Why Do I Crave Lemons? 4 Explanations

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Everyone has a food craving at one point in their life. And why not?

Food tastes good and it is comforting to know that there are times when we can indulge in our favorite treats.

But why do people crave lemons?

We all know how sour they taste, but why would anyone want them so much that they would be willing to go out of their way for the fruit?

There are actually four different reasons why someone might have a lemon craving, so let’s dive in!

1 – Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and it can cause a person to have cravings for things like lemons.

But let’s start with meat.  As levels of iron decrease in the blood, a person will experience many symptoms like feeling cold, and also – a person’s craving for meat will often increase.

Meat and especially red meat contains lots of iron. This is why a person’s cravings for meat often increase if they lack iron in their blood.

Iron deficiencies are also related to other odd cravings, like cravings for spice or ice!

With this in mind, why might someone start craving lemons? 

If someone lacked iron, why wouldn’t they just crave meat?

Well, many people these days are vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat meat for ethical or health reasons. 

In fact, this is why many people with this type of anemia are often vegan or vegetarian.

They want to keep up good health habits and avoid meat. But then they need different daily dietary sources for the missing nutrients!

Back in college I got anemia because I was vegetarian and wasn’t eating meat.

While I didn’t experience lemon cravings, I definitely did experience an increased cravings for foods high in iron like meat and chicken.

So back to lemons.  You might be surprised, but lemons are a fairly good source of iron. They contain more iron than other citrus fruits like grapefruit or oranges.

This means that the body may intuitively realize lemons are best when trying to replenish iron levels.

This doesn’t mean you have to eat a lemon all by itself.  Lemons can be used in many drinks, entrees, and desserts!

What Other Deficiencies Besides Iron Cause Sour Cravings?

There are other deficiencies that may cause you to get food cravings for lemons besides an iron deficiency.

One of the most common is a lack of stomach acid. 

Basically if your body does not produce enough strong stomach acid, you may start to crave sour foods like lemons because they have high amounts of tartaric and citric acids.

Stomach acid is your body’s first line of defense (for your digestive system). Acidic foods work on breaking down your foods, sterilizing your food, disinfecting the stomach from the external germs that get mixed in with the foods you eat.

This will help stimulate digestion in order for your food to be processed correctly.

Another deficiency that could cause cravings towards lemons is pica eating disorder. Or, more specifically, oral fixation disorder or geophagy (eating dirt).

This type of disorder would lead someone to experience strong cravings for things with an acidic flavor such as lemon juice or vinegar. It’s similar to why people might chew on ice cubes during allergy season when they have a cold.

Lemon juice is acidic, which makes it the perfect fix for an oral fixation disorder or geophagy (eating dirt). See reason #3 for more info.

2 – Lack of Stomach Acid

One might also experience a craving for lemons because they could be low on stomach juices.

This in turn can cause their gastric juices to function at a slower rate, which means that it takes longer for food to move through the person’s system.

This leads to bacteria fermenting the food before it has been fully processed in the digestive tract – which causes gas production!

Gas makes us bloated, gassy, uncomfortable…and yes, even hungry for sour foods like lemonade or citrus fruits.

This is another reason people commonly crave acidic foods like lemons and citrus. Because they feel bloated and want to relieve their discomfort!

And lemons are great at cutting down on any discomfort you may be feeling after eating too much.

They help by breaking up those bubbles that form in your belly when there is excess gas being produced. This way you’ll be able to feel better.

The other reason why people might get a craving for lemons is because stomach acid helps with the absorption of some nutrients like protein, calcium, and iron.

This means that someone who is low in stomach acid will often become deficient in those essential nutrients such as calcium or iron!

Food cravings for sour foods thus could mean a person’s body may need these types of things.  Satisfying the craving can help out with getting enough good stuff like iron into one’s diet by breaking down anything hard to digest.

Why Do I Want To Eat Sour Things In General?

The reason behind why we might want more sour foods is complex. But what you need to know is that it’s not just about craving, it’s also about craving for health reasons!

Typically when someone craves something, they are hungry for some kind of nutrients or minerals to give them energy.

Their body may want the healthy nutrients in these types of foods that promote good digestion and absorption.

This means that when we crave for a sour-tasting food like lemons, our bodies likely need some nutrients they have been missing out on. The most likely are particularly proteins, iron or calcium.

3 – Taste and Variety

Did you know that your tongue has millions of taste receptors?

