Many of us are stuck in the conventional ways of food prep — throwing out rinds, tossing away stems and peeling off skin. Without knowing it, we’re discarding the best parts of fruits and veggies. In fact, some of the least thought about pieces have the most nutrition and flavour. Next time you’re cooking, make use of these nutritious fruit and veggie scraps.
1. Apple Skin
Apple skin is often the first to go when using this fruit for cooking or baking. However, the skin actually has slightly more nutrition than the flesh. Rich in insoluble fibre, soluble fibre and vitamin C, these nutrients work to clean out the digestive system, remove toxins and waste from the body. The skin is also rich in quercetin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can reduce inflammation in the body. Most recipes call for removing the skin, but try leaving the skin intact — you may be surprised by the outcome!
2. Orange Peel
Most of the orange’s incredible nutrients actually lie in the peel and the pith, which is the white stringy part around the flesh. The pith contains a herperidin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and inflammation. The pith and peel also contain pectin, known as a fruit fibre, which helps to keep the body full while suppressing hunger. When peeling an orange to eat, remember to keep the pith layer on, and use leftover orange peel in baked goods, zested on chicken or fish and tossed into smoothies.
3. Fennel Fronds
Fennel is a delicious bulbous vegetable that tastes just like licorice. The fronds actually contain just as much nutrition as the bulb; however, they are often discarded along with the leaves and the core. The whole fennel plant is rich in vitamin C with potent anti-inflammatory compounds. The fronds, leaves and core should be kept to flavour soup stocks, baked goods and even fermented foods like sauerkraut.
4. Kale Stalks
While people love the nutritious leafy green, most tend to discard the stalks and only make use of the leaves. The stalks are loaded in insoluble fibre, which acts like a bristled sponge cleaning out the walls of the digestive system. Eating various parts of plants — leaves, stalks or stems — also provides the body with a mixture of different phytonutrients. Use kale stalks in soups, juices, smoothies and chop them finely to put in salads or sautees.
5. Cilantro Stems
When using herbs, we tend to only use the leaves and throw away the stems or roots. Cilantro stems and roots carry nutrition while also providing bold flavor and texture. This tasty herb helps control blood sugar and free radical production. The stems and roots are best used blended into soups, stews, salsas, guacamole and can even be juiced.
6. Broccoli Leaves and Stalks
Broccoli leaves and stalks are usually the first to go but they make a versatile, delicious and nutritious ingredient. The stalks have a ton of fibre, which is important for keeping the body regular. The leaves contain beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidants and folate, which supports red blood cell production. It’s no wonder broccoli leaves are being touted as the next kale! Use them in salads, steam them, sauté them, juice them and toss them into smoothies.
7. Celery Leaves
When eating celery we rarely think about celery leaves. Celery leaves look like a lighter version of flat leaf parsley and most of the time they are tossed away. The leaves have vitamin C, potassium and calcium which all work to support the immunity, healthy skin, the kidneys and control blood pressure. Celery leaves are perfect in soup stocks and great for juicing.
8. Beet Greens
Most people throw away the leafy greens that come with bunches of beets. These beet greens are very similar to Swiss chard in colour, flavour and nutrition. These greens contain a phytonutrient that keeps eyesight strong and prevents degeneration and cataracts. They also boast an array of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Beet greens can be used for soups, sautées, smoothies, juices and salads.
9. Watermelon Rind
Watermelon is always a go-to snack in the summer, but the rind is usually left in the compost bin, with the white flesh intact. Citrulline, the nutrient in the white flesh is super powerful at fighting free radicals, preventing cancer and improving blood circulation. Some people even believe it to be a natural Viagra! Next time watermelon is on the table, remember to eat the white part too, or blend it up with some lime and mint for a refreshing beverage.
10 Cucumber Skin
The dark skin of cucumbers is often peeled off and tossed out, but the it contains more nutrition than the flesh. Cucumber skin contains vitamin K, which supports proper bone health and healthy blood clotting. If using the skin, wash the cucumber really well since it is often coated in a wax to prevent bruising during travel. Add to your smoothies, salads or make it into a cool soup.