To peel or not to peel

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To peel or not to peel

Often, the antioxidant levels are higher in the skins than in the fruit itself

To peel or not to peel

Fruit and vegetable skin often contain high levels of antioxidants, fibres and nutrients. Anyway, not all vegetable and fruit skins are edible and tasty, some of them are actually hard to digest.

We throw away the peeled skins of fruits and vegetables without even giving it a second thought but those peeled skins contain essential nutrients including fibre, vitamins and minerals. Often, the antioxidant levels are higher in the skins than in the fruit itself.

Experts share that including a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet can significantly benefit your overall health. Amid the pandemic, people have realised the benefits of a nutritious immune-boosting diet as health and immunity have taken centre stage.

However, there has always been equal debate and confusion about whether fruits and vegetables should be consumed with or without peeling.

Dr Nitish Bhargava, a food, lifestyle and wellness expert, says that any fruit or vegetable that can be eaten with the skin should be consumed without peeling.

"Always pick the fruits that can be consumed without peeling off the skin or fibre that's present in the skin. Fruit and vegetable peels are packed with essential nutrients. The skin of the fruit has a lot of fibre. Remember, 25-30 percent of a fruit's nutritional benefits like vitamins and minerals are present in its skin," he added.

According to Healthline, several studies also show that consuming fruits with their fibrous peels can make you feel fuller by reducing your hunger. "Fibre may do this by either physically stretching the stomach, slowing how quickly it empties or influencing the speed at which fullness hormones are released in your body."

Thus, unpeeled fruits and vegetables can not only increase your daily intake of nutrients but also help you lose weight. Let's discover together which ones you should peel, and how to eat their skins or re-use them!

Apples

The skin of an apple contains about half of the apple's overall dietary fibre content. A medium apple also delivers 9 milligrams of vitamin C, 100 IUs of vitamin A, and 200 grams of potassium. By removing the peel, you lose about a third of those nutrients.
The peel also has four times more vitamin K than its flesh. Vitamin K, also prevalent in meat and in spinach and other green veggies, helps you form blood clots that patch you up when you have a bad scrape and helps activate the proteins your body needs for cell growth and healthy bone maintenance. An apple's skin boasts potential benefits beyond its vitamin content. An antioxidant called quercetin, found mostly in the apple's skin, can help lung function, ease breathing problems and protect your lungs from irritants. Quercetin is also believed to fight off brain tissue damage and protect your memory.

Potatoes

A potato's skin packs more nutrients: iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, ounce-for-ounce than the rest of the potato. For example, 100 grams of potato peel packs seven times more calcium and 17 times more iron than the same amount of potato flesh.
Ditch the skin and you'll also lose up to 90 per cent of a potato's iron content and half of its fibre. And don't forget the skin of a sweet potato is loaded with a significant amount of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A during digestion. Vitamin A is essential for cell health and immune system regulation, and it is instrumental in maintaining organ function.

Oranges

The peel of an orange pack contains twice as much vitamin C as what's inside. It also contains higher concentrations of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The peel's flavonoids have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Citrus fruit also boosts iron absorption.
As nutritious as citrus peels are, you're unlikely to start eating oranges whole. The entire peel is bitter and difficult to digest. Instead, grate the peel using a micro plane or another tool and sprinkle it on top of salads. Citrus shavings make a good pairing with ice cream and chocolate as well.

Cucumbers

The dark green skin contains the majority of a cucumber's antioxidants, insoluble fibre and potassium. The cucumber peel also holds most of its vitamin K. Cucumbers can also be an excellent way to improve your hydration. They add a nice, refreshing flavour to a glass of water, and they're also 96 percent water themselves.

Kiwi

You've probably been spooning out the green flesh inside for years, but a kiwi's fuzzy exterior is also edible. In fact, the skin contains more flavonoids, antioxidants and vitamin C than the insides. The kiwifruit skin is completely edible and makes this nutrient-dense fruit even more nutritious. So ditch the spoon, wash the kiwi and eat it like a peach. If you find the fuzz unappetizing,  scrape it off first.

