Limes are a citrus fruit often used to accent flavors in foods and 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 lime, also called the Persian lime, is the variety most commonly used in cooking. Key limes are smaller, rounder and more acidic than Tahitian limes and are used in the classic dessert Key Lime pie.
It is a misconception that key limes are grown in Key West, FL. They are primarily grown in subtropical climates such as Mexico, India and Egypt.1
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, how to incorporate more limes into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming limes.
Contents of this article:
Nutritional breakdown of limes
According to the US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, the juice of one lime (approximately 44 grams) contains 11 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrate (including 1 gram of sugar and 0 grams of fiber) and 0 grams of protein as well as 22% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.
One teaspoon of lime zest (approximately 1 gram) contains 1 calorie and 4% of recommended vitamin C.
Possible benefits of consuming limes
Limes are rich in vitamin C and have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been 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 overall lower weight.
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality.2 Limes are a very concentrated source of vitamin C, a well-known antioxidant.
In a study published by the ARYA Atherosclerosis journal, lime juice and peel was shown to decrease fatty streaks found in coronary arteries, which are indicators of plaque buildup and subsequently cardiovascular disease.3 A different study showed that low vitamin C levels are associated with increased risk of stroke.4
Lime juice has antibacterial and antifungal properties.5 A study published by Tropical Medicine & International Health showed that lime juice inhibited the growth of Vibrio cholerae specifically.6
The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is vitamin C, found in many fruits and vegetables including limes.
Increasing iron absorption
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in developed countries and a leading cause of anemia. Pairing foods that are high in vitamin C with foods that are iron-rich will maximize the body’s ability to absorb iron. For example, squeeze fresh lime juice onto a salad with spinach and chickpeas (both a good source of iron).
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. Maintaining a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables is especially important during the winter months when physical activity levels tend to drop.
Vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form (in fresh produce as opposed to supplement form), can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin texture. Adequate intake of vitamin C (the juice of one lime provides 22% of daily needs) is also needed for the building and maintenance of 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 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke than those who consumed the least.7
How to incorporate more limes into your diet
Make a quick, refreshing drink by adding some limes to water.
- 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. Start with this citrus rub.
Or, try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:
Potential health risks of consuming limes
Wash the peels of limes even if you are not planning on using the peel. Bacteria from the peel can be transferred inside the fruit by the knife in cutting. If zesting the lime, use organic limes if possible.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.