Read an Excerpt
The Lemon Juice Diet
By Theresa Cheung
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Theresa Cheung
All rights reserved.
Lemons: Your Weight-Loss Ally
Before discussing how and why lemons help us to lose weight, it's important to understand the importance of a healthy digestive system.
POOR DIGESTION CAN MAKE YOU FAT
You probably don't need convincing that eating too much and moving too little can make you fat, but what about the part poor digestion plays?
If your digestive system is not working correctly, healthy weight loss becomes almost impossible. Poor digestion can stop your body getting the nutrients it needs to burn fat. It can also interfere with fat burning and cause a build-up of toxins in your body. When toxins build up in your bloodstream, you feel sluggish and depressed; this slows down your metabolism, making your weight-loss goals unattainable.
When your body isn't absorbing the right nutrients – even if you have weight to lose – it is actually in a malnourished state. This means that your brain is constantly craving nutrients and telling you that you are hungry, no matter how many calories you have already consumed or how overweight you are. You may find this hard to believe but large numbers of overweight people with poor digestion are actually starving because their bodies just aren't getting the nutrients they need for optimum health and wellbeing.
It might help to think about weight loss as a race; your goal is to lose weight and boost your health and energy levels. You can see the finishing line in the distance but, with poor digestion, you don't stand a chance of getting there. You are running on a steep incline on a treadmill and going nowhere.
How to Tell if You Have Poor Digestion
Millions of people probably suffer from poor digestion. Many of them have no idea that this is the real reason why they can't lose weight, despite the number of diets they have been on and the hours they have spent exercising. Poor digestion can also be misdiagnosed as depression, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and chronic fatigue.
Take a look at the following symptoms. If you suffer from one or more, you may well have a sluggish digestive system:
* Losing weight seems impossible, no matter how hard you try.
* You have been on countless diets and can't really see the point of them any more because they never work.
* You get tired easily, often running out of energy in the early afternoon or in some cases mid-morning.
* You often feel moody, depressed or down in the dumps for no apparent reason.
* Your skin looks dull or you have problems with acne.
* You regularly have indigestion or foul-smelling gas.
* Your bowel movements are inconsistent (constipation or diarrhea are common).
The good news is there is something you can do. Studies have shown that when you restore your digestive system to proper working order you can:
* get the nutrients you need from smaller amounts of food, which causes you to feel less hungry and therefore eat less
* boost your energy levels
* feel healthier and happier
* improve your hair, skin and nails by providing your body with the nutrients it needs
* increase your metabolism
* have normal, regular bowel movements
* lose weight and keep it off
As you can see, you aren't just what you eat; you are also what you absorb from what you eat. The health of your digestive system determines how well nutrients get absorbed from your food, how effectively toxins are filtered out and eliminated from your body, and how quickly you lose weight. This is because the correct nutrients are essential for metabolism and healthy weight loss.
THE DIGESTION-BOOSTING POWER OF LEMON JUICE
Lemon juice is such a great weight-loss ally because it stimulates the flow of saliva and gastric juice and is therefore an excellent digestive agent. When drunk first thing in the morning it also acts as a tonic for the liver, stimulating it to produce bile so that it is ready to digest the day's foods. The beneficial effect lemon juice has on liver function is important because healthy liver function is the key to good digestion.
Some of the most important functions of your liver include:
* metabolising nutrients: breaking them down so that they can be used by the body
* turning toxins into nontoxic substances for expulsion
* manufacturing and excreting bile in order to absorb fat-soluble nutrients and eliminate toxins
* controlling fat metabolism
* purifying the blood by filtering bacteria, toxins, antibodies, and other particles from the circulation
* manufacturing blood-clotting agents and blood protein
Your overall health and vitality depend greatly on the health of your liver. It's not just important for digestion and detoxification, but also for weight loss. Drugs, alcohol, fatty foods and environmental toxins can overload your liver. When it is overworked it will force the body's other detoxifying agents (your kidneys, adrenals, skin and lymphatic system) to work overtime. This can cause rashes, acne, bloating, yeast imbalances, PMS, constipation and – yes, you guessed it – weight gain. Studies show that liver functions are often disturbed in many overweight people because fat metabolism is so inextricably associated with the liver.
