There’s no arguing that eating a diet filled with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is of benefit to our health. Whether these fruits and veggies are best consumed with or without their peel is often up for debate. Peels are usually discarded due to habit, preference or to help reduce the exposure to pesticides.
Did you know that on many plants, the peel is one of the most nutrient-dense parts? This blog will go through the benefits of eating the peel on certain fruits and vegetables plus some tips on how to make the most of the peels you don’t end up consuming.
Most of a plant’s nutrients are often found in its peel
Non-peeled produce typically contains higher amounts of nutrients compared to their peeled equivalents, yet many of us tend to discard them.
A generous proportion of a fruit or vegetable’s total fibre content can be found in its skin alone. The peel on an apple for example contains about half of the fruit’s overall dietary fibre content! Fibre found in fruit and vegetables keeps our digestive systems healthy and helps us to feel fuller for longer.
An abundance of vitamins and minerals are found in fresh produce, especially in their peel. Let’s take a look at potato skins for example. Approximately 100 grams of potato peel provides 7 times more calcium and 17 times more iron than the same amount of potato flesh! Sweet potato skin is especially rich in betacarotene which converts into vitamin A upon digestion, a nutrient responsible for supporting skin health and immune system health.
Antioxidants are also found in the peel of fruit and veggies. Antioxidants support the health of our cells, they help prevent damage to our body cells by free radicals. Antioxidants are especially found in the peel of deep and bright coloured fruit and veggies like eggplant and carrots. One particular antioxidant to note is one called quercetin. It is commonly found in the peel (and flesh) of apples, citrus fruits and grapes. Not only does it help to protect our cells from free radical damage, it also helps to reduce inflammation and allergy symptoms.
Tip: if you’re concerned about pesticide exposure on the peel of your fresh produce, consider giving your fruit and veg a good wash in some water and a splash of apple cider vinegar or use a specific fruit and veggie wash (you can find this in your local health food store).
Which peels can I enjoy?
Surprisingly, most peel from fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed. While most of us know that produce like apples, cucumbers, pears and carrots can be enjoyed with their peel on, we thought we’d go through some less-commonly known fruit and veggie peels that can also be enjoyed:
Pumpkin – slice a pumpkin into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and salt and any other herbs and spices of your choice and bake. The skin will become soft and delicious for consumption.
Sweet potato – after washing, dry the outside of each sweet potato before slicing and baking in the oven. Sweet potato wedges turn out much crispier with the peel on compared to when they’re peeled.
Kiwi fruit – although their texture is very furry, kiwi fruit peel can be eaten raw! Try slicing an unpeeled kiwi fruit into rounds. The furry peel is rich in fibre that helps with the elimination of waste from the bowels.
Squash – even though it has a fairly hard exterior similar to that of a pumpkin, squash can still be enjoyed unpeeled when cooked, it becomes tasty and tender. When buying squash, go for the ones with an exterior that feels the thinnest (this is to avoid consuming a thick, chewy peel after it’s been cooked).
What can I do with the peels I don’t consume?
The peel of certain fruits and vegetables are indelible, such as onion skins, melon peel and whole citrus rinds. Sometimes, due to preference, we choose to remove the peel off certain fruits and vegetables. Here are some of our top ideas on what to do with left-over fruit & veggie peels:
- Get zesting - citrus peel rinds, like orange, lemon and lime, are packed with flavour. Their strong essential oils are found in their rind and add a delicious, zingy flavour to both sweet and savoury recipes. Try grating their rind into cake mixes and stir fries
- Use them in a worm farm or compost bin – placing your food scraps either in a worm farm on compost bin will create nutrient-rich fertiliser that you can add to your garden to help you grow your beautiful flowers and any fresh produce you may be growing
- Candied peel – this is perfect for mandarins, lemons, limes and oranges. Slice their peel into skinny strips and simmer in a simple sugar syrup (1 part sugar to 2 parts water) for 15 minutes, then allow to dry out on a wire rack. They make lovely decorations for cakes and cupcakes
- Vegetable stock – Instead of adding store-bought veggie stock to your recipes, why not try making your own with your left over vegetable peels? Keep the ends of onions, carrot peels, discarded bits of celery & its leaves, stems from herbs etc. and simmer them in some water with any other vegetables and herbs you like (like garlic, turmeric and ginger) for at least an hour. Strain the stock through a sieve and voila, you have your very own vegetable stock
Lucier, M. (2014), You Should Eat the Peel of These 15 Fruits and Vegetables, STACK, cited on 27.5.2020, accessed <https://www.stack.com/a/fruit-vegetable-peel>