Fruits and Veggies You Should NEVER Peel: The Best Health Secrets
Drop that knife...
...and tell me if this sounds familiar.
When I was young, I always wanted to cut the crusts of my sandwiches off.
Among kids, this is not an uncommon preference.
Inevitably, as I would run the butter knife along the edges of my peanut butter and jelly, Mom would protest.
“Don’t cut off that crust - that’s where the vitamins are!”
To me... this sounded very superstitious, so I wouldn’t pay her any mind.
Here’s the interesting part…
We now know that there’s some truth to this (source). The crust of our bread may really be higher in antioxidants.
So what’s my point?
It got me thinking...
...what other secrets are hanging out in the bits of food we discard?
Are we focusing too intently on what’s inside?
Today, we’re going to discover the best nutritional secrets hanging out in the peels of fruits veggies health secrets.
Why Do We Peel?
First things first.
We need to address this.
Why in the world would the part that we ALL throw away be good for us?
If it truly were, wouldn’t evolution encourage us to eat it that way, rather than peeling it?
We could use a reminder that our modern produce looks and tastes differently than it did centuries ago (source).
As soon as we could, we bred fruits and veggies with a better flesh-to-skin ratio, a sweeter taste, and overall larger size.
The most accessible example of this would be apples. Have you ever had the opportunity to have an apple tree, or eat an apple that wasn’t grown in an orchard?
Chances are, it had a different taste. Apples of long ago were smaller and rather sour.
Our attitude toward skins is also somewhat related to our use of genetic modification.
Usually, we think of genetic modification as a modern phenomenon and a really divisive topic. In actuality, our best go-to staples are the product of centuries of it (source).
Back then, it was more about selective breeding.
More recently, our modification efforts have sprung from major scientific advances beginning in the 1970s.
By 1980, companies could patent their special organisms, leading us into a contentious era of food ethics.
On the whole, we regard skins as trash and have done our best to breed it down.
The inner flesh tastes more familiar and can be easier to chew, so we want more of that.
But skin’s are where some of the densest concentrations of vitamins are found, and here’s a clue as to why it’s healthy.
The color of many fruit and vegetable skins can differ from the inside, often being darker or more vibrant. We see this with cucumbers, eggplant, bananas, and much more.
Typically, fruits and veggies that are rich in color are this way because of the antioxidants found in the pigments.
Think of things like grapes, blueberries, and cherries.
They’re notorious for antioxidant content, and because they’re small and have a thin skin, we never think to peel them (source).
We go ahead and eat the most richly-colored part of the fruit. This is a key reason why they’re at the top of the superfood list.
Of course, there will always be peels to leave alone.
For instance, there may be no point to eating the skin of an avocado.
Additionally, you may not want to eat the rind of some squash (although I highly recommend eating kabocha rind) (source).
But overall, you should definitely start shifting your perception of what’s edible and what isn’t.
Isn’t the Peel… Dirty?
Peel, rind, skin…their entire purpose is to protect what’s inside, right?
As fruits and veggies mature, they undergo exposure to many things. Sun, dirt, wind, water, and probably fertilizer and pesticides.
To reduce our exposure to the more undesirable chemical agents, we have a few options.
We wash our produce, or we peel off the outside. Many of us do one or both in addition to buying organic.
Naturally, there are two schools of thought when it comes to organic produce.
One... the opposing view, ignores the larger problem of animal agriculture and claims organic practices are unsustainable.
The other views organic foods as more virtuous, free of any pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
To be honest, both views make valid points while avoiding the bigger picture.
No method, including organic, can truly be sustainable while factory farming looms over us (source).
It’s suspect to complain about greenhouse gases from composting while conventional animal agriculture leads the pack by an astonishing margin (source).
The simple fact remains that as long as we grow food for a large population, it will impact the environment.
On the other hand, organic does not mean there are no pesticides present (source).
It’s also unnecessary for people to go broke buying everything organic, particularly because they will not even eat the skin (source).
Moreover, even if organic produce wasn’t grown using your least-favorite pesticide, the world is full of them.
These pesticides can make their way over to your organic strawberries via a simple wind, or during transport (source).
For this and many other reasons (salmonella, listeria, and e. coli among them), you wash all produce before eating.
Organic produce is not immune to the many causes of contamination we avoid by washing, even with fewer pesticides.
However, I’d throw down just a few bucks on a nice scrub brush.
Here’s how we get our fruits and veggies clean enough to eat:
10 Fruits and Veggies You Should Never Peel
Now that your fruits and veggies are sparkling clean, they should be ready to eat.
However, what to peel, and what to never peel?