As well as having a beneficial effect on liver function, lemon juice is an excellent digestive aid because of its high citric acid content. Citric acid is found in many fruits and vegetables but its concentration is highest in lemons and limes. The acid content of a lemon can be around 7 to 8 percent – hence its sharp taste. The acid not only protects the fruit from spoiling, but in human metabolism it also combines in a complex interaction with other acids and enzymes to ensure healthy and problem-free digestion by stimulating stomach juices.
Citric acid is relatively mild, in contrast to acids such as sulphuric or hydrochloric acid, and is not powerful enough to break down nutrients on its own. However, as soon as it is in your mouth it gets to work by stimulating your salivary glands. An adequate amount of saliva is important because digestion actually begins in your mouth with your saliva breaking down food as you chew it. Once lemon acid reaches the stomach, either in lemon flesh or as juice, it then supports the first step of digestion in the stomach by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes, such as pepsin, which break down the protein components in food. That's why sprinkling lemon on proteins, such as lean meat, poultry, fish, beans and eggs, will always help you digest them more effectively. Indirectly, therefore, lemon acid supports and promotes the activity of the stomach, preparing the ground for problem-free digestion. In addition, research has shown that it can be highly beneficial in the treatment of a number of digestive problems, such as dyspepsia, constipation and biliousness, and can also destroy intestinal worms and eliminate the gases formed in the digestive tract.
Thanks to its acidity, even a little lemon juice can improve your digestion and lower the impact of any meal on your blood sugar. As you'll see in principle three of the Lemon Juice Diet in Chapter 4, balanced blood sugar levels are extremely important for successful weight loss.
OTHER BENEFITS OF LEMON JUICE
The health and weight-loss benefits of lemons don't just stop at boosting liver function and digestion. Your weight-loss ally has got plenty of other trump cards up its sleeve, including pectin, vitamin C, calcium, quercetin and limonene.
The lemon is one of the most pectin-rich of all fruits. The tissue of lemon peel alone is comprised of approximately 30 percent pectin. A great source of fiber, pectin can help you lose and maintain your weight because it turns into a sticky gel when you digest it, keeping your stomach from absorbing sugar too quickly. As a result, after eating pectin you feel satisfied for longer. This means that you will eat less, which leads to weight loss. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, pectin eliminates the urge to eat for up to four hours. Pectin can also help to cut cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It may even aid in the prevention of colon cancer.
Lemon juice is one of the richest and most concentrated food sources of vitamin C, yielding over 90 percent of the vitamin C content of the entire fruit. The juice of just two and a half to three lemons provides the average daily requirement of this vitamin for adults (the RDA for vitamin C is 60 mg a day).
Recent research suggests that people who eat more fresh citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes and oranges, and other fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C are more likely to lose weight. It's not that vitamin C is a new weight-loss wonder drug; what's new is the discovery that consuming an inadequate amount of this vitamin can hinder weight loss. According to researchers from Arizona State University, individuals consuming sufficient amounts of vitamin C oxidize (burn) 30 percent more fat during moderate exercise than those who consume insufficient amounts. In addition, too little vitamin C in the bloodstream has been shown to correlate with increased body fat and waist measurements.
Lemon juice contains high levels of bioflavonoids, particularly quercetin. Bioflavonoids are plant compounds that give plants their color and are found mostly in fruit, vegetables and certain tree barks. They are powerful antioxidants which help protect our bodies from harmful free radicals. They also have antiviral, anticancer and antiallergenic actions. Quercetin is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the production of insulin and helps balance blood sugar levels, freeing the digestive system to process food more efficiently. The result: fewer nutrients are stored as fat. And there's an added bonus to lemon's ability to help balance blood sugar. Swings in blood sugar can prompt hunger pangs, but if blood sugar is balanced hunger fades and less food is consumed.
As well as being a good source of body-building calcium, lemon juice plays an important role in helping the body to absorb this mineral. Not only does this help prevent osteoporosis but it can also help you lose weight. Research shows that this is because calcium stored in fat cells plays a big part in regulating how fat is stored and broken down in your body. Experts believe that the more calcium there is in a fat cell, the more fat it will burn. So if you want to lose weight you need to make sure you are getting enough calcium, and lemon juice is an excellent alternative to high-fat dairy products.
Lemon peel has thousands of tiny glands that produce its essential oil (Citri aetheroleum). This oil contains large amounts of citral, the substance that creates the typical lemony scent and taste, and is also loaded with d-limonene, which studies have shown to protect against a variety of cancers. You don't have to consume much citrus peel to help protect yourself against cancer. As little as one tablespoon of zest per week is enough to make a significant difference. This is equivalent to the peel of approximately one lemon, depending on the size of the fruit and how finely or coarsely the zest is grated.
