During the spring and summer, I love to enjoy picnics with family and friends. I cherish these trips to the park most, especially if they involve lemon chicken salad. But have you ever wondered why people put lemon juice into a chicken salad?
Lemon juice is a great addition to a chicken salad for multiple reasons: it is good for you, you can use it instead of vinegar, it adds flavor and aroma to the meal, it can soften the meat, and it makes the entire meal smell great.
Even though lemon might be unpleasant to taste alone, it makes a wonderful addition to both sweet and salty dishes. I love mixing it with chicken salad for several reasons, and I listed all of them in detail in the text below.
It Is Good for You
Lemon juice is a great vitamin C and various nutrients beneficial to your health. Lemon fruit contains around 31 mg of vitamin C, which is about 51% of the daily requirement. Of course, this amount will be lower once you squeeze out the juice; still, the benefits are evident. 
Consuming it daily helps reduce cholesterol levels. It contains iron and citric acid, which protect from anemia, and help absorb the iron from the food. Also, this fruit contains a fiber called pectin, which helps improve digestion and reduce blood sugar levels.
Since chicken salad may include heavier and less healthy ingredients like oils, eggs, mayonnaise, cheese, or even pasta, adding juice from one lemon can help balance the meal. To make your salad more nutritious, I suggest a mix of chicken meat, walnuts or almonds, celery, tarragon, olive oil, fresh basil, avocado, iceberg lettuce, spices, mustard, and lemon juice.
It Can Substitute for Vinegar
The sour lemon juice provides any salad with desired tangy flavor. Because it is refreshing and a bit sweet, I prefer using it over vinegar, which has a sharp taste.
Aside from flavor, vinegar also has a sharp smell. Even though it doesn’t affect the meal (if you add the right amount), lemon juice is brighter and more aromatic.
Although both ingredients contain acid and share some similarities, the nutritious value of lemon juice makes it always my first choice. And as I said, since it contains a large amount of vitamin C, iron, potassium, collagen, and other healthy nutrients, there is no real reason to avoid it. 
One of the best ways to substitute vinegar with lemon juice in chicken salad is to make a lemon vinaigrette. So, squeeze one lemon and mix it with minced garlic, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, dried oregano, tarragon, and a tablespoon of water, and pour it over the salad. Also, consider adding a teaspoon of honey, finely chopped spring onions, or roasted sesame seeds.
It Softens the Meat
It’s often used as an ingredient of a marinade because the acid it contains also helps soften the meat. Because of this, it is a perfect ingredient for a salad made out of leftover roasted chicken, which tends to get dry and tough after reheating.
The acid in the juice breaks down the proteins in the meat, making it tender and easy to chew. Adding lemon juice to the salad helps meat regain some of the moisture as well. However, avoid bottled, store-bought juice since it most likely contains additives that can change the flavor and nutritious value of the meat and the entire salad.
To get that tenderizing effect, squeeze lemon juice directly into the salad and mix it to ensure all ingredients are well blended.
It Adds Flavor
Lemon juice can add and enhance the flavors of the meal. Its citrusy aroma made it inevitable in many national cuisines — especially the Mediterranean. Bright, a bit sweet, slightly tangy, and refreshing, it can transform the bland chicken salad into a savory dish.
Combined with aromatic herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, mint, or dill, the flavors and smells are even more intense. I especially like using it when I make a salad with avocado since its mild flavor and zesty lemon juice are a match made in heaven. It also brings out the best in mayonnaise and other creamy dressings by cutting through their rich taste and making the entire dish lighter.
If you decide to prepare your mayonnaise for the salad at home, consider making it with lemon juice. It is a healthier and lighter version of this condiment worth trying out.
It Smells Good
As mentioned earlier, lemon juice has a specific aroma that makes it not only good to taste but to smell as well. It is fresh and zesty, and for me, summer days are almost unimaginable without it. Aside from that, it helps other smells intensify, so make sure to combine it with the right herbs and veggies, and you will most likely enjoy your picnic trip.