Oranges are a well-loved fruit in the United States, but often the peel goes to the trash can.
Little do they know, the peel contains the highest amount of nutrients. The peel is abundant in phytochemicals and flavonoids such as polymethoxyflavones (PMFs) and hesperidin, that work to give oranges its health perks.
Flavonoids are antioxidant compounds that are within herbs, vegetables, spices and some fruits. They are well known to be effective in preventing cancer and heart disease. The peel has more nutrients, for example, orange flesh may have 71 mg of vitamin C, but 3.5 ounces of orange peel contains 136 mg of vitamin C.
Orange peels also contain folate, vitamin A, B vitamins, dietary fiber, magnesium, copper and calcium. The bitter taste of the peel comes from the flavonoids that the peel has.
Orange Peels for Heart Health
Orange peels (as well as the underlying white pulp, or pith) are rich in hesperidin, a flavonoid that’s been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol in animal studies. In middle-aged, overweight men, consuming hesperidin in oranges was found to significantly lower diastolic blood pressure (DBP) after four weeks. The polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs) in orange peels have shown to lower cholesterol better than prescription drugs, without the risk of any side effects.
The study’s lead author, Elzbieta Kurowska, Ph.D., vice president of research at KGK Synergize in Ontario, Canada, told EurekAlert:
“Our study has shown that PMFs have the most potent cholesterol-lowering effect of any other citrus flavonoid … We believe that PMFs have the potential to rival and even beat the cholesterol-lowering effect of some prescription drugs, without the risk of side effects.”
Orange Peels May Have Anti-Cancer Activity
The flavonoids in orange peel have the potential to inhibit the RLIP76 protein, which is linked to cancer and obesity. Research is in the early stages, but if an orange peel extract could inhibit or reduce expression of RLIP76, it would have significant implications for chronic disease.
“When you get rid of this [RLIP76] gene in a mouse, it would appear that the mouse can’t get obese, it can’t get diabetes
, it can’t get high cholesterol and it can’t get cancer,” said Sanjay Awasthi, M.D., professor in the Division of Molecular Diabetes Research at City of Hope hospital.
Flavonoids in orange and other citrus peels exert a number of additional anti-cancer effects as well.
According to research published in the journal BioMed Research International:
“Due to their broad range of pharmacological properties, citrus flavonoids have gained increased attention. Accumulative in vitro and in vivo studies indicate protective effects of polymethoxyflavones (PMFs) against the occurrence of cancer.
PMFs inhibit carcinogenesis by mechanisms like blocking the metastasis cascade, inhibition of cancer cell mobility in circulatory systems, proapoptosis, and antiangiogenesis.
…Taken all together, a considerable number of well-established lines of evidence have confirmed that flavonoids in citrus peel exhibit a remarkable spectrum of efficacious biological activities, particularly in antitumorigenesis.
Excellent permeability through membrane allows citrus flavonoids to possess great bioavailability, which consequently attracts researchers to perform scientific studies for effective disease prevention and treatment.”
Orange Peels Offer Anti-Allergic and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Compounds in orange peels and other citrus peel may prevent histamine release (histamines are the chemicals that cause allergic reactions), making them a potentially anti-allergic food.The peels may also help to cleanse your lungs, helping you to expel phlegm, and the high levels of vitamin C are beneficial for your immune system, which may help you fight off respiratory illnesses like colds and flu.
Citruspeels also work to helps suppress inflammation similar to the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin.
The peel may offers other benefits to your health including:
Improve digestion and speed metabolism: according to the principles of Ayurveda
Improve oral health: chew orange peels as a natural breath freshener or rub the inside on your teeth to help with whitening and sensitivity
Improve skin appearance: Rub orange peel extract combined with milk to help lighten dark spots on your skin or use it as a skin toner
Support healthy weight loss: Orange peels are low in calories and high in fiber, making them a useful food if you’re trying to lose weight.
Other Fruit Peels and Rinds Can Be Healthy Too
The rinds, peels, stems, leaves and seeds and many fruits and vegetables are safe to consume and often contribute valuable nutrition and phytochemicals to your diet. For instance:
Celery tops contain five times more magnesium and calcium than the stalks.
Broccoli leaves provide about 90 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, compared to 3 percent in the florets.
Onion skins: The outer layers of the onion
(including the papery skin) has the highest amounts of flavonoids.Try simmering onion skins in soups and stock then removing before serving.
Watermelon rinds and seeds
are another example. Watermelon
rind contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh.13 Citrulline is converted to arginine in your kidneys, and this amino acid is important for heart health
and maintaining your immune system.
Black watermelon seeds can be eaten as they do contain iron, zinc, protein and fiber. Passion fruit peel provides another example. It contains bioflavonoids that have been researched to reduce wheeze and cough and improve shortness of breath in people with asthma.
Delicious Ways to Incorporate Citrus Peels into Your Diet
If you’ll be consuming citrus peels, be sure to choose organic fruits only. Oranges, lemons
and limes topped the list of foods that most commonly contain more than one pesticide residue
in the U.K.,15 and these will be concentrated on the outer peel.
The fruit should be washed well (even if it’s organic) prior to use. Then, one of the easiest ways to eat orange peels is to grate the zest and add it to salads, dressings, yogurt, tea, fish and vegetables. You can also blend the peel and pith into smoothies (in the case of watermelon rind, try it blended up with lime juice for a refreshing treat). Lemon peel and pith provide many similar benefits to orange peel.
If you’d like to try it in a new way, here’s a recipe for Moroccan preserved lemons posted by Epicurious. When their ready, the peel can be added to chicken salad, vegetable dishes and stews.
Moroccan-Style Preserved Lemons
6 (organic) lemons
2/3 cup kosher salt
1 to 1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice (from 5 to 6 additional lemons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Special equipment: a 6-cup jar with a tight-fitting lid
Blanch lemons in boiling water 5 minutes, then drain. When cool enough to handle, cut each lemon into 8 wedges, discarding seeds. Toss lemons with kosher salt in a bowl, then pack lemons, along with their salt, tightly into jar.
Add enough lemon juice to cover lemons. Seal jar and let lemons stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, for 5 days.
Add oil to jar and refrigerate.
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