Limes are a citrus fruit often used to accent flavors in foods. They are a common ingredient in Mexican, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisine. They are grown year-round in tropical climates and are usually smaller and less sour than lemons.
The Tahitian or Persian lime is the most commonly used variety in cooking. Key limes are smaller, rounder, and more acidic than Tahitian limes, and they are known for their use in Key Lime pie, a classic dessert.
One of the places commonly associated with growing limes is Key West, FL. However, this is a misconception – almost no limes are grown there today. They are mainly grown in subtropical climates, such as Mexico, India, and Egypt.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of limes and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, as well as tips on how to incorporate more limes into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming limes.
Fast facts on limes
- One lime can provide 32 percent of the vitamin C needed in a day.
- The nutrients in it can support heart, reduce the risk of asthma, and promote healthy skin.
- Lime juice and zest can also be used to flavor drinks and dishes.
- Be sure to wash the peel, even if you are planning to discard it.
Limes are renowned for their vitamin C content. One lime with a 2-inch diameter provides 32 percent of an individual’s recommended daily vitamin C intake. The juice from one lime provides 22 percent of the daily amount.
Read more: Household Treasures: Okra, benefits and uses
Consuming all types of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like limes decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and lower overall weight.
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality and act as an antioxidant. Antioxidants can help counteract harmful, disease-causing free radical cells. Limes are a highly concentrated source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is linked to a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular issues, although other nutrients common in fruit and vegetables, such as fiber content, are also thought to play a role.
In an animal study published by the ARYA Atherosclerosis journal, lime juice and peel was shown to decrease fatty streaks found in coronary arteries. These streaks are indicators of plaque buildup and cardiovascular disease.
Lime juice has demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal properties.
A recent study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine linked the effects of consuming citrus to controlling Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infections.
The risks of developing asthma are lower in people who consume high amounts of certain nutrients. Low levels of vitamin C are commonly found in people with asthma, leading researchers to believe that there is a relationship between vitamin C consumption and asthma prevention.
One recent study also showed that vitamin C could help protect against the triggering of asthma symptoms by air pollution.
Increasing iron absorption
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.
Pairing foods that are high in vitamin C with foods that are rich in iron will maximize the body’s ability to absorb iron, particularly when taking in iron from plant-based iron sources.
Boosting the immune system
Foods that are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants can help the immune system battle germs that cause a cold or flu. Vitamin C helps the immune system to produce more cells and also improves those cells’ ability to kill microbes and protect the body against disease.
Maintaining a diet high in fruits and vegetables is especially important during the winter months. During this time, physical activity levels tend to decrease and seasonal diseases, such as the flu, gain momentum.
Read more: Household treasures: Neem, benefits and uses
The natural form of vitamin C, when consumed from fresh produce rather than in supplements, has a number of cosmetic benefits. It can help fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve the overall texture of the skin.
Adequate intake of vitamin C is also needed for building and maintaining the collagen that provides structure to skin and hair.
Lowering risk of stroke
According to the American Heart Association, eating higher amounts of citrus fruits may lower ischemic stroke risk for women. In one study, participants who ate the highest amounts of citrus had a risk of ischemic stroke 19 percent lower than those who consumed the lowest.
Lime is often used as a garnish, flavoring, or topping. There are plenty of ways to make sure that you are consuming enough lime, including:
- Top any white fish with thinly sliced limes.
- Combine lime juice with oil and any seasoning for a quick dressing.
- Squeeze lime juice into water or tea.
- Top entrees with lime zest or use zest in marinades.
You can also try these delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians to provide maximum flavor and benefit:
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 UV rays and cause inflammation. This is known as phytophotodermatitis.