Drop the Peeler!
Eating the skins of fruit and vegetables could boost your nutritional intake of vitamins, combat cancer and increase your energy levels. Dr Marilyn Glenville, former president of the Food and Health Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine, says: All fruit and vegetables have a “bio-synergy”, which means the nutritional benefits of each part are reinforced by the others. And the skin is not the only healthy bit we discard — stalks and cores can also be packed with nutrients.
When you’re chopping up fruits and vegetables for juices and smoothies, it seems as if half of the produce goes in the garbage in the form of rinds, peels and skins. Well guess what, you might have been throwing away some valuable nutrients! Rich in health-protective phytochemicals and antioxidants, the outer layers of fruits and vegetables are often more nutritious than the food they protect.
(Please note that all produce should be Organic and must be washed thoroughly before being eaten, to minimize exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals)
There are over 60 different types of flavonoids in citrus, plant compounds that are known to exhibit antioxidant properties in humans. Many of these flavonoids have their highest concentrations within the peel. Naringin is a flavonoid found in grapefruit and grapefruit peel, mandarin peel and lemon peel (though not the fruit). Studies have shown that naringin is a powerful antioxidant, so powerful that it may reduce radiation-induced damage to the cells of the body. (Note that naringin can also increase the effects of certain drugs; you should consult with your doctor if you regularly consume these foods). Hesperidin, another flavonoid, is found in the white inner layer of lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges, and has been shown to inhibit bone loss and decrease serum and liver lipids in postmenopausal mice.
Citrus peels also contain an aromatic compound called d-limonene, basically the essential oil that gives the fruit its distinctive smell. This compound has a well-established reputation for chemopreventive activity against many types of cancer, especially colorectal and breast cancer. Limonene is also used in the treatment gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) due to its ability to neutralize gastric acid. In addition, limonene is a solvent of cholesterol and can help dissolve gallstones that contain cholesterol.
Orange and tangerine peel is high in powerful antioxidants called super-flavonoids, which can significantly reduce levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, without lowering the ‘good’ HDL levels.The antioxidants obtained from the peel were 20 times more powerful than those from the juice, according to a U.S. study. The same goes for all citrus fruits – the white pith contains high levels of pectin, a component of dietary fibre known to lower cholesterol and colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria.
Gram for gram, citrus peels also contain higher levels of many minerals and vitamins such as vitamin C and dietary fiber than the fruit. For example, 1 tablespoon of lemon peel contains double the amount of vitamin C and triple the amount of fiber than 1 wedge of lemon without the peel, according to the USDA database.
Though citrus peels may be considered by some people to be bitter tasting, in some populations, such as the American Southwest, citrus peel consumption is rather common. Though many people peel their fruit before juicing, a good powered juicer will be able to handle the peel of citrus fruits. You can also zest or grate the peel and add to your salads, smoothies and baked goods.
Yes, the white rind is tart, but by throwing away the rind, not only are you discarding about 40% of the fresh weight of the watermelon, you are losing a potent source of citrulline. Citrulline is an amino acid that is converted to arginine in the body. Arginine increases blood flow, decreasing blood pressure and improving overall cardiovascular health. Arginine may also have an anti-diabetic effect. Dietary arginine supplementation has been shown to decrease blood sugars in diabetic rats, and a 2011 research study published in Food Science & Biotechnology found that mice supplemented with an extract of watermelon rind had both increased insulin levels and decreased blood glucose levels.
Watermelon rind is also lower in sugar content than the flesh, and higher in potassium and dietary fiber. Instead of throwing the white rind away, when you cut up the watermelon flesh leave some of the white rind attached. You can juice the watermelon this way, or add it to smoothies. If you find the result a little bitter, the addition of sweet fruits and/or spices such as fresh ginger will offset the bitterness. Pickled watermelon rind is also a classic Southern alternative to pickles.
Strange as it may sound, in some parts of the world eating a mango with its skin on is the norm. Perhaps those cultures know that the mango skin contains a significant amount of antioxidants and healthful compounds that are only found in small amounts in the mango pulp. Mangiferin is a phytochemical found in large amounts in the skin. A powerful antioxidant, mangiferin has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties in numerous research studies. Mangiferin may be especially effective as a protectant against skin cancer and this UV-protectant ability is valued in the cosmetics industry.
