In the United States, we’ve spent decades mechanizing our farms and developing the infrastructure needed to transport our food over great distances. As a result, we’ve ended up with some of the cheapest food in human history. Despite the rising prices you see in grocery stores, it’s still far easier and more affordable for us to attain food than it was for our ancestors.
After several generations of this food abundance, our taste buds have changed quite a bit. We tend to savor only the very best parts of our food, and cut out anything that doesn’t have an ideal flavor or texture. When you examine the eating habits of poorer countries, you’ll usually find them eating things like insects, or the parts of animals that would make most Westerners wince.
By itself, there’s nothing really wrong with this. Having more money and cheaper food means we have the luxury of skipping over certain food sources. However, some of the foods we shun actually have a very high density of nutrients that we’re missing out on, and in many cases, don’t really taste that bad. One of the greatest food sources we’ve come to ignore, is the peels and rinds of fruit. Most people don’t realize that fruit peels often contain a higher concentration of nutrients than the fruit itself. So if you’re looking to get more nutrition out of your food budget, here’s a few fruit peels you might consider trying sometime.
While most people would cringe at the thought of eating a mango peel, it does in fact contain some very potent nutrients. Chief among them are quercetin and mangiferin, which have been known to protect the body’s cells from oxidative damage. Mango skins also contain the more widely known chemical, Resveratrol. One common concern though, is the small amounts of urushiol that are concentrated in the skin. Urushiol is the same irritating compound found in poison oak and poison ivy. For most people, the dosage found in mango skins will have no effect, but it’s widely suggested that if you have an extreme sensitivity to poison oak, you should avoid the skins.
The outer skin of the banana contains about the same amount of potassium as the fruit itself, and also has quite a bit of dietary fiber. It also contains a considerable amount of tryptophan, the notorious chemical that we blame our food comas on, every thanksgiving. However, banana peels aren’t known for making us sleepy. Research has shown that tryptophan may help elevate our mood and sense of well being, and is a mild and natural antidepressant.
While they can be eaten raw, most people consider it to be rather unpleasant. You can wait for the banana to ripen, which will yield a very soft and sweeter peel, or you can boil them for 5 or 10 minutes. In most east Asian countries, banana peels are frequently fried and served by themselves, or they can be pureed and mixed with fruit.
The first time I ever tried a Kiwi, I ate it the same way you might eat a small apple. It never occurred to me that you shouldn’t eat the skin, though I can see why most people might think that. Those strange hairy fibers are probably responsible for turning most folks away from the skin. However, it’s quite edible. It’s is very thin and easy to chew, and doesn’t really have a strong flavor of any kind. As for health benefits, the skin is filled with large amounts of vitamin C and fiber, as well as copper, potassium, and magnesium.
This one is a little more common in western countries, where orange and lime peels are sometimes grated and added to meals. What most folks don’t know, is how powerful a citrus peel can be for your health. Like the other entries on this list, it contains quite a bit of fiber. However it also contains vitamin C, vitamin A, flavanoids, and hespiridin. All together these properties make orange peels (and other citrus peels) an excellent antioxidant supplement.
While it is inadvisable to to eat the green skin of a watermelon, the white part of the rind is quite safe and nutritious, and contains small amounts of vitamin C and vitamin B6. However, the most beneficial nutrient in the rind, is known as Citrulline. This compound is an antioxidant known to aid the immune and circulatory systems of the human body. It works by relaxing the blood vessels, and some researchers have theorized that it may be able to treat erectile dysfunction.
So if you’re looking to get more out of your food, take a look at some of the fruit you frequently eat. Many of them contain perfectly edible skins, or peels that only need some preparation to be palatable. Just make sure to wash them like you would with any other fruit, and I would suggest that you buy organic. The outer layer of most fruits and veggies are notorious for harboring large amounts of pesticide. Consider peel consumption to be a great way to get more bang for your buck, with those pricier organic items.