Fresh Lemon vs. (Plastic) Lemon Juice: Which Is Better?


I teach a very popular corporate workshop called “10 Steps to Joyous Health“.

The number one step I teach people in this workshop is to “Drink freshly squeezed lemon and water in the morning, on an empty stomach”.  And the number one question someone ALWAYS asks me is “Can I just buy the lemon juice in the plastic bottle”? My answer is always NO. And let me tell you why….

Two words: Sulfur Dioxide (also known as sulfites)

This chemical is common in our food supply and used as a preservative to prevent the discolouration of fruit (you’ve all seen the bright orange apricots), as an anti-microbial for wine (you’ve likely seen the phrase “contains sulfites”), in frozen pizza dough and pie crust, and in the case of lemon juice, to prevent it from rotting.

I personally avoid buying wine when it states “contains sulfites”. Pretty much all wine contains sulfites to a degree, but I avoid wine brands that have added sulfites. Now before I continue, I don’t want you to think that sulfites are the most evil food additive on planet earth, because that’s not the case. However, I do want you to think about eating more “real food” and that means food that doesn’t contain chemical additives to maintain freshness.

This is the number one food rule: Buy food that can actually rot! This is a really good indication of a REAL food.

Here’s some info for you on sulfur dioxide:

  • It is used to decolourize paper and cloth, as a bleaching agent and to treat chlorinated wastewater prior to release.
  • Sulfur dioxide blocks nerve signals from the pulmonary stretch receptor, which is precisely why it mimics asthma-like symptoms. To make matters worse, it also inhibits your lungs from over-inflating, which is why you feel like you can’t take full deep breaths when exposed to sulfites.
  • Sulfur dioxide emissions are a precursor to acid rain which kills fish and stimulates the overgrowth of algae.
  • It is the poisonous gas emitted by volcanic eruptions.
  • Coal and petroleum burn off often contain sulfur compounds.
  • These types of sulfur compounds are harmful to the environment, plant and animal life.

Now keep in mind I’m not a chemist, but it wouldn’t be too far off to assume the vitamin C and other minerals in the lemon juice are not as potent as they otherwise would be. Furthermore, the LAST thing you want to do is chug back lemon juice that’s been sitting on a store shelf in a plastic bottle potentially leaching phthlates (plastisicers) and BPA (bisphenol-A) in to the juice.

What kind of nutrition are you getting from a fruit that’s likely been squeezed 6 months or even 2 years ago and packaged for sale and then potentially sit in your fridge for another 6 months to a year.

Just buy a bag of lemons and squeeze the juice every morning. If you don’t like lemons, then 1 capful of apple cider vinegar does the trick too! The beautifying, detoxifying benefits of endless!

Here’s a video I recently did on the benefits of lemon and water.

Have a joyous day!


Joy McCarthy

Joy McCarthy is the vibrant Holistic Nutritionist behind Joyous Health. Author of JOYOUS HEALTH: Eat & Live Well without Dieting, professional speaker, nutrition expert on Global’s Morning Show, Faculty Member at Institute of Holistic Nutrition and co-creator of Eat Well Feel Well. Read more...


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  • Hi Joy,

    I’ve heard that it’s better not to dilute the lemon in water when drinking it in the morning, especially if you want it to help detoxify the liver. Have you read anything about this?

  • Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

  • Hi can lemon and water make me lose weight I need to lose 10 kg and belly fat

    • Hi Saras,

      While lemon water’s really helpful for getting digestion going, no one thing is the key to weight loss, it’s going to be a combination of eating the right foods, exercise and making the right lifestyle changes.

      Kate – Joyous Health Team

  • You lost me at “detoxify”… You’re liver does this with no extra help.

  • Thank you for this info. I’ve always wondered if I was doing right or wrong by buying the bottled lemon juice. Now I know for sure. Might even get a small juicer to do it. Thanks!

    • You’re very welcome!

      Kate – Joyous Health Team

  • Hi Joy – and I’m so pleased I’ve found your article online! Really enlightening!

    I suddenly became very ill this August during a long weekend in the Lake District. My wife and I are (or rather, we ‘were’) keen hikers, and just had time to take the difficult Corridor Trail up and back before I had to admit I wasn’t actually very well.

    Long story short, it was the start of a spate asthma attacks that eventually hospitalised me and pneumonia descended on me too. I’ve had a horrific few months, and a long overdue appointment with an immunologist last weeks resulted in me being diagnosed as having had an adverse reaction to sulphites. Never heard them til then, and I should say, I had no idea i was asmathic (I’m a fit non smoking, 48 year old).

    What I thought may be of interest to you was that up until the appointment last week I had been consuming probably 2 bottles of coop lemon juice concentrate – a little at a time, with honey and hot water but several times a day. I thought I was being healthy and it’d keep my airways free.
    Needles to say I have stopped now. But, a week later, I still feel constantly sick (so not hungry), woolly headed, exhausted and my stomach feels like it’s constantly churning and bloated.
    Do you think I’ve done permanent damagage, or am I just sulfites Cold Turkey?

    Sorry to bother you with this but I could believe my luck when I stumbled on you. If you can shed any light or give me any hope I’d be delighted!

    Thank you so much,

  • Hi Joy,

    How do you feel about a product called True Lemon. They sell it in a concentrate powder form and it states, “100% natural ingredients with no artificial sweeteners, colors, sodium or preservatives”.


    • Hi Branden,

      We still tend to prefer getting our lemon juice straight from the lemon, that way you really do know lemon juice is all you’re getting.

      Kate – Joyous Health Team

  • Great video! I enjoy eat clean, low carb no sugar videos

    Thank you

    • Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it Pam :)
      Heather- Joyous Health Team

  • I am thinking about waste. Using half a lemon and throwing the other half out. Any suggestions here?
    What would squeezing a whole lemon in water in a seal-able container, half to be drank now and the other to be microwaved tomorrow?
    Sounds a lot like pinching pennies to some but being frugal to others.

    • Hi Franklin! You could definitely do that! I would suggest adding hot/boiling water to warm the water rather than microwaving it.You could also store the lemon cut side down on a small side plate to maintain freshness (without the plastic wrap) and use it for a salad dressing later on or in your water the next day!
      Heather-Joyous Health Team

  • Do limes work as well as lemons? I never read about them, but I prefer them.

    • Hi Jamie! Lemons have a higher vitamin C content than limes, but they otherwise have similar benefits :)
      Heather- Joyous Health Team

      • Hi Heather!
        I’ve read a lot about how healthy freshly squeezed lemon juice is. Just bought a bottle of it but have read that bottled juice really isn’t beneficial at all. Will start buying fresh lemons from now on but was wondering how much fresh squeezed juice/day I need to consume to really notice the benefits?

        • Hi Chris! Yes, fresh is definitely best. The juice from 1/4 -1/2 of a lemon first thing in the morning will be enough for you to reap the rewards :)
          Heather- Joyous Health Team

  • Apple cider vinegar is in a plastic bottle too so why is it good but not lemon juice in a plastic bottle? This gets confusing.

    • Hi Jan! It comes down to the preservatives added to the product. Lemon juice commonly has sulfur dioxide added, which for the reasons mentioned in the article, you want to avoid. Apple cider vinegar rarely (if ever) has any preservatives added and can be purchased in glass bottles (which I would recommend). Thanks for reaching out! I hope that helps :)
      Heather- Joyous Health Team

    • Fresh lemons are best whenever possible as delicate nutrients like vitamin C can be easily destroyed (from sitting in a bottle) and even the organic options can have additives. Happy squeezing, Marce!
      Heather- Joyous Health team