In terms of most popular citrus fruits, the lemon and the lime stand out — though the lemon might have a slight edge thanks to tea drinkers.
Aside from their hallmark colors, yellow and green, these two citruses have an awful lot in common with one another, both in their health benefits and overall nutritional profile.
The taste would be the most obvious difference for most. But, with a pair of fruits that are so remarkably similar, is there one that stands out as being better than the other?
Let’s take a look at these two citrus favorites and see if we decide who gets the upper hand.
Close, But Not the Same
Lemons and limes are remarkably similar in so many ways, yet they are most definitely distinct fruits, both in flavor, fragrance, and genetic makeup.
Along with oranges, citrons, clementine, and grapefruit belong to the citrus family of fruits. Both are marked by a juicy interior pulp that is housed in an outer leathery rind or peel. Each is also divided into eight or more sections within, complete with juicy pouches and seeds.
These two citruses are grown worldwide, from large groves to backyards. They tend to grow best in tropical and subtropical climates. In addition to their culinary uses, these two fruits are also used in home remedies, medicines, essential oils, and more.
In fact, lemons are also routinely used as a natural cleaner and disinfectant.
What Are The Differences?
The first most obvious difference is in appearance. Generally, lemons are bright yellow, whereas limes are typically green in color (though they do turn yellow when they ripen).
In terms of size, limes are the smaller fruit with a rounder shape. Lemons tend to be much bigger and often shaped like ovals. But, it is essential to keep in mind that there are numerous varieties of limes and lemons.
Differences In Taste
The taste tends to be the most apparent difference. Each of these citrus fruits is known for its tartness. It is uncommon to eat them alone — unless you want the puckered look.
Lemons are known for their sour flavor due to higher acidity levels. Limes tend to be slightly bitter, with a hint of sweetness for a more balanced flavor.
In the culinary world, these two citrus fruits are not interchangeable. Each has their own distinct taste and aroma. Each is used in various culinary dishes, drinks and cocktails, desserts, and more.
Nutrients, Which is Better?
From a nutritional standpoint, lemons and limes are very similar. Each raw fruit (65 g) contains around 20 calories and 1.8 g of dietary fiber. The lemon has a slight edge on sugar, containing 1.6 g compared to lime’s 1.1 g.
Their macronutrient profile is also virtually the same, with very little protein and fat but boasting around 7 g of carbohydrates. The bigger nutritional differences can be found in their nutrient profiles — vitamins and minerals.
Comparing Vitamins and Minerals
These fruits are also very similar when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. Let’s start with the lime’s nutrient profile (1 cup or 200 g) and see who has the edge in terms of essential nutrients.
Lime’s vitamins and minerals
- Vitamin A: 4 mcg
- Vitamin C: 58 mg; 65% of the daily value (DV)
- Thiamin (B1): 0.060 mg; 5% DV
- Vitamin B6: 0.086 mg; 7% DV
- Folate: 16 mcg; 4% DV
- Calcium: 66 mg; 5% DV
- Copper: 0.13 mcg; 14% DV
- Iron: 1.20 mcg; 7% DV
- Magnesium: 12 mg; 3% DV
- Phosphorus: 36 mg; 5% DV
- Potassium: 204 mc; 4% DV
Lemon’s vitamins and minerals
- Vitamin A: 2 mcg
- Vitamin C: 106 mg; 118% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 0.080 mg; 7% DV
- Vitamin B6: 0.160 mg; 12% DV
- Folate: 22 mcg; 6% DV
- Calcium: 52 mg; 4% DV
- Copper: 0.07 mcg; 8% DV
- Iron: 1.20 mcg; 7% DV
- Magnesium: 16 mg; 4% DV
- Phosphorus: 32 mg; 5% DV
- Potassium: 276 mc; 6% DV
Some of the nutrient similarities between these two citrus fruits are about as close as you can get without being identical. The lime has a slight edge when it comes to vitamin A, containing twice as much as lemons.
Both still have negligible amounts compared to the recommended daily value (700 to 900 mcg).
Lemons have the nutrient edge when it comes to many of the B-complex vitamins and minerals, but again, the differences are slight. However, there is one essential vitamin that stands out. Both fruits are loaded with vitamin C.
Which Contains More Vitamin C?
The lime and the lemon are both chock-full of antioxidants, but they are higher than average vitamin C content stands out.
One cup of raw lime boasts 65% of your daily value of vitamin C. Lemons carry a whopping 118% of the daily value in the same amount, giving it the upper hand.
As a potent antioxidant, the numerous benefits of vitamin C are well-known, such as fighting against the effects of oxidative stress and harmful free radicals.
This essential vitamin is also a powerful ally when it comes to immune support, which is also why lemons are commonly used as an immune-boosting food.
In terms of immune support, vitamin C helps boost the cellular functions of both adaptive and innate and adaptive immunity.
For instance, vitamin C:
Helps promote the production of lymphocytes, important white blood cells that are essential for immune defense.
- Helps guard immune cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress that accompanies pathogens and illness.
So, if immune support is the goal, then the lemon outshines the lime.
Lemons Are Higher in Flavonoids Too
Much of the antioxidant potency in each of these citrus fruits are also contributed to the rich flavonoid content (flavanones in citrus), which are phytonutrients found in all plants.
Typically, these are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables.
Flavonoids have been shown to help reduce some cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension. However, lemons have the advantage of having a higher flavanone content compared to limes.
The Acidic Downside to Citrus
While the nutrient benefits of these two citrus fruits are great, there is a word of caution. Both lemons and limes are high in citric acid. Consuming them in moderation shouldn’t be an issue.
But, the high acidity in these fruits could worsen issues like heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Lemons once again top limes, this time in terms of acidity level:
- Lemon juice has roughly 48 g of citric acid per liter
- Lime juice has slightly less at 45.8 g/L
The Bottom Line
So, which citrus reigns supreme? Well, the differences between the lemon and lime are slight at the end of the day.
The lemon has the advantage of a higher vitamin C content, so it wins in terms of immune support. But for most people, it comes down to flavor preferences. You can’t go wrong with adding either of these fruits to your water, tea, or cuisine.
Nutritional facts of lime, raw | Nutrition Value
Nutritional facts of lemon, raw | Nutrition Value
Vitamin C as an antioxidant: evaluation of its role in disease prevention NIH
The Effects of Flavonoids on Cardiovascular Health: A Review of Human Intervention Trials and Implications for Cerebrovascular Function | NIH
Flavanones in grapefruit, lemons, and limes: A compilation and review of the data from the analytical literature | Science Direct