The next time you eat an orange, don’t toss the peel right into the trash. It’s actually edible. Peels can add a delicious burst of flavor to your cooking. Though tough and bitter when raw, they can provide great texture and a unique twist to the right dish.
Better still, orange peels offer a wide range of health benefits. They are high in vitamin C, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and antioxidants that benefit the body. Several studies have shown that vitamin C and other nutrients in orange peel may reduce your risk for certain cancers. They may also improve brain, digestive, and heart health.
The Nutrients in Orange Peel
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), just one tablespoon of orange peel contains 14 percent of your daily allotment of vitamin C. That’s nearly three times as much vitamin C per tablespoon than the inner fruit.
As described in a 2016 study from the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vitamin C may play a positive role in cardiovascular health by reducing stiffness in arteries and improving endothelial function, the ability of the heart and blood vessels to contract and relax. Endothelial cells, which line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, control these movements by releasing certain chemicals.
This key vitamin even plays a vital role in brain health and the prevention of certain diseases. According to a 2009 study published in Elsevier, vitamin C aids the function and maturation of neurons. It has also been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
But vitamin C isn’t the only benefit of orange peel. As stated by the USDA and the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition Engineering, the outside of an orange is also rich in:
- Carotenoids (preformed vitamin A).
- Folate (vitamin B9).
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2).
- Vitamin B6.
Polyphenols are a wide range of chemical compounds in plants that have many antioxidant properties, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center. As scientists pointed out in a 2018 review published in the Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences, polyphenols may be used to treat and prevent certain types of cancer.
In addition, limonene, which is a major component of the oils in citrus fruits, is being studied as a potential treatment for breast and colon cancers. It may have a protective effect against skin cancer as well.
The Drawbacks of Orange Peels
If orange peel contains so many nutrients, why do we usually throw it away? Unfortunately, the peel is quite bitter and difficult to chew. The tough texture and high fiber content may also make it difficult to digest. Consuming large pieces of raw orange peel can cause cramps or bloating.
Commercially-available oranges also have a significant amount of pesticide residue. Pesticides pose serious risks to consumers, as the body stores them in the colon. According to scientists at the Estodian Academy of Sciences, it’s quite difficult to wash common pesticides off of orange peels.
Though you will not be able to remove all of the residue, as some of it penetrates the skin of the fruit, researchers at the Estodian Academy of Sciences recommend using hot water, dishwashing soap, or both to clean off most of the pesticides — or you can buy organic.
How to Eat and Cook Orange Peel
Having a hard time joining the orange peel craze? There are a variety of ways to prepare the bitter skin that make it much more enjoyable. With the right cleaning and cooking methods, you can reap the benefits of peels.
For a tasty dish featuring orange peel, try these ideas:
- Candied orange peel. If you’re craving something sweet and healthy, candied orange peel is the way to go. This recipe suggests boiling the peels twice to completely remove the bitter flavor. For an extra sweet and healthy treat, dip your candied peels in melted dark chocolate.
- Orange peel chutney. This unique and flavorful chutney comes together in just 20 minutes. Along with the peel, the recipe calls for mustard seeds, red chili, black pepper, chana dal (the yellow inside of brown chickpeas), and urad dal (split black lentils). You can use your chutney as a marinade for grilled meat, or simply add it to rice.
- Orange peel bread. Though this sweet bread takes longer to make, the results are sure to be aroma-therapeutic. In place of candied orange peel, you may use orange zest instead, based on this recipe.