Lemon Juice Vs. Natural Lemon Flavor

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Lemon juice and natural lemon flavor both have a place in your kitchen, but they’re used differently because the juice has more moisture and the lemon flavor delivers concentrated lemon essence. They both contain phytonutrients called flavonoids, but if you want to boost your vitamin C or get the benefits of citric acid, you only have one choice -- go with lemon juice.

Ingredient Overview

Natural lemon flavor is made from essential oils extracted from the lemon’s skin. Lemon oil is very concentrated, so many brands of natural lemon flavor contain a mixture of lemon oil and vegetable oils, such as canola or sunflower oil. Lemon juice is simply juice squeezed from the flesh of a lemon. If you don’t squeeze the juice at home, check the list of ingredients on the brand you buy. Some may include ingredients in addition to lemon juice, such as preservatives and lemon oil.

Nutrients in Juice

Lemon juice is well-known as an excellent source of vitamin C. By comparison, lemon flavoring doesn't contain the vitamin. The lemon oil used to make natural lemon flavor consists of chemicals called terpenes. Most brands of lemon juice don’t list nutrients on the label because they report the nutritional value for one serving, which is often a small amount such as 1 teaspoon. One ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, which is about the amount needed for 1 cup of lemonade, has 12 milligrams of vitamin C, according to NutritionValue.org. This value provides 20 percent of the daily value, based on consuming 2,000 calories daily.

Plant-Based Flavonoids

Thanks to its lemon oil, natural lemon flavor contains a plant-produced flavonoid called limonene. While more research is needed to determine its health benefits for humans, studies using animals suggest that limonene may prevent some forms of cancer, reports Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Lemon juice also contains flavonoids but has different types. Two of the primary flavonoids in lemon juice -- hesperidin and diosmin -- may prevent cancer, help lower cholesterol and treat a condition in which veins in your legs don't adequately pump blood back to the heart, according to studies reported by New York University Langone Medical Center. Additional studies are needed to verify the effectiveness of these flavonoids, however.

Culinary and Medical Uses

Lemon juice and natural lemon flavor are used to flavor a variety of products, from beverages and sauces to baked goods and main dishes. The difference between them is that natural lemon flavor provides stronger flavor without extra liquid, so it can be used in candy or other products that don't need moisture. Lemon juice contains citric acid, which is used to prevent the formation of kidney stones. In a study performed by physicians at the University of California, San Diego, Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center, each patient who drank lemonade every day decreased his rate of stone formation from 1 to 0.13 stone.