Mangoes can be eaten raw with their skin on, though some people may not like the texture or find the taste to be bitter. If you find that to be the case, cut up the mango with its skin and blend in a high powered blender, mixing with other fruits and vegetables. Choose some of the thinner skinned varieties and make sure the fruit is ripe, as that is when the skin is at its thinnest. Like the watermelon rind, mango skin can be pickled. Mango skin can also be sun or oven dried to make a crunchy chip.
While mango skin is edible, please note that it can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Known as “mango itch” in Hawaii, the sap of the mango tree and mango skin contain urushiol, the same compound responsible for the itchy skin rash seen in poison ivy and poison oak. People who are sensitive to poison ivy and oak may also be sensitive to the urushiol in mangoes and should avoid eating the skin.
This denotes the papery skin beneath the shell that surrounds the peanut. This skin is discarded in peanut manufacturing due to the high fatty oil content that can turn rancid and limit shelf life. Most peanut butters are made with blanched peanuts where the skin is discarded, which is quite a shame, as the skin contains high amounts of antioxidants. In fact, according to a 2005 study, peanut skin contains double the amount of total antioxidants than the highly touted green tea.
One of these antioxidants is resveratrol, which is also found in the skins of red grapes. Resveratrol promotes cardiovascular health by inhibiting the formation of blood clots and reducing inflammation (preventing artherosclerosis). Though also thought to defend the body against cancer through its assistance in cancer cell death, among other things, resveratrol might be best known for its defense against aging.
The easiest way to incorporate peanut skins into your diet is to buy roasted peanuts in their shell. Break open the shell and consume both peanut and skin. Some health food stores may also have unskinned peanuts available to grind for peanut butter.
This refers to the hard, dark green part of the leek at the top that is always thrown away in favor of the white and light green parts. Not only are the leaves edible, but according to several studies, the leaves have stronger antioxidant properties than the rest of the leek. Kaempferol is found in large quantities in the leek leaves. Like resveratrol, kaempferol has been shown to inhibit arterial plaque formation and prevent oxidative damage to our cells. Kaempferol is also chemopreventive, inhibiting the formation of cancer cells within the body.
While the green leaves are thicker than the shaft of the leek, they only need a little time to cook. The secret is to slice them fairly thinly, in rounds or strips. Braise them in a little stock, or sauté them in a little oil over medium heat until lightly browned and use as a garnish. Chop them up and add them to your vegetables when making stocks.
The hairy skin of the kiwi fruit is high in antioxidants and thought to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. The skin contains three times the antioxidants of the pulp and it also fights off bugs such as Staphylococcus and E-coli, which are responsible for food poisoning.
Don’t panic — it’s the tough core of the pineapple, not the prickly skin you should be tucking into. Along with fibre and vitamin C, a pineapple’s real benefit lies in an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down food and dead human tissues linger in the digestive system quickly, protecting the stomach. ‘The core of a pineapple contains twice the bromelain concentration of the surrounding fruit.
Those neat little florets look more appealing, but there’s every reason to also eat the stalks. Broccoli stalks can be less flavorful than the florets, but they are notably higher in calcium and vitamin C and the stalks are also high in soluble fibre, so you’ll feel fuller for longer.
Researchers in Taiwan discovered banana peel extract can ease depression as it is rich in serotonin, the mood-balancing chemical. The skin was also found to be good for eyes, as it contains the antioxidant lutein which protects eye cells from exposure to ultraviolet light — a leading cause of cataracts.
Garlic skin contains six separate antioxidant compounds, according to research from Japan. ‘Peeling garlic cloves removes the phenylpropanoid antioxidants which help fight the ageing process and protect the heart.
Pumpkin, Butternut and Other Squashes
All squashes are high in zinc, which helps promote healthy skin and nails, and the antioxidant beta carotene which protects against heart disease and cancer. The skin itself is obviously too tough to eat, but the closer you scrape it against the skin for the pulp — where it’s more of a rich, orange color — the more nutrients you’ll get. And don’t ditch the seeds, either — these are an excellent source of Omega 6 and essential fatty acids that keep your brain healthy.
Most people know potato skins are healthy, but few are aware of the reason why. It’s because the skin is a real nutritional powerhouse. Just one fist-sized potato skin provides half your daily recommended intake of soluble fibre, potassium, iron, phosphorous zinc and vitamin C.
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