Don’t throw the best of your produce in the trash

Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff

Stop! That’s not Garbage!

I am not advocating that we eat garbage. What I am advocating for is a plant version of “Nose-to-Tail” cooking. For those reading who have not heard this term before, it comes from the “foodie” classic book by Fergus Hend-erson on how to consume an entire pig. After-all, if you’re going to “pluck the plant,” it seems only polite to use the whole thing.

Because plants are sedentary – they are not hunters or gatherers – they have to make everything they need to grow, protect, and heal themselves. That means the skins, peels, seeds, and inner portions that usually end up in the trash (or compost) are often filled with valuable nutrients that we miss out on.

Here’s Dr. Nina’s what you need to know about the plant version of “Nose-to-Tail” eating:

Lemon Peels: When life hands you lemons, don’t throw away the peels. Citrus limonum, the scientific name for lemon peels, are rich in calcium, potassium, Vitamin C, fiber, and a number of other minerals and enzymes. Eating the lemon peel can help decrease cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It can also improve bone health, oral health, skin conditions, as well as boost metabolism and fight cancer.

So, when life gives you lemons, don’t stop with just making lemonade, go the step further and grate or zest the peels to add to meals, salads, or drinks.

Leafy Green Stems: “Good health stems from leafy greens.” Vegetable stems including kale, collards, parsley and Swiss chard are jam-packed with vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. In fact, they often contain more fiber than the leaves themselves. Fiber is considered a “miracle” food and helps us feel full faster. In doing so, we consume less food and calories. Additionally, fiber aids with decreasing bad cholesterol levels and normalizes bowel movements. But let’s face it, those stems are tough to chow down on. Some suggestions to incorporate it into our diets include sauteing in garlic and olive oil, tossing it into a pot of homemade soup, stir frying, or pureeing them into a smoothie or soup.

Pineapple Core: I love, Love, love eating pineapple on the beach on warm summer days. But, like many, I have been missing out on the numerous benefits of the tough, woody center. Bromelain is a protein enzyme that can decrease inflammation and pain, blood clotting, and tumor growth. The sweet fleshy part of the pineapple contains this enzyme. However, the core, which usually ends up in the trash, contains the highest levels of bromelain. One slick trick to capitalize on this is to blend the core into a smoothie.

Veggie Leaves and Stalks: Don’t ‘leave’ the leaves and stalks behind. Broccoli and celery leaves are superfoods when it comes to Vitamin A. Additionally, broccoli leaves contain more beta-carotene than the rest of the veggie. It sounds like we have been chomping on the wrong part of the veggie this whole time! Consider steaming or sauteing the leaves. Alternatively, the leaves can be finely chopped and used to garnish meats or added to salsa. And let’s not forget about the stalks; they contain more calcium, Vitamin C, and fiber than the flowery bulbs. Stalks are great for dipping into sauces, hummus, or salsa, as well as stir-frying.

Onion and Garlic Skins: Who would have guessed that an onion’s waxy coating is rich in flavonoids, in particular the powerful antioxidant compound, quercetin? In fact, it contains more flavanoids than the onion itself! Quercetin is believed to decrease bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation, as well as fight allergies and enhance muscle growth. Garlic skin also contains a variety of antioxidants. Consider simmering the skins in stocks, soups and stews. They are safe to eat, but you can also discard before eating.

So there you have it, my version of “Root-to-Leaf” eating. And don’t forget about zesting orange peel to add to dishes; leaving cucumber peels when cutting; eating the white rind of watermelon on the slice; adding thinly sliced kiwi peel to salads; and blending banana peels into your smoothies. In addition to being healthy for us, utilizing these extra “parts” is cost-conscious and can help build flavor and add texture to our meals.


Dr. Nina Radcliff (Photo Credit: Charles Skaar)

Dr Nina Radcliff is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author.

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Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.