My mom insisted that both my sister and I eat our fruits with the peel - always. Ditto with vegetables. And whenever she cooked bottle gourd (lauki), a separate subzi of its skin, usually combined with sprouts or potatoes was also served alongside. Similarly, she never threw any bitter gourd peel; they were made into a spicy, tangy dry subzi too. Often while helping mom depod the peas, both my sister and I would chew the soft peels too along with raw peas. We were a peel eating family through and through.
So as soon as I could, I got on my son's case. Have been trying for years, but nothing seems to work on him. He continues to peel and eat - even apples! Though I never questioned my moms' reasoning ('have the peels as all of the vitamins are near the surface' she'd say), I decided to arm myself with some solid information before sitting down to talk with my son. Reason, I realised works with him. So be it.
It definitely applies to citrus fruits I found. Research done at Purdue University published way back in the Journal of Nutrition 1999 indicates that the monoterpenes in citrus fruit, which are the oils that give oranges and lemons their special smell, may help prevent skin, liver, lung and stomach cancers. But the catch is that these oils are found mostly in the peel. Plus a study done in 2004 and published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry by US and Canadian researchers found that orange, tangerine peels could be better than drugs for lowering cholesterol. The compounds, called polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs) found in these peels, researchers state have the potential to lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs, and without side effects. Apparently the white pulpy inner peels of the oranges contain herperidin (this compound is also present in the fruits' flesh but in smaller amount), an antioxidant that besides lowering cholesterol, also helps normalise blood pressure. Orange peels have pectin too, which is a natural appetite suppressant and also helps to normalise blood sugar.
How to eat them
Trouble though is that these studies yielded no clues on how to get used to the bitter taste of an orange or lemon peel. So here's what you can do - add tiny bits of peels to the juices as you churn the fruit in a blender; simply boil them in water and have as orange/lemon peel tea and it's great for insomnia too; dry and powder them and add on cakes and salads; or just chew them up bit by bit - the taste will grow on you. Plus your heart will thank you loads.
Apple of your eye
Apple's appeal too lies in its peel. We all know that apples pack a wallop of antioxidants (polyphenols), especially vitamin C for healthy skin and gums. But what is really important to know is that these polyphenols are five times more prevalent in the skin than the flesh of the apples. In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (May 8, 2007), researchers found that the apple peel may account for the lion's share of apple's anti-cancer and anti-disease properties. They analysed the chemical composition of apple peels and identified a group of phytochemicals that work against at least three different types of human cancer cells: breast, colon and liver.
How to eat them
Wash them well to wash off the insecticide sprays, but eat this doc's favourite fruit with the peel on. Or better still buy organic
Power of blue
Thankfully grapes and blueberries are not peeled and eaten-green but it's time to stop discarding the guava peels. These blue peels contain more anti-oxidants (such as anthocyanin pigments) than the pulp or flesh that can potentially fight cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. In an article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2010, a chemist from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wallace H. Yokoyama and his co-investigators reported that all the hamsters that were fed blueberry-enhanced rations (peels and juice byproducts) had from 22 to 27 per cent lower total plasma cholesterol than hamsters fed rations that didn't contain these. Well, if it's good for the hamsters' heart, then probably the same holds true for us too, reckon the researchers.
How to eat them
Chew into them whole, that way you won't be tempted to peel them.
Digested that? Here's more!
If you are feeling depressed, all you need to do is to peel a banana and eat it! Eat the peel, that is. And you thought that the peel was just fodder for cows and comic situations?
The scientists at Taichung's Chung Shan Medical University, Taiwan claim that an extract of banana peel is not only an excellent remedy for depression, but also protects your retina - the bit of the eye that actually 'shows' you stuff. They found that banana peel is richer in serotonin (a hormone vital in balancing moods) than the fruit. Low levels of serotonin in the brain are believed to cause depression. Plus the peel also contains lutein, an antioxidant from the carotenoid family, which offers nutritional protection to the eyes and helps the retina cells to regenerate.
How to eat them
The researchers suggested you boil that peel and drink the water a few times a week during the evening.
Digest this too...