Eggplant

An eggplant's purple hue comes from a powerful antioxidant called nasunin. This helps protect against cancerous development, especially in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Nasunin is also believed to have anti-ageing properties. Eggplant skin is also rich in chlorogenic acid, a phytochemical that boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
It also promotes glucose tolerance. Although the eggplant interior contains chlorogenic acid, it's much more prevalent in the skin. Cooked eggplant is a common meat replacement for vegans due to its tender texture.

Mango

Mango skin contains properties similar to resveratrol, which helps burn fat and inhibits the production of mature fat cells. Mango's peel contains fair quantities of carotenoids, polyphenols, omega-3, omega-6 and polyunsaturated fatty acids than its flesh. Another study found compounds more heavily concentrated in mango's skin that fight off cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Mango skin also has quercetin, a powerful antioxidant.

The skin of a mango can be eaten raw or cooked. Another way to eat a mango without peeling is to eat its pickle.

Carrots

Since the skin of a carrot is the same colour as what's directly beneath it (like tomato or red pepper), then peel and its flesh has similar nutritional properties. However, the highest concentration of phytonutrients is found in a carrot's skin or immediately underneath. Just rinse the carrot thoroughly rather than peeling it to reap these benefits. Carrots are a fantastic source of vitamin A, which is how they earned their reputation as a sight superfood.

Bhargava says, "Critical for vision as an essential component of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in the retinal receptors, and because it supports the normal differentiation and functioning of the conjunctival membranes and cornea."

Watermelon

Watermelon contains citrulline. Citrulline has antioxidant properties and converts to arginine. Arginine is an essential amino acid that is beneficial to the heart, immune system and circulatory system. But most of that citrulline is found in the rind. Eating a rind might sound unappetizing, but it can be pickled (like a cucumber), or simply sautéed and seasoned. Or throw it in a blender with the watermelon flesh, and add some lime.
In addition to citrulline, watermelon is also a great source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Onions

You can't actually eat onion skin. But there are other ways to access those nutrients. Like apple skin and mango skin, the outside of an onion's skin contains quercetin. Although the skin is not directly edible, you can draw out some of those powerful nutrients by adding them to stock. Onion's distinct aroma and sweetness come from their high level of antioxidants.
They're a great way to add flavour without sending the sodium level of a dish skyrocketing.

Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that can help reduce inflammation, especially in the nose and sinuses. One study found that a pineapple's core and peel yielded the highest amount of bromelain in the fruit, at 40 per cent by weight.
The skin and core of a pineapple straight-up would be tough on your digestive system, so try putting them through a powerful juicer. There are also recipes for pineapple skin tea available online.

Banana

A banana's peel contains way more fibre than its flesh and is likewise richer in potassium. The peel also contains lutein, a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in maintaining healthy eye function. An amino acid called tryptophan is more highly concentrated in the peel than the insides. Among other things, tryptophan is believed to ease depression by increasing the body's levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects mood.
Although the peel has a bitter taste and tough, ropey consistency most people aren't used to, an overripe banana (brown or black) becomes thinner, sweeter and easier to chew. You can also put the peel (ripe or overripe) through a juicer with the rest of the banana. Or you can boil the peel for several minutes to make it softer, or throw it in the frying pan.
If you want to get really creative, bake a banana peel in the oven for 20 minutes or so, or until it becomes dried out, then use it to make tea.

Lemons

Lemon is a versatile fruit. They can be used for everything from cooking to cleaning to skincare. Lemon skin is also chock full of nutrients and safe to eat (though you should certainly wash the lemon first, as with any fruit or veggie skin you consume). Lemon peels contain high amounts of calcium, potassium and fibre. The peel is also high in compounds that may be useful for fighting off certain cancers. The peel itself is a bit bitter, so you may not want to eat it straight off the fruit.
Instead, grate the peel using a microplane or another tool and sprinkle it on top of salads, or in a vinaigrette dressing. Citrus shavings make a good pairing with ice cream and chocolate as well.

Grapefruits

Grapefruit is a powerful fruit. The flesh is rich in vitamin C and lycopene. Research has found that lycopene has anti-tumour qualities. Grapefruit juice has also been found to be much more nutritious than many other fruit juices. While grapefruits are often eaten halved with the flesh being scooped out, the skin offers many of the same benefits as other citrus fruits.