The West

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Lemons are now in season and in plentiful supply so many people are enjoying warm lemon-and-honey drinks to ward off coughs and colds or using lemon juice in their recipes.

It may surprise you to know that the outer thin yellow rind of the lemon (or zest) is far more nutritious than lemon juice itself as it contains five to 10 times more nutrients.

It is a powerhouse of Vitamin C and antioxidants, with immune-boosting, liver-toning, fat-burning and cholesterol-lowering benefits.

While the intense flavour and aroma of lemon zest have made it a popular food additive, the health value of the zest makes it an outstanding secret ingredient that should be better used rather than discarded.

Lemon zest contains an important essential oil, d.limonene, along with Vitamin C, flavanoids, more than 40 different flavone glycosides, citric acid and pectin.

One of the flavone compounds (PMF) has shown the potential to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol and it helps the body break down body fat.

The essential oil d.limonene helps to detoxify the liver and help it break down saturated fats, preservatives and chemicals.

In clinical trials, d.limonene has shown promising anti-cancer activity as it protects cell walls.

Immune-boosting nutrients are invaluable during winter and lemon zest has the power to help our immune systems fight viral, bacterial and fungal infections.

Instead of just juicing lemons and mixing with honey, try grating the zest of one lemon into the mixture or thinly peel one lemon, pour boiling water on to the lemon rind and make lemon tea, adding some honey to taste. Of course, it is essential to wash the lemon first to eliminate any surface impurities.

Another way to include the benefits of lemons in season is to wash them well and freeze them.

Grate the whole frozen lemon on to any foods ranging from soups and salads to casseroles, chicken or fish dishes; this way you're certainly value-adding nutrition as well as flavour for your family and friends.

In Mediterranean dishes, a combination of grated lemon zest, garlic and chopped parsley - gremolata - is sprinkled over meat, fish or poultry and this is a great idea for boosting winter immunity.

Very fine grating tools for removing just the lemon zest are available from kitchen shops. This will help you gain maximum taste and nutritional benefits without the bitter white pith.

Enjoy using this amazing ingredient and feel good about serving tasty food with a nutritional upgrade.

The West Australian

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