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.
There is a myth that non-organic produce must be peeled to avoid pesticides, 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.
People often peel fruits and vegetables to take the stress off their digestive system or to reduce the number 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.