July 02, 2014 12:45 PM

Getty. Inset: Courtesy Harley Pasternak

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

This summer, you may be enjoying a refreshing glass of water with a slice of lemon, a tasty salad with a lemon-infused dressing, or perhaps a succulent chicken breast doused with a lemon and herb sauce. Lemons are a simple but extremely flavorful component of a wide variety of beverages and food.

But did you know that this juicy, refreshing citrus fruit is packed with antioxidants and other nutrients that are fantastic for your health? Surprise! Read on to find out how lemons can easily give you a big boost:

They’re an appetite suppressant. Want to fight the hunger pangs that creep up on you throughout the day? Try adding lemon to your meal or beverage. Lemon and lemon peel contain high amounts of pectin (soluble fiber), which can make you feel fuller longer. It gives you a smaller chance of indulging on that extra snack which may have otherwise been more tempting!

They help regulate weight, body fat and insulin resistance. Worried about your body weight, body fat or insulin sensitivity? Lemons can help improve all of these factors. Lemon polyphenols (antioxidants) have been shown to suppress weight gain and body fat accumulation, as well as insulin resistance. These polyphenols can be found in lemon peels, so be sure to include grated lemon peels in your salads or sauces.

They enhance immune function. Want to try and avoid or lessen the severity of an infection? Lemons are rich in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a vitamin known for its health benefits as an antioxidant. When Vitamin C is in abundance in the body, one of these benefits includes increased antibody activity and resistance to infection as noted by a 2011 review article compiled by researchers in Germany.

They aid in digestion. Want to improve your gastrointestinal health? Due to their abundance of flavanones (antioxidant-rich phytochemicals), lemons have been considered a “digestive tonic.” Whether you want to ease the passage of food through your gastrointestinal tract or protect against ulcers, lemons can help.

They’re disease fighting. Can lemons aid in the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases? Packed with high amounts of antioxidant-rich nutrients, lemons have been suggested to play a protective role in the prevention and treatment of various diseases. From dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipid profile), to atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) and even different types of cancers, lemons can potentially have a positive impact.

Ready to up your lemon intake? Check out this delicious recipe for lemon artichoke dip with crudités!

Makes 2 servings

Dip:

9 oz. artichoke hearts

4 oz. fat-free cream cheese

2 garlic cloves

1 lemon, juiced

4 tbsp. fresh parsley

2 oz. reduced fat sour cream

6 oz. Greek yogurt

6 tbsp. reduced fat Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Serve with:

12 baby carrots

4 medium celery stalks, cut into sticks

1 small cucumber, cut into sticks

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until fully combined. Pulse longer for a smoother, creamier dip.

2. Season with salt and pepper, and hot sauce if desired.

3. Serve with veggie sticks.

RELATED: All of Harley’s Blogs and Training Advice

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