Research on the Mediterranean diet – one that usually includes parts of the whole lemon and the use of citrus oils – has also shown that citrus peel is beneficial to health and weight loss. Furthermore, those Mediterranean-dwelling people who consume large amounts of citrus fruit have a lower incidence of obesity, cancer and cardiovascular diseases than Europeans living in other areas. A common beverage of the region is lemonade prepared from the whole fruit, including the peel, which adds d-limonene to the diet.
The various parts of a lemon have different proportions of health-boosting substances. According to studies, the main differences between citrus peel and pulp are that the peel contains higher concentrations of d-limonene, as well as other active components known to fight cancer – such as hesperidin, naringin and auraptene – than do the juice and pulp. Gourmet chefs have been using lemon zest for years to add intense, delicious flavor to recipes, and hopefully this book will encourage you to do the same by adding more lemon zest to everyday meals such as soups and salads, or sprinkling it on top of chicken or fish.
* * *
This isn't the whole story for lemons; they have many other health-boosting properties. You can find out more about the amazing healing properties of lemons in Chapter 9.
HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT
The way to lose weight and keep it off for good is to get all the nutrients you need from a variety of foods, to eliminate toxins and to keep your liver function and digestion healthy. As we've seen in this chapter, lemon is packed with nutrients that boost digestion and weight loss. Small wonder it's the juice of choice for body-conscious Hollywood stars. So, even if the only change you make after reading this book is to drink a glass of fresh lemon diluted with water every morning or to add lemon peel to your drinks and recipes, you'll still be doing something very positive for your digestion, your waistline and your general health.
It's time to start working with your new weight-loss ally by incorporating lemons and lemon juice into your diet.CHAPTER 2
Your Lemon Juice Diet 24-hour Mini 'Detox'
A body and mind starved of nutrients and overloaded with toxins is one of the major causes of poor digestion, blood sugar swings and the resulting fatigue, mood swings and weight gain. The 24-hour 'detox' in this chapter concentrates on foods and techniques that can help boost your nutrient intake and cleanse your body of toxins naturally.
To ensure your 'detox' is nutritionally sound, the plan will involve drinking plenty of lemon juice with water; it will also involve regular snacks of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Rather than starving you of nutrients, which would just cause your blood sugar levels and your mood to sink really low, you will be eating plenty of cleansing, natural foods and drinking lots of water to support your body's own in-house detox system, which is so effective that even the most sophisticated detox product can't compete with it. You'll also learn how to breathe deeply and relax, as research shows that stress can significantly affect your digestion and trigger weight gain, especially around the middle.
The 24-hour plan is a great way to get back on track if you've fallen off the wagon or to give your digestion a boost and kick-start if you're new to all this. As you follow the plan, never forget that healthy eating to lose weight has nothing to do with dieting – we know that diets don't work in the long term – but everything to do with giving your body the best nutrition it can get. So, for the next 24 hours, and hopefully for the rest of your life, you are going to give yourself the very best, top-quality, premium-grade fuel. The basis for this 'detox' diet is four glasses of 'fresh' lemonade, lots of water and regular meals and snacks that are as fresh, natural and healthy as possible. Not only will it give you all the nutrients you need to expel toxins naturally and revitalize your digestive system without feeling hungry, you can also lose a minimum of 1 to 2 pounds, depending on your height and body weight.
Making Your Lemonade
To make your lemonade you will need:
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately ½ to 1 lemon)
1¼ cups (10 fl oz) pure, filtered water (according to taste)
1 tsp organic grade B maple syrup (optional) or a cinnamon stick
Small pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix together the lemon juice, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Stir well and serve at room temperature. As an alternative to maple syrup you could stir a cinnamon stick into your lemon juice. Research has shown that cinnamon can help balance blood sugar and, if you like the taste, it's a fantastic way to add some sweetness.
Use only fresh lemons, organic and vine ripened whenever possible. Never use canned or frozen lemon juice. Mix your lemonade just before drinking. You can, however, squeeze your lemons in the morning and measure out the 2 tablespoons when needed.
Excerpted from The Lemon Juice Diet by Theresa Cheung. Copyright © 2008 Theresa Cheung. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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