Wonderful for bringing out the flavor of other foods, limes, while similar to lemons, have their own distinctive citrus flavor. Thought to have originated in Southeast Asia, lime trees were transported to Egypt and Northern Africa by Arab traders in the 10th century. Arabian Moors carried them to Spain three centuries later, and like the cultivation of many other fruits, they spread throughout Southern Europe during the Crusades.
In the prevention of scurvy - the malady that causes bowed legs, flaccid muscles, and tooth loss - sailors found limes to be a literal life-saver. British explorers tried to keep limes in the larder and were happy to find them growing at the end of the journey, Christopher Columbus also brought lime trees to the New World on his second voyage.
Today, there are two main sour lime varieties, Tahitian and Key. Among the former are egg-shaped Persian limes and the smaller, seedless Bearss. Even smaller and more acidic, key limes, if you recognize the term in relation to this fruit, are the inspiration for the famous pie. The lime is used in many different types of products, from toothpaste to skin emollients, and lime sorbet.
Limes grown or purchased in the States are usually sour. Sweet varieties with less citric acid are more common in Asian regions. Make sure when picking or purchasing that they're bright green and completely ripe, as those have the most antioxidant benefits. Keep them out of the sun or they'll turn yellow and lose their bright flavor.
Like most conventionally grown fruit, limes have pesticide residues on their skin, so wash them thoroughly before using.
Health Benefits of Limes
Limes contain antioxidants, including flavonol glycosides-containing kaempferol, which research has shown stops cell division in several cancers. Scientists noted that in several West African villages where cholera epidemics had occurred, lime juice included in the diet protected against cholera, a deadly bacteria-activated disease.
Free radicals can mingle with healthy cells of the body, damaging blood vessels and allowing cholesterol to build up against membranes, which can cause inflammation. That's why vitamin C can be used as a remedy for reducing the painful symptoms of arthritis and the prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), not to mention colds and flu. Because of all these benefits, it's not surprising that foods containing significant amounts of vitamin C, like limes, can actually contribute to lowered incidences of other problems, such as strokes, diabetic heart disease, and cancer.
Lab research has shown that compounds in citrus fruits such as limes, called limonoids, can help fight lung, breast, stomach and colon, skin, and mouth cancers. The interesting factor regarding this compound is that limonin glucoside, which is easily digested, can attach itself to sugar molecules and neutralize the negative affects of the sugar, while at the same time having the capacity to last much longer in the body - up to 24 hours in lab tests - whereas the phenols that come from chocolate and green tea only stay active for four to six hours.
Limes Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Studies Done on Limes
Sun, salt, and lime juice are the ingredients in which scientists say can provide clean, inexpensive water in areas of the world where it's not available. While the solar disinfection of drinking water (SODIS) is already used by six hours of sunlight-exposed water in (preferably) glass containers, some parts of the world have only dirty water available, and no filter, which prevents sun rays from exacting the purification process. But tiny amounts of salt added to the water adheres to and weighs down dirt particles, and lime juice added in further testing, showed more rapid disinfecting ability due to large quantities of psoralen compounds in the limes that bond with DNA strands in the presence of sunlight, preventing DNA replication. This method reduced E. coli contamination by about a million times in just 30 minutes; SODIS by itself had only about a quarter of this effectiveness.1
In a Nigerian children's hospital, lime juice was tested as a treatment for parasites. When anti-malarial medicines were given with the juice, researchers found the parasite load to be significantly lower. In fact, a much higher percentage of subjects given both the medication and the juice had complete recovery within 72 hours, while for some subjects given only the medication without the lime juice, the remediation failed.2
Lime Healthy Recipes:
Cilantro Lime Rice
|2 cups water
||1¼ cup white rice
||1 Tbsp. butter
|½ tsp. salt
||½ cup minced fresh cilantro
||2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
|1 tsp. fresh lime zest
- Place water, rice, butter, and salt in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer; cook about 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, lime juice, and zest. Let the flavors meld together for a few minutes, covered, before serving
Limes Fun Facts
If you remember a few basic facts, you can grow your own limes with no thorns and no seeds, if you plant the Persian variety. They tolerate USDA hardiness zones 8 through 1, or you can plant them indoors in large pots with drain holes. But remember, they can reach heights of 12 feet or more. They like lots of light, but only indirect or the leaves may wilt. In cooler regions, place them under grow lights and water them generously at first, then just a few times a week. Apply fertilizer and micronutrients once a year.
Key lime pie - that's all the reason one needs to love this zesty tropical fruit, but it has innumerable other uses in dishes ranging from breakfast smoothies to lime-sprinkled salmon on the grill. The nutritional benefits derived from limes are every bit as important: antioxidants, flavonol glycosides, kaempferol, and vitamin C, which staves off colds and flu, eases arthritis pain, and ultimately may prevent many of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hardening of the arteries and skin, stomach, lung, breast, colon, and mouth cancers. With every study conducted, scientists are turning over more evidence that this small, green tropical fruit may have even more mighty health advantages.