Is Lime a Fruit or Vegetable?

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Limes are these green, round fruits that are used to add flavor to many sweet, refreshing drinks.

Limes are also used to add flavor to many savory dishes. 

So is lime a fruit or vegetable? Would you believe it’s both?

This article will explain how to classify limes. 

Limes Cut Up
Limes Cut Up

Is Lime a Fruit or a Vegetable?

A lime is both a fruit and vegetable. Science classifies lime as a fruit, while the culinary usage classifies lime as a vegetable. 

Lime is botanically named the Citrus aurantiifolia. Its popular plant name is the Key Lime Tree. Other lime species include:

  • Citrus glauca (Desert lime)
  • Citrus latifolia (Persian lime)
  • Citrus hystrix (Makrut lime)

Limes find the perfect habitat in Central America and Mexico. Some sources believe limes originated in Northern India, Malaysia, and Myanmar.

Why Is Lime a Fruit?

Lime gets its classification as a fruit because it develops from flowers on the branches of the lime tree and contains seeds. Science defines fruit as plant parts that contain female reproductive organs.

All citrus trees can reproduce sexually. The male pollen from citrus blooms will fertilize a lime flower’s female ovary to produce a seed. 

Once the bloom has been fertilized, it will fall from the tree, permitting the flower ovary to expand into a lime fruit.

Why Is Lime a Vegetable?

Limes have a very sour, almost bitter taste. For this reason, they are used more frequently in savory cuisine, hence their consideration as a vegetable.

The word vegetable is not considered to be a scientific classification. The term vegetable is used predominantly as a culinary label for more savory dishes.

In the broader sense, vegetable refers to the edible leaves, stems, roots, blooms, and even fruit of a plant. So, limes, although citrus fruits, would also be considered vegetables.

Limes Growing on Trees
Limes Growing on Trees

Lime vs. Lemon: What’s the Difference?

Limes and lemons are two different fruits that are related, but genetically different. Limes, like lemons and oranges, contain citric acid in their juice. For this reason, these fruits are considered citrus fruits.

Nutritionally, they resemble each other. When comparing them, their carbs, fat, and protein content are nearly identical. Limes will have a bit more carbs and calories, but the difference is insignificant.

Limes3.5-oz. servingLemons
11 grCarbohydrates9 gr
3 grFiber3 gr
1 grProtein1 gr

Some experts believe that the lemon is the hybrid result of the breeding of a lime with a citron. The citron is a much larger yellow citrus fruit with an exceptionally thick outer skin. This is one of several theories.

Limes are cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas. Lemons can be successfully grown in moderate climates.

Both fruits are appreciated and used for their sour flavor. They can be found in numerous culinary dishes globally. Their uses are not limited to cooking but include flavoring, and food preservation.

Both lemons and limes are also used in cleaning products due to their antibacterial properties and fragrance.

But while they share many similarities, they also have noteworthy differences. The most obvious is in their appearance. Lemons are usually a vivid yellow while limes are a light green color. Some lime varieties may turn yellow with maturation.

Limes also tend to be smaller than lemons and appear rounder. Lemons are shaped more like an oval. Both are known for a tart flavor, with lemons tasting somewhat sweeter in contrast to a lime’s bitterness.

These two citrus fruits are also used similarly for culinary purposes. Typical uses include sauces, salad dressings, beverages, marinades, and cocktails. Lemons are used in both savory dishes and sweet desserts, whereas limes are used mostly in savory cuisine.

Read more in the guide Is Lemon a Vegetable or Fruit? 

Lime Nutritional Content

Although limes are small, they are nutritional powerhouses. They contain a good amount of vitamin C.

Consider that a medium lime weighing roughly 67 grams is 20 calories and contains:

  • 22% of the Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin C
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 1% of the DV of potassium
  • 9 grams of fiber
  • 2% of the DV of iron
  • 7 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2% of the DV of Vitamin B6
  • 2% of the DV of calcium
  • 2% of the DV of thiamin

Limes also contain tiny amounts of:

  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Phosphorous
  • Riboflavin

Lime Health Benefits

There are a number of health benefits from consuming limes. 

Lime Flavored Drinks
Lime Flavored Drinks

1. Limes Improve the Immune System

Limes contain a good amount of vitamin C. This strengthens the immune system response. Vitamin C is also known to be effective against the common cold. Limes also contain antioxidants which protect the body from free radical damage.

2. Limes Protect the Skin

The vitamin C in limes is necessary to produce collagen. Collagen is a protein that is necessary for strengthening and firming the skin. Limes boast lots of antioxidants which work against skin aging and oxidative stress.

3. Limes Protect Heart Health

Research indicates that limes can aid in the reduction of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C aids in lowering blood pressure. It also aids in protecting against atherosclerosis and plaque buildup in arteries.

4. Limes Protect Against Cancer

Citrus fruits like limes contain compounds linked to lowering the risk of some cancers. Antioxidants like flavonoids may block cancer development and progression. Some research indicates that citrus fruits suppress or block the spread of:

  • Bone marrow cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Lymphoma cancer
  • Pancreas cancer
  • Throat cancers

Different Uses of Lime

Limes are a basic ingredient used in both Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine. In India, limes are pickled. In the U.S. you will find them in baked goods, desserts including ice cream and Key Lime Pie.

Lime twists are a favorite in both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. They can be used in numerous savory recipes.

For those that prefer natural cleaning solutions, lime has antimicrobial properties. You can mix lime juice and vinegar for a natural spray cleaner.

Is Lime a Fruit or a Vegetable? Final Thoughts

Limes are both a fruit and vegetable, but most people think of them as a fruit. 

Limes are an excellent source of nutrition. They are low in calories, but still contain some good nutrients. The fact that they are so versatile makes them a great addition to any diet.

Check out these other articles to learn about other plants and foods to see if they’re a fruit or vegetable: 

Fast Growing Trees and Plants

Photo of author

Written by:

Denise Davis
Denise Davis is an avid gardener, deeply rooted in growing organic veggies and crafting homemade fertilizers. She cherishes the earthy essence of composting and the continuous learning that gardening provides. Denise sees gardening as a holistic activity, offering physical and mental benefits alongside the joy of consuming what you cultivate. Her passion is to inspire others to embrace gardening as a rewarding, healthful lifestyle.

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