the food but it does not stop the fat from being used in the body.

Question: When you drink lemon juice and warm water, does it burn or dissolve your body fat?

Answer: Lemon juice does not burn fat or dissolve body fat but it may help with weight loss in other ways. It improves your digestion and helps your body to detoxify. Both of these help your body to work more efficiently. When the body works most efficiently, the rate at which fat is metabolized improves.  

Question: How much honey and lemon do I need to add to the warm water?

Answer: Add the juice of half a lemon and one teaspoon of honey to a tall glass of warm water (as warm as you can tolerate).  Stir the mixture well and drink it.

 Tips and Precautions

  • Squeeze your own lemon and mix it with water. Most processed lemon juices have added sugar and do not have the same vitamin/mineral content as fresh lemon juice.
  • The same goes for the honey. Look for raw honey or honey that has been minimally processed for the most benefit.
  • Do not drink tea or coffee for at least half an hour after drinking honey and lemon water.
  • Remember that lemon juice is acidic in nature.  Rinse your mouth to reduce the acidic effects on teeth enamel or sip through a straw to avoid contact with the teeth.


A healthy eating plan and regular exercise have more to do with losing and maintaining weight than drinking honey and lemon water. However, that being said, these ingredients do have a role to play in a healthy diet. Both honey and lemon have some amazing nutritional benefits and they work very well together. I personally prefer using honey to sugar and alternative sweeteners like stevia. Honey, used sparingly, has a great many nutritional benefits and the fact that it is nutrient dense means you only have to use a little. Honey and lemon water is not a magic bullet for weight loss but it is extremely beneficial in any healthy eating plan.


2 thoughts on “Honey with lemon: weight loss aid or not?”

    1. Good question, Daniel. Warmer water helps with digestion – all your internal organs function better when they receive it warm rather than cold. You want to avoid ice cold water, as it takes more energy to process. Think like Goldilocks – not too cold, not too hot – just right.

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