Fruits and Vegetables: To Peel or Not To Peel?

By Alyssa Adler

Fruits and vegetables are known for their phytonutrients, which have outstanding health benefits such as reducing risk factors for cancer and chronic diseases. These phytonutrients are mostly found on the outside of plants, specifically on the skin. The phytonutrient content increases with ripeness and with any puncture to the skin such as fermenting, cutting or crushing. The skin of plants also contains tons of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Simply put, it is important to try and eat the entire fruit or vegetable to maximize health benefits.

Studies have shown that vegetables of the carotenoid and cruciferous families have the greatest cancer protection. The carotenoids include red, orange and yellow-colored vegetables while the cruciferous family includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale. A general rule of thumb is the deeper the color of the vegetable, the greater the phytonutrients.

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People often peel fruits and vegetables to take stress off their digestive system or to reduce the amount of pesticides. If you’d prefer to leave the skin on but still want to make them easier to eat and digest you can cook them, like in a Strawberry Fruit Compote or Poached Pears with Blueberry Sauce. For veggie options, try this Zucchini with Mint and Stir-Fried Kale with Ginger.

There is a myth that non-organic produce must be peeled to avoid pesticide, however this is not completely necessary if produce is washed properly. 

In order to remove pesticides, wash produce thoroughly under cold water and scrub with a stiff brush to get rid of any remaining dirt or chemicals (FDA). With proper washing, you are able to remove those pesticides and reap the health benefits from the skin and inner flesh of fruits and vegetables.

Alyssa Adler is a Boston University Graduate from Long Island, New York. She was CFYL’s 2016 summer web intern after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics. She has since gone on to earn her Masters degree and is now a Clinical Nutritionist at Mt. Sinai’s St. Luke’s hospital here in New York City.  Alyssa has a food blog called Red Delicious and Nutritious which focuses on healthy eating and living and how decadent foods can be made wholesome and delicious. A woman after our own heart!

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