Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles in the body. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that must be obtained through the diet. Citrus fruits like lemons are excellent sources of vitamin C. One lemon can provide over 30 mg of vitamin C, which is a significant portion of the recommended daily intake of 75-90 mg for adults.
Many people like to freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays for later use in recipes, drinks, and other applications. Freezing is a common method of preserving foods and extending shelf life. However, there are concerns that the freezing process may lead to nutrient degradation in foods over time.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how freezing affects vitamin C levels in lemon juice. We’ll cover:
- The importance of vitamin C and its roles in the body
- How much vitamin C is found in fresh lemon juice
- The effects of freezing on vitamin C levels
- Tips for retaining vitamin C when freezing lemon juice
- The shelf life of frozen lemon juice
The importance of vitamin C
Vitamin C is crucial for many aspects of health. Here are some of the key functions of this nutrient in the body:
- Immune function – Vitamin C supports immune cell function and acts as an antioxidant to protect cells against damage.
- Collagen production – Vitamin C is required to make collagen, an important structural protein found in skin, bones, blood vessels, and other tissues.
- Absorption of plant-based iron – Vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron from plant foods.
- Bone health – Vitamin C plays a role in promoting bone formation and mineralization.
- Healthy gums – Vitamin C helps maintain healthy gums and prevent bleeding.
- Wound healing – Vitamin C aids in the repair and regeneration of tissues after injury.
- Heart health – Vitamin C may support cardiovascular health by protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Signs of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, joint and muscle aches, bruising easily, dry hair and skin, gingivitis, and impaired wound healing. Severe deficiency over long periods can lead to scurvy.
Vitamin C content in lemon juice
The amount of vitamin C in lemon juice depends on the variety and size of the lemon. On average, one fluid ounce (30 mL) of raw lemon juice provides around 23-25 mg of vitamin C.
This table shows the vitamin C content of lemon juice from different size lemons:
|Lemon||Vitamin C per fluid ounce|
|Small (2″ diameter)||20 mg|
|Medium (3″ diameter)||23 mg|
|Large (3.5″ diameter)||25 mg|
As you can see, vitamin C content increases as lemon size increases. Juice from a large 3.5 inch lemon provides about 25 mg per fluid ounce, or 75 mg per 3 ounce serving.
Does freezing destroy vitamin C in lemon juice?
Freezing itself does not destroy vitamin C. However, some nutrient loss can occur over time when lemon juice is frozen and stored for an extended period.
Vitamin C is relatively stable during freezing and normal frozen storage. Studies show frozen fruit and vegetable products retain 85-90% of their original vitamin C content after up to 12 months of storage if properly processed and packaged.
However, vitamin C degradation can accelerate during prolonged frozen storage due to factors like:
- Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen can cause oxidation and breakdown of vitamin C over time.
- Freezer burn – Damage to food from dehydration and oxidation.
- Temperature fluctuations – Variations in temperature during storage and transport.
- Packaging – Use of improper packaging materials and methods.
- Thawing and refreezing – Can increase nutrient loss.
With optimal freezing and storage methods, frozen lemon juice can retain its vitamin C content with minimal losses for up to 12 months when kept consistently at 0°F (-18°C) or below.
Tips for retaining vitamin C when freezing lemon juice
Here are some best practices for maximizing preservation of vitamin C when freezing lemon juice:
- Use ripe, fresh lemons. Avoid old or damaged fruit.
- Gently squeeze juice from lemons by hand rather than juicing forcefully, which can destroy nutrients.
- Freeze lemon juice in airtight containers or freezer bags, leaving little headspace.
- Seal containers tightly to prevent freezer burn.
- Wrap or cover containers with aluminum foil to protect against light exposure.
- Label containers with date and contents.
- Freeze lemon juice immediately after juicing.
- Maintain consistent frozen storage temperature at or below 0°F.
- Avoid thawing and refreezing. Use within a day or two after thawing.
Shelf life of frozen lemon juice
How long frozen lemon juice lasts depends on storage conditions. General guidelines for maximum shelf life are:
|Storage Temperature||Estimated Shelf Life|
|0°F (-18°C) or below||12 months|
|0°F to 10°F (-18°C to -12°C)||6-9 months|
|10°F to 32°F (-12°C to 0°C)||2-3 months|
Properly stored frozen lemon juice retains its safety and most of its vitamin C content for up to one year in the freezer. It may still be safe beyond this time, but vitamin C levels will gradually deplete.
Signs that frozen lemon juice may be expired and should be discarded include:
- Ice crystals or frozen liquid has turned yellow or brown
- Unfrozen portions look moldy or smell unpleasant
- Container is ruptured or seriously damaged
- Juice smells or tastes off after thawing
Freezing is an effective method for preserving lemon juice and retaining its vitamin C content. With proper freezing techniques and storage at consistent cold temperatures, frozen lemon juice can maintain most of its original vitamin C level for up to one year.
To maximize nutrient retention, it’s important to freeze lemon juice promptly after juicing in airtight containers, protect against light exposure, and maintain optimal frozen storage conditions. Discard frozen lemon juice if it shows signs of damage, spoilage, or tastes off after thawing.
Enjoying frozen lemon juice allows you to capture the fresh flavor and nutrition of lemons year-round. Freezing is ideal for preserving seasonal citrus harvests or taking advantage of lemons when they are in peak quality and bargains are available.