Want to get the greatest nutritional benefits from your favorite fruits and veggies? How about reduce food waste in the process? If your answer to both questions is a resounding yes, consider this a formal invitation to tuck your produce peeler back into its rightful drawer in your kitchen. Turns out that certain fruit and veggie peels can give a serious nutrition boost to your diet.
To discover why edible fruit and veggie peels deserve a rightful spot in your diet, we reached out to Megan Rossi, PhD, RD, a dietitian, gut health research fellow at King’s College London, and author of How to Eat More Plants.
The benefits of eating fruit and veggie peels
If you’ve been peeling the likes of apples, cucumbers, and countless other produce items only to discard the skin, Dr. Rossi says you’re missing out on a world of nutritional benefits. “Over the course of my decade working as a dietitian and gut specialist, I’ve seen many peels and skins go to waste due to their nutritional profiles not being known about,” she says. But have no fear, as a long overdue lesson of produce 101 is here.
To start, many fruits and veggies pack an impressive amount of fiber in these all-too-commonly discarded scraps. “The rich fiber content in peels and skins is something we need to shout about more,” says Dr. Rossi. After all, fiber is a dietary all-star for digestion, heart health, inflammation, and more—and an overwhelming amount of adults in the United States (around 93 percent, according to a 2021 report by the American Society for Nutrition) don’t get enough of this powerhouse nutrient. “Including more fiber in your diet can not only help keep your bowel movements regular, but also keep you fuller for longer and your blood fats in check,” she adds.
While fiber content will vary from one form of produce to the next, Dr. Rossi continues to say that, “generally speaking, vegetable peels actually contain up to 31 percent of their fiber in their skins.” In other words, crunching on (rather than tossing) them is a foolproof hack worth adopting to up your fiber intake with ease. “The extra fiber is not only beneficial for your microbes, but it’s also less wasteful and saves on time when preparing food too.” (A time-saving hack that’s good for you *and* the planet? Cue the slow clap.)
But that’s not all. Dr. Rossi mentions that antioxidant levels in fruit “can be up to 328 times higher in peels than the flesh,” so you’ll want to keep these on—or save them for another use, at the very least—to maximize their inflammation-fighting, free radical-scavenging potential.
Fruit and veggie peels worth eating (if you don’t already)
While there are too many fruits and veggies to name with skin you *can* peel off—but likely won’t want to upon discovering the dietary prowess they contain—Dr. Rossi calls out a few noteworthy and even surprising ones amongst them.
Apples take the top spot on Dr. Rossi’s list of peels and skins you should keep on and enjoy. “An apple with skin contains up to 332 percent more vitamin K, 142 percent more vitamin A, and 115 percent more vitamin C than its peeled counterpart,” she shares.
Sure—an apple a day may keep the doctor away, but an unpeeled apple can potentially stave off a visit to the MD for a little while further. Better yet, there are so many apple varieties to choose from, so you can switch up tartness and delight your taste buds while still maxing out your intake of the aforementioned alphabet vitamins.
Dr. Rossi cites potatoes as another type of produce that she suggests consuming the skins of. “Potato skins are packed with fiber; they also contain up to 175 percent more vitamin C and 115 percent more potassium than a potato that’s peeled,” she says.
Some recipes may call for peeled potatoes, so if you prefer to stick with this method, know that you can (and should!) give the skins a second life for another dish, such as Dr. Rossi’s own go-to snack: crispy homemade chips. “Just toss in extra virgin olive oil, then season them with smoky paprika and rock salt before popping them in the oven or grill,” she advises. Within minutes, you’ll have a delicious, crunchy, fiber-rich snack that’s bound to be healthier than store-bought varieties.
Yes, you read that right: Kiwis make the cut for Dr. Rossi’s list of produce peels worth eating. (Full disclosure: I’ve always been pro-peel, but when I watched a cast member on I Live Alone—my favorite Korean variety show—bite into a whole kiwi with skin and all in one episode, I admit that my jaw did drop.)
While Dr. Rossi understands that it may take some extra effort to rally behind her suggestion, it’s both safe and beneficial to feast on the fuzz. “Consuming a kiwi with skin on is thought to triple the fiber content, as well as help retain a greater amount of vitamin C,” she reassures us. Admittedly, the texture may not be for everyone—so if you want to test the waters to start, heed this one hack she swears by. “If you’re new to eating kiwi skin, slice the kiwi circles finely to reduce the feeling of fuzziness on your tongue,” she advises.
Any produce peels you shouldn’t eat?
If you’re still incredulous over the kiwi rec above, rest assured that neither Dr. Rossi nor I are going to advise that you chow down on the thorny exterior of pineapples or save onion peels to sprinkle as a garnish. Despite the benefits of peels and skins in many fruits and veggies as touched on above, she still has a no-go list.
“I wouldn’t recommend tucking into fruits and veggies with a harder, tougher exterior,” says Dr. Rossi, citing the likes of avocados, bananas, and honeydew as a few examples worth passing on. And though the peels of citrus fruits appear to fall under this umbrella, while you may not choose to eat them whole, they can be saved for other uses. “It’s worth remembering to save the skins of your citrus fruit—such as lemons, limes and oranges—as the zests can be grated into salad dressings, marinades, and baked goods for extra zing.”
A few exceptions aside, Dr. Rossi says there’s no real need to take the skin off of many fruits and veggies. In fact, keeping them on is a seamless, healthy hack to boost your intake of fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Of course, some people may not enjoy the taste or texture of some peels, but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to miss out on these benefits completely.
“Smoothies are a great way to repurpose peels plus add any extra veggies in,” Dr. Rossi says, adding that she even adds frozen zucchini peels to her own blends concoctions for a creamy texture. “When blended with yogurt, dates, and other fruits, you can’t even taste them.” In addition, she recommends collecting any leftover edible scraps so you can whip up a base for soups and stews.
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