Why Am I Craving Lemons? 4 Possible Root Causes

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Any time you have a food craving, it can be confusing. 

We often associate random or bizarre food cravings with pregnancy, but there can actually be a variety of emotional, hormonal, and nutritional causes for various food cravings.

But, why do I crave lemons? What does craving lemons mean, or what does craving lemonade or craving limes mean? Is craving acidic foods bad for you?

In this guide, we will discuss what lemon cravings mean, why you might be craving lemonade or craving acidic foods, and how to resolve craving lemons based on the root cause.

We will look at: 

  • Why Am I Craving Lemons?
  • What Does It Mean When You Crave Lemons?
  • What Should I Do If I’m Craving Lemons?

Let’s get started!

Slices of lemons.

Why Am I Craving Lemons?

Craving lemon and salt, craving citrus, craving acidic foods, and craving limes, generally, all fall under the same category and can be answered by examining the overarching question: what does it mean when you crave lemons, or why do I crave lemons?

This is because even if you are craving limes vs lemons, craving lemonade, craving acidic foods, or have a salt and lemon craving specifically, all of these citrus cravings or acidic food cravings generally indicate the same type of nutritional needs for food-seeking behavior underlying the lemon craving.

First, it’s important to address the question: is it normal to crave lemons?

Many people have concerns about and wonder, why am I craving lemonade or lemons because we often associate food cravings with sweet or indulgent foods, but many people do crave bitter foods or crave acidic foods like lemons.

This does not mean that it is “normal“ to have a craving for lemons or citrus cravings, but it is not an overt cause for major concern or all that bizarre.

Particularly if your taste preferences and palate tend to swing towards enjoying sour and bitter flavors, lemon cravings can be emotional or habitual for comfort or enjoyment.

A person drinking lemon water.

If you have a lemon and salt craving, you may also enjoy the combination of tart and salty.

That said, there are also nutritional reasons that you may be craving lemons or have a lemon and salt craving, so it is important to examine the causes of why you crave lemons so that if this is indeed out of the norm for you, you can address potential nutritional lemon craving meanings.

Oftentimes, food cravings compelled by nutritional deficiencies are for foods that are particularly rich in certain nutrients. For example, you might have a craving for meat if your protein, iron, zinc, or B12 status is low.

Overall, lemons do not provide many nutrients, as they are very low in calories and have some vitamin C and just traces of other nutrients.

The juice of one medium-sized lemon (about 48 grams of lemon juice), will provide about 10 calories, 19 mg of vitamin C (about 21% of the daily value), 10 micrograms (mcg) of folate (2% of the DV), and 50 mg of potassium (1% of the DV). 

Lemons also provide trace amounts of certain B vitamins, including vitamins B1, B2, and B5.

That said, lemon cravings can indeed be caused by certain nutritional problems.

Two lemons.

What Does It Mean When You Crave Lemons?

Here are some of the most common causes for craving lemons, craving limes, craving lemonade, or craving citrus fruits in general: 

#1: Low Serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone in the body, helping transmit messages between nerve cells while also playing an essential role in digestion, mood regulation, sleep, appetite, and emotions.

Serotonin also serves as a precursor for melatonin, which is a hormone that plays a key role in the sleep/wake cycle, which is why serotonin levels can affect your sleep quality.

Studies suggest that low serotonin levels can cause an increase in appetite as well as food cravings, often for salty foods, sweet foods, or sour or tart foods, the last of which is why a lemon craving cause can be low serotonin as lemons are notably sour or tart.

Lemon pie.

#2: Iron Deficiency Anemia

One of the primary lemon craving causes is iron deficiency anemia or low iron levels.

Iron is an essential micronutrient that is vital for forming hemoglobin, the molecule that transports oxygen throughout the body. You must consume iron in your diet or in supplemental form because your body cannot manufacture iron endogenously. 

An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition marked by weakness, fatigue, pallor, and breathlessness. According to the National Institutes of Health, the bioavailability of heme iron is about 14-18% versus 5-12% for non-heme iron. 

Although lemons do not contain iron, interestingly, a reason that you may be craving lemons is due to low iron or anemia, according to some research.

Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron, so perhaps lemon cravings are your body‘s way of trying to soak up more iron from your diet.

Lemons.

Iron deficiency anemia causes a condition known as pica, in which you may seek to eat even non-food items, but lemons also seem to be associated with a cause of lemon cravings.

Vegetarians and vegans are at an increased risk of iron deficiency because most iron-rich foods are animal-based proteins, such as meat, which provide “heme iron.“ 

Although there are some plant-based foods with iron, such as lentils and spinach, the iron in these “non-heme” iron foods is not nearly as bioavailable.

Women are also at a greater risk of iron deficiency due to menstruation and the general trend in dietary intake of women vs men.

The recommended daily intake of iron for premenopausal women is 18 mg, but the DV for iron drops to 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women. 

#3: Lack of Vitamin C

Although it’s pretty rare to have a vitamin C deficiency in most countries given the availability of natural or added vitamin C to many food products, if you are not following a well-rounded, healthy diet or you have some sort of underlying condition or have been very ill, you may have a vitamin C deficiency.

Citrus fruits, including lemons, are a great source of vitamin C. 

Even though other types of citrus provide more vitamin C than lemons, there is more than 1/5 of the daily value of vitamin C in the juice of one medium-sized lemon.

Your body may be craving lemonade or craving citrus if your vitamin C status is low.

A pitcher and glasses of lemonade.

#4: Low Electrolytes

Lastly, if you are craving lemon and salt specifically, you may have low electrolytes.

A lemon and salt water craving can be common after a hard workout in which you have depleted fluids and sodium in your sweat, or after traveling on an airplane or being sick with a stomach bug where you are unable to stay well hydrated.

Take your lemon salt water craving as a sign that you need to rehydrate with adequate fluids and electrolytes.

What Should I Do If I’m Craving Lemons?

Of course, occasional lemon cravings can be satisfied by having a glass of lemon water or lemonade, but if you are consistently or suddenly craving lemons regularly, it is imperative that you look at the common lemon craving causes and address any likely reasons for craving lemons in your overall diet.

After all, while lemons contain virtually no calories and certainly aren’t “bad“ for you, there can be side effects from eating too many lemons or other citrus fruits.

Lemonade in glasses.

Lemons are acidic because they contain citric acid, which may erode tooth enamel.

Additionally, citric acid can exacerbate heartburn or symptoms of GERD.

In terms of addressing the causes of lemon cravings, if you believe you have a vitamin C deficiency, there are plenty of foods rich in vitamin C, including other citrus fruits such as grapefruits and oranges, berries, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, broccoli, kiwi, bell peppers, among other fruits and vegetables.

Addressing low iron is important before it escalates to anemia.

Foods that are high in iron include red meat and liver. You may need iron supplements if you are vegan or not absorbing iron well.

Craving lemons during pregnancy is often hormonal, but you should speak with your OB/GYN about pregnancy lemonade cravings to look into iron deficiency anemia or other causes of craving lemons during pregnancy.

Low electrolytes and poor hydration often underlie lemonade cravings, so make sure that you are drinking enough fluids and using electrolyte replacement or having coconut water, a sports beverage, or eating foods rich in electrolytes after sweating.

You can read more about foods high in natural electrolytes here.

Lemonade on ice.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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