Limes are a green citrus fruit that grows on trees in tropical and subtropical climates. Best known for preventing scurvy on ships, they are fairly small, about 3-5cm in diameter and can be either sweet or sour in taste. Sweet limes don’t contain citric acid content; sour limes contain both a higher sugar level and citric acid content than their close cousin the lemon, contributing to their acidic, tart taste. Today, this taste is known and loved by those who enjoy ‘Tequila Margaritas’ around the world.
Originating in Southeast Asia, limes found their way into Egypt and North Africa about 1000 years ago. From here the Moors carried them to Spain and it was during the Crusades that limes were then spread throughout southern Europe. Christopher Columbus triumphantly brought the sour lime to the New World in 1493.
Today, limes are grown in warmer climates since they are very susceptible to frost, namely the very southern states of America, Mexico, and Brazil.
Health Benefits of Limes
Limes are an excellent source of vitamin C. They are a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, folic acid and flavonoids.
Limes and other citrus fruit have also been associated with reducing cholesterol. In lab tests, it has been found that human liver cells produced less apo B, a compound associated with higher cholesterol levels, when exposed to limonin.
Laboratory tests of both animal and human cells have shown that citrus limonoids (found in lime and other citrus fruits) can help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach, and colon. Limonen works on the body to increase the levels of liver enzymes involved in detoxifying carcinogens.
New research at the Agricultural Research Service in northern California, has shown that humans can easily use the limonoid called limonin, and therefore enjoy all its health benefits, simply by biting into citrus fruit. One of its main features is that it can stay in the body for up to 24 hours after consumption, making it an effective way to reduce the growth of cancer cells.
Studies have shown that the high acid levels in limejuice are very effective in both inhibiting the growth of and killing cholera in food.
In a cholera epidemic in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa in October 1994, lime-rich meals acted as a preventative for patients who consumed them.
In a laboratory controlled preparation of ceviche, large masses of cholera in contaminated fish were eliminated after immersion in limejuice. After 5 minutes of immersion there was a 99% reduction of the initial bacterial mass and after 2 hours no cholera was detected. Thus limes and limejuice are greatly recommended to add to food and sauces in areas where the possibility of cholera is high, like rural and slum populations in the tropics and subtropics.
The volatile oil components extracted from Kaffir lime contains five sesquiterpene hydrocarbons and two sesquiterpene alcohols. Translated into English, lime extract has been shown to be effective as a mosquito repellent for up to three hours.