Judge them by their Cover

  • Jaspal Bajwa
  • India
  • Jan 10, 2015

At some point in history, with increasing urbanisation, it became fashionable to consume just the soft pulp of fruits and vegetables and to throw away the peels, cores (pits) & seeds. However, grandmothers even in recent memory would insist that we do not waste any food, and would utilise the various parts of a plant – at times cooking them separately, to make them palatable and digestible.
In Dec 2003, ‘Nutrition Research’ published a comprehensive China study, which reported that the peel and seed fractions of 28 fruits and vegetables had higher concentrations of antioxidants than their flesh. Other studies have also helped us rediscover the nutrient powerhouse that resides in peels, cores, seeds and stalks. Not only are these parts of plants a rich source of dietary fibres, the colourful skins of fruits and vegetables also contain high concentrations of phytochemicals. With a few exceptions, the peels and seeds of fruit have more antioxidants than their pulp. Vegetable peels are particularly good sources of insoluble fibre, which helps in avoiding constipation. Peels are low in calories and sugar, and help add bulk to the food, thus helping us cut down on our overall calorie intake. The additional benefit is that they bind to toxic chemicals in the food or to bile salts and help eliminate them from the gut (with an attendant benefit of helping lower LDL Cholesterol).

Novel thinking is redefining the role of skin. Dr Bruce Lipton, a Developmental Biologist, maintains that, far from merely being a passive wrap whose function is merely to contain the inner contents of cells, the cell membrane (skin) is an organic information processor. It senses the environment and converts that awareness into information that can influence the activity of protein pathways and control the expression of genes. Dr Marilyn Glenville, former President of the Food and Health Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine, says: “All fruits and vegetables have a bio-synergy, which means that the nutritional benefits of each part are reinforced by the others. Further, the skin is not the only healthy bit we discard - stalks and cores can also be packed with nutrients.” Fruit peels are very rich in essential oils, which give the characteristic aroma to the fruits. These oil glands are spread all over a peel, though denser near its pits. They are quite uniquely prominent in citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.

Tip of the Week 

Choose fresh, organic fruits and vegetables that have no surface cuts, blemishes and bruises. Use their skin (see ‘Caution’ below) if you are juicing the fruit. However, the outer skin could hold dirt and bacteria, and also be impacted by the indiscriminate use of insecticide sprays or eggs/cysts laid by insects. Therefore, when consuming a peel, it is critically important to wash it thoroughly – under running water (to conserve water, fruit can also be placed in a bowl of salt water for about half an hour). Firmer skinned produce (like potatoes) can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush; soap is not recommended. The wax on apples, cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes is harmless. Gently pat them dry using a soft cloth. 

Caution: Not all seeds and skins are edible. Proper selection as well as specific preparation methods must be checked before consumption.

Nature’s Wonder Food(s) of the Week:  Yummy Peels, Stalks & Cores of Fruits & Veggies

Fruit Peels contain significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants than the flesh (pulp). Some examples are: Blueberry, Grape, Guava, Kumquat, Kiwi Fruit, Pomegranate, Hawthorn, Longan and Lychee. The Kiwi Fruit peel has three times the antioxidants found in its flesh, with an attendant benefit of it being a cancer preventing anti-inflammatory. Pomegranate peels have almost 30 times the antioxidant punch of the fruit. Pectin in the apple peel contains soluble fibre, which helps control blood sugar and cholesterol; and it also has a higher antioxidant value. Studies by Tucson (Arizona) University suggest that certain compounds in the Passion Fruit peel can help relieve bronchospasms in asthma patients. “The Orange and Tangerine peels are high in powerful antioxidants called super-flavonoids, which can significantly reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. The same goes for all citrus fruits,” says Dr Glenville. “The white pith contains high levels of pectin, a component of dietary fibre that is known to lower cholesterol and colonise the gut with beneficial bacteria.” Researchers in Taiwan have discovered that the Banana peel extract can ease depression, as it is rich in serotonin - the mood-balancing chemical; the banana’s lutein (antioxidant) content helps protect eye health. A Banana peel can be boiled for ten minutes, and the extract cooled, before consuming; alternately, the skin can be put through the juicer.

Vegetable Peels: The skin of the Potato offers far more benefits than the flesh – in terms of fibre, potassium, iron, phosphorous, zinc and B & C Vitamins. However, potatoes with a greenish tinged skin should be avoided. According to research from Japan, the skin of garlic contains six separate antioxidant compounds, all of which help fight premature ageing and protect the heart. Squash peels are high in zinc (which helps promote healthy skin and nails) and the antioxidant beta carotene (which protects against heart disease and cancer).

Seeds: Grape seeds have a hundred times more antioxidant power than the fruit’s pulp. Squash and Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of brain-healthy Omega 6 fats and essential fatty acids.

Stalks & Core: Although Broccoli stalks may be less flavourful than the florets, they are notably higher in soluble fibre, calcium and Vitamin C. The core of the Pineapple contains twice the Bromelain concentration of its flesh (Bromelain is an enzyme that helps break down food and make it more digestible).

Culinary delights: Some recipes depend heavily on peels - marmalades and candied citrus fruits are some examples. Citrus Fruit peel can be dried, powdered and stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight glass container. For pickles, Lemon peels and sun-dried green Mango peels (amchoor) play an important role; amchoor is also integrally used with spices in certain curries. 

For Education purposes only; always consult a Healthcare Practitioner for medical conditions



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