We all know that we need to get our minimum intake of 5-10 servings of veggies and fruit a day. Sometimes, the problem isn’t that we aren’t eating enough veggies or fruit, but rather we’re throwing away the most nutritious parts! It’s easy to fall back on the cooking techniques we were always taught—peel the skin, throw out the stems and toss away the rinds. It’s time to change because we might just be tossing away the best parts.
Cucumbers are commonly eaten in salads, dunked into dips and rolled into rice wraps, and most people are peeling off the skin, leaving only the flesh to be eaten. What you may not know is that the nutrient richness in the skin is significantly higher than the flesh. The skin contains vitamin K, which is important for blood health, and it’s also important for bone health and preventing fractures. Cucumbers are covered in a wax coating in order to travel well, so if you are going to eat the peel, be sure to wash the cucumber well!
Peeling an apple is very common. Whether cutting apples into slices to snack on or bake in a pie, people love to peel their apples. Quercetin, a potent anti-inflammatory, is rich in apple skin. Apple skins actually have a shockingly high amount of polyphenols, which are the most abundant antioxidants in the diet. The skin has a disproportionate amount of nutrition compared to the inside of the fruit, such as insoluble fiber, soluble fiber and vitamin C. Drop the peeler and eat the skin—your body will thank you!
Unlike its sweet potato counterpart, whose deep nutrition runs throughout the entire potato, a white potato should not be peeled. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, one baked potato can provide over three grams of fiber—keeping the body regular, preventing bowel disease, colon cancer and lowering cholesterol. Fiber is mostly concentrated in the potato skin, so it’s definitely not something you want to throw away.
Carrot and Sweet Potato Skin
These two starchy, orange veggies are deeply rich in beta carotene. The reason they are grouped together is because if they’re not organically grown, you’ll want to remove the skin due to heavy pesticide residue. Eating the skin of sweet potatoes and carrots increases your consumption of beta carotene and fiber; which is important for reducing inflammation, enhancing vision, and promoting reproduction in the body, creating healthy red blood cells and supporting the immune system.
Kale stalks are hearty, fibrous and often discarded. The leaves are easier to consume and are more popular among kale lovers. Next time you’re using kale, don’t chop off the stalks—try tossing them into your salad. Eating every part of this cruciferous veggie (leaves, stems and stalks) allows for more phytonutrient consumption. The stalks are particularly rich in insoluble fiber, which acts like a tough, scratchy sponge cleaning the walls of your digestive system.
Broccoli Stalks & Leaves
When eating broccoli, it’s common to only eat the florets and throw away the stalks and leaves. While broccoli florets actually contain a good amount of nutrition, it’s the stalks that contain more fiber, and the leaves that contain more beta carotene.
Most of an orange’s phytonutrients reside in the peel and white pith. A molecule called herperidin, found in the white pith, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and is an anti-inflammatory. Fiber, such as pectin, is also found in the white pith and helps to suppress hunger.
Beets are delicious, yet most people slice away the nutrient rich greens. The leafy greens found at the top of beets are rich in lutein, a phytonutrient that maintains eye health by preventing cataracts and macular degeneration. The greens are also rich in chlorophyll, fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B2, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium… the list goes on. They’re so incredibly nutritious that anyone throwing them away is seriously missing out.
Watermelon is refreshing and oh, so delicious—but the best part of the watermelon often gets neglected or thrown out. The lightly-coloured flesh near the rind is where it’s at! The main nutrient in this lightly-coloured layer is citrulline, a compound that fights free radicals, improves blood circulation and is sometimes considered a natural ‘Viagra’.
Everyone loves this crunchy, naturally salty veggie, but most people will chop up a celery and throw away the leaves. Celery leaves actually contain the most vitamin C, calcium and potassium, helping to support the kidneys, blood pressure and maintain overall health.
So next time you’re in the kitchen, about to discard those stems, stalks, leaves and peels, think again because you might just be throwing away the most nutrition-packed parts!
Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Holistic Nutritionist and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.