Limes are sour, round, and bright green citrus fruits.
They’re nutritional powerhouses — high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
There are many species of limes, including the Key lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Persian lime (Citrus latifolia), desert lime (Citrus glauca), and makrut lime (Citrus hystrix).
Each of these species has unique characteristics. For instance, the Key lime is smaller, more acidic, and more aromatic than the more common Persian type.
In the United States, Persian limes are the most commonly available type.
Because limes are loaded with nutrients, they may help boost immunity, reduce heart disease risk factors, prevent kidney stones, aid iron absorption, and promote healthy skin.
This article provides an overview of the nutritional benefits of limes, as well as their uses and potential side effects.
Lime nutritional facts
Though small, limes are loaded with nutrients — particularly vitamin C.
One whole, medium lime (67 grams) provides:
- Calories: 20
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 0.5 grams
- Fiber: 1.9 grams
- Vitamin C: 22% of the recommended daily intake
- Iron: 2% of the recommended daily intake
- Calcium: 2%% of the recommended daily intake
- Vitamin B6: 2% of the recommended daily intake
- Thiamin: 2% of the recommended daily intake
- Potassium: 1% of the recommended daily intake
Limes also contain small amounts of riboflavin, niacin, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Summary: Limes are high in vitamin C, providing over 20% of your daily needs. They also contain small amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, thiamine, potassium, and more.
Health benefits of limes
Eating lime fruit or drinking lime juice provides a variety of health benefits.
Limes are a good source of antioxidants
Antioxidants are important compounds that defend your cells against molecules called free radicals. In high amounts, free radicals can damage your cells, and this damage has been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer.
Limes are high in active compounds that function as antioxidants in your body, including flavonoids, limonoids, kaempferol, quercetin, and ascorbic acid.
Limes may boost immunity
Limes are high in vitamin C, a nutrient that may help boost your immune system.
In test-tube studies, vitamin C helped increase the production of white blood cells, which help protect your body against infections and disease.
In human studies, taking vitamin C helped shorten the duration and severity of colds.
Also, vitamin C could help wounds recover faster by reducing inflammation and stimulating collagen production. Collagen is an essential protein that aids wound repair.
Besides vitamin C, limes are a great source of antioxidants, which help strengthen your immune system by defending your cells against free radical damage.
Limes could promote healthy skin
Limes have several properties that may promote healthy skin.
First, they’re high in vitamin C. This vitamin is necessary to make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin firm and strong. A medium-sized lime (67 grams) provides over 20% of the DV for this nutrient.
For instance, one older study in over 4,000 women found that those who ate more vitamin C had a lower risk of wrinkles and dry skin as they aged.
Second, limes are high in antioxidants, which may help combat age-related skin changes.
Oxidative stress is a condition resulting from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. It can lead to signs of premature aging.
A mouse study found that drinking a citrus drink positively affected some of these signs by reducing wrinkles and increasing collagen production, for example.
Suggested read: 10 science-based health benefits of grapefruit
Limes may reduce heart disease risk
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Research shows that limes may reduce several heart disease risk factors.
For starters, limes are high in vitamin C, which may help lower high blood pressure, according to one older study.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Also, vitamin C may protect against atherosclerosis — a disease in which plaque builds up in your arteries, making them narrow.
An animal study found that feeding rabbits lime peels and juice helped slow the progression of atherosclerosis.
Limes may prevent kidney stones
Kidney stones are small mineral crystals that are often painful to pass.
They can form inside your kidneys when your urine is very concentrated or you have high levels of stone-forming minerals, such as calcium, in your urine.
Citrus fruits like limes are high in citric acid, which may prevent kidney stones by raising levels of citrate and binding stone-forming minerals in the urine.
One study found that people who ate more citrus fruits had a significantly lower risk of kidney stones.
Limes increases iron absorption
Iron is an essential nutrient needed to make red blood cells and transport oxygen around your body.
Low blood iron levels can cause iron deficiency anemia. Signs of iron deficiency anemia include fatigue, trouble breathing during exercise, paleness, and dry skin and hair.
People on a vegan or vegetarian diet are at a greater risk of iron deficiency anemia, as plant-based products contain a form of iron that isn’t as well absorbed as the iron in meat and other animal products.
Foods high in vitamin C, such as limes, may help prevent iron deficiency anemia by improving the absorption of iron from plant-based foods.
For instance, one study in people following a vegetarian diet found that drinking a glass of lemonade (8.5 ounces or 250 mL) alongside a plant-based meal increased iron absorption by up to 70%.
Suggested read: Strawberries: Nutrition facts and health benefits
Limes may lower your risk of certain cancers
Cancer is a disease characterized by abnormal cell growth.
Citrus fruits have compounds that have been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers.
In particular, flavonoids — which act as antioxidants — may help stop the expression of genes that promote cancer progression.
Additionally, test-tube studies indicate that citrus fruits may suppress the growth or spread of colon, throat, pancreas, breast, bone marrow, lymphomas, and other cancer cells.
Summary: Limes may help improve immunity, reduce heart disease risk factors, prevent kidney stones, aid iron absorption, promote healthy skin, and lower your risk of certain cancers.
How to use limes
There are endless ways to use limes inside and outside your kitchen.
They’re valued for their juice and the floral aroma of their zest — which is one reason why they’re considered a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian and Mexican cuisine.
In other parts of the world like India, limes are often pickled to increase their shelf life and then added to dishes as a flavor boost.
Lime zest and juice are common ingredients in desserts and baked goods, such as Key lime pie, cookies, and ice cream.
This citrus fruit can also be used in savory dishes and to add flavor to both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
Outside your kitchen, limes are used as a natural cleaning agent and to neutralize odors. Some studies show that they have antimicrobial properties.
Lime juice can be mixed with vinegar and water and used as a surface spray for a non-toxic cleaning option.
Limes are available at most grocery stores and are often found next to lemons and other citrus fruits. Choose the citrus fruits that feel heavy for their size, are bright in color, and have minimal discoloration.
Summary: There are endless ways to use limes inside and outside your kitchen. They add flavor and zest to your meals and can be used as a natural cleaning agent.
Potential side effects of limes
Limes are generally safe to consume with little to no side effects.
However, if you’re allergic to other citrus fruits, avoid limes, as they can cause food allergy symptoms, such as swelling, hives, and breathing difficulties. If this occurs, seek medical help immediately.
Additionally, some people may experience acid reflux from eating limes or drinking the juice due to its acidity. Other digestive symptoms may include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
Limes are very acidic and best enjoyed in moderation. Eating many limes can increase your risk of cavities, as the acid in limes — and other citrus fruits — can erode tooth enamel.
To protect your teeth, be sure to rinse your mouth with plain water after eating limes or drinking the juice.
In some cases, applying limes directly to your skin can make it more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and cause inflammation. This is known as phytophotodermatitis.
Summary: Limes are generally safe to eat, drink, and touch, but some people may have an adverse reaction to eating them or applying them to their skin.
Limes are high in vitamin C and antioxidants — both of which may offer health benefits.
Eating limes or drinking the juice may improve immunity, reduce heart disease risk factors, prevent kidney stones, aid iron absorption, and promote healthy skin.
Avoid limes if you’re allergic to citrus fruit. Still, for most people, these citrus fruits are a healthy and versatile addition to a balanced diet, so try incorporating limes into your recipes to reap their impressive health benefits.