With the rise of modern farming techniques, plant engineering and depleting soil quality, the nutritional content of our fruits, vegetables and general food supply has been sadly spiraling downwards. Our ancient ancestors were getting far more nutritional bang for their buck when they bit into a wild fruit or vegetable in comparison to what we eat today on a daily basis.
But perhaps part of the problem may be that we’re guilty of tossing away some of the most nutrient-rich parts of our foods into the garbage disposal. These food parts, like fruit and vegetable peels, rinds, piths, stems, leaves, cores, pulp and seeds, are just as nutritionally dense – and often even more nutritionally dense – than the sweeter sections that we are used to eating alone.
Also, plant foods are meant to work with nutritional “bio-synergy” inside our bodies. This means that the nutrients inside all of a plant’s many parts must work together in order to have the most optimal, healthy effects on us — or to have any health effects at all. Just think of all of the trouble that eating isolated fructose has gotten us into, like increasing weight gain and obesity, the production of AGEs (a chemical that plays a role in the aging process), atherosclerosis leading to heart disease, vascular problems in diabetics, etc. However, when fructose is eaten the way it was meant to be eaten – as part of a whole fruit, along with – its sweet properties become beneficial. Sweet fructose helps to attract us to all of the natural vitamins, minerals and fiber inside fruits and vegetables, while at the same time, these nutrients serve to blunt out the negative effects that fructose has when it’s eaten on its own.
With cold & flu season settling in, you need extra nutritional doses where ever you can get them – especially since you have them on hand anyway! So salvage the food parts that are usually trash-bound and give your diet and your health a much needed nutritional power punch. Certainly, biting into an unpeeled banana or gnawing on a stringy pineapple core may not sound too appetizing, but don’t worry – you don’t have to feel like you’re eating your compost heap in the name of good health. Just toss these healthy bad boys into your juicer instead, or set them aside to use in some of the fantastically delicious, easy, economical and healthy recipes given below.
(Note: when eating the skins of fruits and vegetables, try and only use organic produce, as fruit and vegetable skins tend to be higher in pesticide residues.)
12 Healthy Super Foods Going to Waste
1. CITRUS FRUIT PEELS
These contain high levels of vitamin C and flavanoids for powerful immunity, pectin which lowers cholesterol and improves digestion, and antioxidants that are 20 times more powerful than what you get from the fruit juice alone. Throw the whole fruit into the juicer, or shave pleasantly flavored citrus fruit zest in to your baking, cooking and home-made salad dressings.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: TANGY CASHEW GINGER SALAD DRESSING
- 1/2 cup sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tbsp raw orange peel zest
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
- 1 tbsp black strap molasses, honey or maple syrup
- 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
Throw all ingredients into a food processor and blend.
2. CELERY LEAVES
These contain 5 times more calcium and magnesium than the stalks do, and are also packed with vitamin C and potent antioxidants. Use them in salads, soups, or chop them up and use them in place of parsley.
3. KIWI SKINS
These are very high in immune-boosting, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic antioxidants. Throw the whole fruit into your juicer – if the hairy skins put you off, try golden kiwis instead.
4. BROCCOLI STALKS & LEAVES
The stalks are higher in vitamin C and calcium than the florets, and also very high in soluble fiber. The leaves also contain 30 times more vitamin A than the florets do. Grate the stalks and use them in soups, stir fries and crunchy salads, and use leaves in salads and sautes.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH ROASTED GARLIC
- 1 lb chunks of broccoli heads, stalks and leaves
- 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
On low heat, melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the garlic for about 3 minutes. Stir in the broccoli and the salt. Pour in the vegetable broth, bring to a boil and then reduce to an active simmer, until the broccoli stalks become soft (don’t over cook). Allow the soup to cool, puree the soup with a hand blender, and add more sea salt if desired.
5. BANANA PEELS
These contain beta-carotene, lutein and other carotenoids that are vital for good eye health. Banana peels are also rich in serotonin for mood-balancing, tryptophan for a good night’s rest, and fiber for lower cholesterol, digestive health, heart health and weight loss. Throw the whole fruit into your juicer, or make pleasantly sweet banana peel tea. Some people rub the inside of the banana peel on their skin to help heal acne, hives and bug bites.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: SLEEP-EASY BANANA VANILLA TEA
- Lay your left-over banana peels onto a baking sheet, and drizzle them lightly with pure vanilla extract. Dry them out in your oven at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This could take from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Once the dried hard banana peels have cooled, break them up and place into a blender. Pulse several times to break the dried bits up further into smaller flakes. Store in an air tight mason jar.
- For a good night’s rest, prepare a cup of soothing banana tea before bed by placing a heaping teaspoon of banana peel tea flakes into a tea cup and filling with boiling water. Allow to steep for a few minutes, then sip and enjoy.