Everyone loves the pink flesh of a watermelon but how about its rind? Experts say that the white part of the rind (between the green and the pink) contains large amounts of citrulline, an amino acid, is rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, and lycopene and also contains smaller amounts of vitamin A, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and even Zinc. May be that's why Russians wat it so often.
How to eat them
It obviously doesn't taste as good as the pink flesh, so maybe you can juice it along with watermelon flesh and add a little sugar. You can even blend it up with other fruits in a watermelon rind smoothie and consume a ton of nutrients in doing so (see box for a recipe idea). But please wash it very very thoroughly to get rid of bacteria, pesticides and dirt and have in small quantities - it is an unfamiliar food so might give you an upset tummy.
Similarly pomegranate rind has double the antioxidants as compared to the fruit but can't think of how it can be eaten. You could maybe dry it and add to subzis or drink as chai (like orange peel tea).
Vegetables aren't far behind
A popular restaurant in Goa - Souza Lobo, now with a branch in Delhi, has a best-selling dish that has people swarming there but surprisingly it is made of potato peels. I am sure there are other chefs experimenting with other peels elsewhere too. Coming to potato skin, it is loaded with vitamin C and B6, potassium, manganese and copper. So next time you make mashed potatoes, just scrub the potatoes really well and leave the peels on, ditto for stews and yes, even french fries.
Try and avoid peeling radish as it is rich in allyl-isothiocyanates (which gives a peppery pungent flavour to this root vegetable) and is an anti-oxidant. So, next time you make mooli parantha, wash it properly and simply grate along with the peel. Or have some unpeeled, washed radish with some rock salt.
Cucumber peels besides being very high in fibre are also a hidden source of beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A, which is fabulous for your eyes. In Andhra Pradesh, people make a tasty and healthy cucumber pickle with its peel (see recipe).
Need more reasons!
1. Peel is a rich source of dietary fiber also known as NSP (non soluble polysaccharides) like hemi-cellulose, pectin and more. These compounds increase bulk of the food and helps prevent constipation, cut colon cancer risk and help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels
2. Peels universally are low in calories, sugar, and fats; and free from cholesterol
3. They add satiety and helps cut down overall food intake (read help in weight control)
Wash them right
Select fruits that are fresh, organic and without surface cuts, blemishes and bruises. Wash the fruit thoroughly in running water to remove surface dust and soil. Place the fruit in a bowl of salt water for about 30 minutes and wash again in cold water. This way you make sure any surface insect eggs/larvae are removed. Gently pat dry using soft cloth.
Recipes to try
Watermelon rind chutney
Take only the white portion of the rind (separate the pink inner flesh, and also trim off the outer green skin) and cube into half inch pieces.
In a pan add in the rind cubes (3 cups), ½ cup sugar, ½ cup minced ginger, 1 tbsp green chilli, and garlic each, ½ cup vinegar, ½ cup water, 2-3 crushed black peppercorns, and ½ tsp salt.
Bring to boil over medium heat and let it simmer for 50 minutes.
Keep stirring to dissolve sugar.
Now let it cool, transfer into an airtight container and chill for a day to let the flavours settle.
Ash Gourd chutney
Peel the gourd and chop the peels fine.
Boil in a little water till soft and then grind with a little coconut, fried green chillies, lemon juice and ginger.
Orange Candy peels
Make the sugar syrup with 2 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar.
Bring to a boil and add orange rinds.
Boil for 30 minutes and remove from heat.
Place on wax paper and let them dry.
Andhra cucumber pickle
Cut the cucumber into two halves, de-seed the cucumber and cut it into small pieces (about 2 cups).
Mix 3 tbsp red chilli powder, 3 tbsp mustard powder and 1 ½ tbsp salt.
Take a wide vessel, add the above spice-mixture and the chopped pieces.
Mix well and slowly add 4 tbsp til or sesame oil and combine with the pieces till well coated.
Now put the cucumber pieces in a ceramic jar, cover with a tight lid and keep at a moisture-free dark area overnight.
Next day, mix with a dry clean ladle
Kavita Devgan is a Delhi based nutritionist and writer
From HT Brunch, March 18
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