And that out of these millions of receptors, about 20% are specifically for tasting sour foods?

Plus, sour taste receptors are more abundant than any other type of taste receptor on the tongue!

Turns out there are 5 universal tastes that get recognized by your tongue:

  1. Sweet
  2. Salty
  3. Sour
  4. Bitter
  5. Umami

Now what happens if you only eat sweet and salty foods?

Well, it’s quite natural for your tongue to crave a variety of foods and different flavors.

If your diet is bland then you may not be getting as much variety in your diet as you would like.

This can lead to cravings for foods with a different flavor as well as foods with some specific type of nutritional value.

This is where lemons come in.

Obviously the taste of lemons is distinct, and sour!

Normally we don’t like sour foods, but if you’re feeling your diet is super bland and boring then you may start craving lemons. Simply for the unique flavor and taste! Even if that taste is sour!

In this case, lemon might simply be your favorite flavor (at least if you’re on a bland diet)!

You probably enjoy its taste so much you want more and more every time you’re craving something sweet. Lemon does offer some sweetness too but also has enough sourness to make it a great substitute for the taste of something sweet.

The key is balancing out your diet with different foods that satisfy your cravings and tastes.

In this way, you’ll be helping yourself out by getting more variety in your day-to-day meals but also satisfying those cravings when they come!

Without any variety or balance, you might crave sugar all the time because everything else feels bland without some type of sweetness from fruit or candy bars.

If sour things are what you’re looking for, why not try lemons? The best thing about them is their versatility in different dishes and how easy they are to prepare.

For example, lemonade!

4 – Pica Eating Disorder

pica syndrome ice

Oftentimes people crave sour for health reasons.

They may have an iron deficiency or lack of stomach juices. In such cases, the problem can be fixed by taking a supplement or taking care of the underlying cause.

Then there are people who crave sour foods to please a pica eating disorder. This is a much more complex problem! Most likely this requires specialized medical attention and treatment.

Pica eating disorder is a condition characterized by the ingestion of non-nutritive objects, which may range from dirt and clay to sand, hair or paint.

The individual with pica eating disorder has episodes when they cannot control their urge to eat these non-nutritive substances.

The behavior is most common in children, especially those 2-6 years old. It usually begins after the child has been weaned but it can also start for adult women during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Another symptom of pica is craving ice. Read here for more info about why you crave ice.

Is It Bad To Eat Lemons?

No, it’s not bad to eat lemons from a nutrition standpoint.

But, lemon cravings can feel inappropriate from a social perspective.

If you’re craving lemons at work, imagine what your co-workers would think if you popped a lemon slice into your mouth and ate a lemon in front of them?

They might think you’re weird, why would anyone crave lemons?

Or they might make fun of you for eating a lemon and mock you.

This is why many people who have cravings may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their cravings in social situations like work. They don’t want to look weird in front of co-workers so they’ll eat other foods at lunch instead.

Of course this doesn’t only apply to lemons but it can apply to anything that has an odd flavor such as pickles, sour candy etc!

The key here is not feeling guilty over having these types of food cravings. Because understanding the why behind them should give us more insight on how best we can deal with those feelings when they come.

Final Thoughts – What Does It Mean When You Get Food Cravings For Lemons?

Cravings are complex phenomena that can be difficult to understand why they happen.

But, once you get past the initial “why” and delve into why your brain is craving sour or salty foods to please an underlying need for something else, then it becomes much easier to manage.

The four reasons why people crave lemons include:

  1. iron deficiency anemia
  2. lack of stomach acid
  3. taste preferences (sourness)
  4. pica eating disorder

All these issues have their own solutions. Yet for pica you may need professional help from professionals who specialize in treating such conditions.

Overall, if you’re wondering “why do I crave lemons?” ask yourself “what is my body trying to tell me?”

Use your intuition, drop the shame, and go from there.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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  1. Thanks so much for this article. I’m one of those weird people who eats lemons for a snack. All my life I’ve loved bitterness and have had on and off cravings for lemons. Three years ago I found out I’m anemic due to an iron deficiency. But I had no idea my craving for lemons was probably the first sign.

    1. Great! Yeah vitamin deficiencies like anemia can sneak up on you! I know one common symptom of fatigue, but since so many other things cause fatigue most people don’t think they are deficient! How did you find out anemic? Oftentimes a blood test

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