Here are 10 items featuring the best health benefits right in the skin.
1. Potatoes - fruits veggies health secrets
As they are grown in the soil, potatoes are an excellent source of minerals like magnesium and potassium (source).
In addition, they contain iron, fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K.
But if you want good concentrations of those nutrients from potatoes, you must follow two rules.
One - make sure your potatoes aren’t fried, and don’t cover them in cheese or butter.
Two - never peel them!
With respect to some nutrients, the skin can actually be more nutritious than the flesh.
Make bohemian-style mash by leaving the skins on, or enjoy the crispy skin of oven-baked fries. Less work in the kitchen, and better for your health.
Mangoes can be tough work to process.
You’re washing, peeling, and then paring as much flesh from the stone as possible. All told, it seems better to opt for the frozen bag of mango chunks.
But you can skip a step by eating your mango peel.
You get the vitamins A and C found in the flesh, but the skin provides a special antioxidant.
Mango’s peel-exclusive antioxidant has benefits comparable to resveratrol (source).
Surely, no one expects you to gnaw on orange peels.
But some of the orange’s most potent antioxidants collect in the pulpy white part of the rind.
To get at it, eat more zest (source).
Zest all of your oranges and other citrus fruits to get the maximum amount of phytonutrient. This part has even more vitamin C than the flesh.
No matter what kind of apple you choose, the inside is white, is it not?
Therefore, the color found in the skin is providing nutrition you’re throwing away when you peel it.
Much of what we hear about the nutritional value of apples discusses pectin (source).
Pectin is said to help aid with digestive issues, weight loss, cancer prevention, cholesterol, and more.
Well, you’ll have to eat the peel to get a lot of it.
5. Banana - fruits veggies health secrets
Admittedly, this is a tough one (no pun intended).
Could you ever picture yourself eating banana peels?
They actually do in other parts of the world, but in the west, banana peels are garbage, no question.
Let’s see what we can do to change that.
Try blending some of your peel into the smoothie with the flesh.
We often hear that kiwis are even better as vitamin C sources than an orange, and it’s true (source).
The skin itself contains more of this vitamin C. It adds an extra dimension of tartness to a fruit that already has so much flavor.
It’s rather easy to get used to eating kiwi skin. It’s very thin and not entirely unpleasant, it’s just that the fuzz can be irritating.
But did you know the fuzz rubs off pretty well with friction?
The tough, spiny rind of a pineapple is certainly not to be eaten outright.
But then again, the rind contains some of the highest concentrations of bromelain (source).
Bromelain is a very healing plant compound that also helps us absorb more of other nutrients (source).
To make use of the rind, include it while juicing your pineapple with this Juice Extractor.
While you’re juicing those pineapples, don’t forget the watermelon. The rind of a watermelon, while difficult to eat, is a prime source of citrulline (source).
Citrulline is an amino acid which our kidneys use to make arginine.
And as you might guess, most of it is found in the rind.
I like a nice red watermelon juice with lime - I actually can’t think of anything more refreshing.
However, save that rind for green juices.
It may be the most potent green juice ever!
The skin of the eggplant is so evocative, so dramatic, that it’s known in other countries by color alone - aubergine.
This member of the nightshade family often finds itself stripped naked for casseroles and sautés, but not in my house.
That’s because the skin of an eggplant contains nasunin.
Nasunin is yet another antioxidant you won’t get good quantities of from flesh alone(source).
The skin is also a favorable source of chlorogenic acid, an anti-inflammatory that’s great for blood sugar (source).
The papery skin of an onion is hardly appetizing.
However, you should definitely reconsider tossing these in the compost.
As it happens, that onion skin may have more antioxidant quercetin than the “edible” part of the onion (source).
But how in the world do you eat it? It’s simple - include them in your stocks and broths.
Instead of using just the inner quarters of an onion, plop that paper part in as well.
The same goes for celery tops, carrot skin, and other scraps.
Let all of these steep together, strain the liquid, and there it is. You get the extra antioxidants without having to chew your least favorite parts.
Okay that's all I have on...
Fruits Veggies Health Secrets
That’s about all the time I have.
In the end, I see little reason to peel all of your fruits and veggies.
One of the best health secrets I’ve collected in the last year or so is that the skin really is where the good stuff hides out.
In addition to the above, things like cucumbers and carrots never need to lose their skin.
During maturation, skins and rinds collect and absorb many of the exact nutrients we seek out by eating these things.
I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of putting down the peeler.
Would you ever eat a banana peel?
What do you think of the organic versus non-organic debate, and how do you clean your produce?
Share your thoughts below, and I’ll be back soon.