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We humans tend to peel our fruit and strip our vegetables. Yes, with a banana that’s a pretty obvious must, but even a piece of fruit whose skin is clearly digestible will often get the same treatment. Peeling an apple is like removing the exterior paint from a house. But you see people doing it all the time. An apple peel is part of the apple.
We seem to regard the organic outer skin of an edible plant as something to be disposed of.
This habit may be some sort of ... consumer-society reflex that sees all objects as wrapped in removable packaging. Just a theory.
Whatever the case, removing the outer skin of a fruit or vegetable can mean you’re throwing away some of the most potent nutrients the plant has to offer.
Nobody wants to toss perfectly good nutrients. … Right?
Here are five plant-kingdom power foods you are better off not peeling.
Peaches: the Fruit Peel as Anti-Cholesterol Agent
This seems like a good place to start. The skin of a peach is its own experience, not unlike that of biting into a piece of fruit wrapped in a thin dress sock. Maybe only for a nanosecond, but still. On the other hand, biting into a delicious peach with the skin intact gives you a nice dose of fiber (~3% of the peach’s whole fiber stock), as well as a good helping of vitamin A: a micronutrient whose association with retinol makes it an eye health hero.
Peach skin is also loaded with antioxidants, those free-radical fighters that go around handing out electrons to zombies. But what isn’t as well known is that the polyphenols in peach skin can have positive effects on cholesterol. The mechanism is peach skin’s feeding of your gut biota, and their pushback against ingested fats. Accept the fuzz!
Cucumber: Super-Powered Friend of Your Salad
Cucumbers are a commonplace; an over-familiar veggie most often seen lying obediently atop your dinner salad, or nestling like embarrassed cowards in the remote corners of your refrigerator. But the lowly cucumber is in fact a secret powerhouse of phytonutrients — like flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes. Plants naturally carry these self-defense chemicals to ward off diseases that would lay them low. Think “fightonutrients”.
Well, the peel and seeds of the cucumber are where this giant pickle’s nutrient treasures are stashed. Vitamins A and C (your skin, neurology, eyesight, and bones..what else is there?!), and Vitamin K for blood clotting – these live primarily in the skin of the cuke.
Throw in some potassium, calcium, phosphorous, and a pinch of magnesium, and you have a fortified skeleton, heart of champion, and an immune system that takes no ****. All this goodness resides in the skin of this thing. Yes, wash but don’t peel your cucumbers. Period.
Potatoes: Do Not Disrobe the Spud
We often see diners delicately removing the skin from their delicious baked potato. While it’s not advisable to shout at these people in a crowded restaurant, on a slower night in your local eatery you should feel free to berate these people at the top of your lungs. The skin is the best tasting part of the potato, and the most loaded with goods.
A whole baked potato has 57% and 25% of the men and women’s daily requirement (resp.) of iron — but 88% of the spud’s iron is in its skin. 40% of the spud’s potassium and magnesium content (muscles, nerves, heartrate, and blood pressure) are in the skin.
The homely spud also carries phosphorus, iron, zinc, and copper in its unappetizing little jacket.
Lastly, vitamins B5, B6, and niacin (vitamin B3) live in potato skin, as well as thiamine , riboflavin, and folate. Heck, the skin of a potato even has around 8 grams of vitamin C. Go ahead and eat it. You’ll like it!
Apples: Just Bite!
The skin of an apple is like a on overpacked Samsonite. Insoluble fiber (1.3 grams of total fiber is in the skin), vitamin A, vitamin C -- and a little flavonoid called quercetin make the thin peel of an apple a big nutrient deal. But let’s put this in the starkest terms possible.
The peel of an apple contains nearly 72% of the apple's vitamin E (antioxidants) and vitamin K (your unshakeable bones). The antioxidant magic not emanating from vitamin E comes from the apple’s natural supply of flavonoids; a secondary metabolite that works a few notable wonders in the human bod.
Flavonoid-driven antioxidants wrangle and defeat the free radicals that are pretty much constantly bullying your cells, and the apple’s peel contains about 27.5 percent of the flavonoids found in a whole apple.
Tomatoes: Gimme Some Skin
Tomato peels are packed with lycopene, which, just incidentally is what makes the tomato red. Perhaps more significantly, lycopene has shown promise in prostate cancer studies, and in research that shows it as beneficial to vascular function, mostly through lycopene’s anti-inflammatory characteristics.
A journal of chemistry reported that tomato peels contain an abundance of essential amino acids, fatty acids, phenolic acids (powerful antioxidant activity), and fiber.
The tomato's lycopene content also shows promise — through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characterisitcs, a boost to the liver damaged by a high fat diet.
Think Before You Peel
Peeling of our fruits and vegetables can be a matter of habit, but the outer layer of an edible plant is often more than just Mother Nature’s merchandising. It makes sense that the protective covering of a living plant should be seething with protective chemistry. Eat the whole fruit or veggie and you are leveraging these same protections. Do a little homework and eat your peels.