6. POTATO SKINS
These are packed with vitamin C, iron, zinc, phosphorous and fiber. Bake potatoes whole or in wedges with the skins still on, or boil potatoes with skins on to whip up with some butter and garlic in a delicious mash.
7. SWISS CHARD STEMS
These are brimming with the amino acid glutamine, important for immunity and wound healing. Chop them up and use in soups, salads and stir fries, or roast in the oven as a warming, healthy side dish.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: ROASTED RAINBOW SWISS CHARD STALKS WITH GARLIC
- Remove the leaves of 1 bunch of rainbow Swiss chard (use the raw leaves in a fresh salad) and lay the remaining stems into a baking dish.
- Mince 3-4 cloves of garlic and sprinkle them over the stems
- Drizzle with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice
- Roast until the stalks are softened, about 20 minutes, sprinkle on some sea salt and serve.
8. PINEAPPLE CORES
These are loaded with twice the amount of bromelain as the fruit, which is a powerful stomach enzyme that helps with better protein digestion and detoxification. It’s also packed with vitamin C and fiber. Chop up the tough, fibrous core and juice it in a powerful juicer with the rest of the pineapple and other fruits. Or try cutting the remaining core into cubes; freeze the cubes and use them in place of ice cubes in water and other drinks, to lend a mild sweet flavor and to turn your water into a post-meal digestive aide.
9. WATERMELON RIND & SEEDS
The white rind closest to the inside of the watermelon skin is abundant in citrulline, an amino acid that is important for circulation. The seeds are also loaded with iron, magnesium and copper. Add watermelon rind to juices and smoothies, and try roasting fresh watermelon seeds in your oven for a nutritious snack food.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: REFRESHING WATERMELON MINT CHILLERS
- 5 cups watermelon slices, skins attached
- 3 tbsp honey
- Juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 cup brewed mint tea, cooled in the fridge
- Optional: if serving for a festive occasion, you can add some shots of tequila
Freeze watermelon slices and banana over night in the freezer. Then use a knife to remove the green outer surface of the watermelon skins, trying to preserve as much of the inner white rind as you can with the pink watermelon. Cube the white and pink remaining portions of the watermelon and throw into a blender with the lemon juice, honey, frozen banana chunks and half of the cold mint tea (if adding tequila, add two or three shots of it at this time). Blend and see if you like the consistency; if you would like your chillers to be thinner, than gradually add more of the mint tea until you find the consistency you want. Serve in a frosty glass, with a fresh mint leaf for garnish.
10. SQUASH RINDS & SEEDS
The richest source of immune-boosting beta-carotene and zinc in squashes like pumpkin, butternut, summer and winter squash is right up against the insides of the hard peels. So scrape as close as you can to the skins when separating squash from its shell. The seeds are also very high in zinc, vitamin E, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, so be sure to hold on to these and roast them up for snacking.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: CHOCOLATE SEED-TELLA
2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds OR 2 cups of store-bought pumpkin seed butter
2 1/2 cups dates, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup of plain hemp milk (or any milk or milk alternative of choice)
If using pumpkin seeds, place them into a very powerful food processor and continually process them until they are completely pulverized. Continue to process the seed meal, and it will develop into a smooth butter (stop several times during processing to scrape down the sides and push the seed meal back into the center of the blender). If using ready-made pumpkin seed butter, then skip this step and just scoop the butter from the jar straight into the food processor.
Add all of the other ingredients to the pumpkin seed butter in the food processor, and continue blending until the spread becomes uniform and smooth.
Scoop the seed-tella into a glass mason jar and refrigerate.
11. GARLIC & ONION SKINS
Garlic skins contain 6 different anti-aging and heart healthy antioxidants, while onion peels are rich in the antioxidant quercetin, which helps to prevent artery clogging and lowers blood pressure. Keep the skins of garlic and onion on when making soup broth (you can discard the skins after the broth is made), or roast unpeeled garlic and onion in the oven and enjoy the crunchy textures.
12. DATE PITS
Poorer countries and producers of animal feed have been taking advantage of the health properties of date pits. The USDA found that date pits contain protein and essential fatty acids, while other studies have shown that they possess anti-viral and metal-absorbing properties, boosting immunity and detoxifying the liver. They are also high in phenols, antioxidants and dietary fiber. To enhance the nutrition of your baking flour, grind up date pits in a strong food processor or coffee grinder (you may have to dry them out in the oven first if your blender is not strong enough; see recipe below) and add it to your regular baking flour for healthier baked goods. Or, for a fragrant Bedouin treat, try your hand at making your own date-stone coffee, for a pleasant smelling and delicate tasting post-meal digestive aide.
TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE: BEDOUIN DATE-STONE COFFEE
- Roast cleaned date pits in your oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.
- Once they have cooled, grind them to a fine consistency in your coffee grinder.
- Add the ground roasted date pits to your regular ground coffee beans, or use them on their own for a warm and wonderful caffeine-free brew.