Most People Waste the Most Nutritious Parts of These 5 Foods
Every year in America, billions of pounds of food products go uneaten and wind up as waste. While this problem has many causes and numerous possible solutions, each of us can take simple steps to reduce this waste, and improve our nutrition, recipes, and finances in the process. So the next time you find yourself cooking with one of these five food products, give them a chance—both your taste buds and your body may like the result.
1. Skins and Peels
There are many different types of fruits and vegetables with outer skins and peels, and too often we remove this external layer and only eat the inside. However, research has shown that many different skins offer not just a boost in vitamin and nutrition intake, but that they may help to reduce your risk of cancer and give you better energy. Some of the best examples of healthy skins include potatoes, apples, citrus fruits, kiwi, pumpkins, butternut, and other types of squash, as well as those from less likely foods such as bananas and garlic. Each of these types of skins offers unique nutritional benefits, which are often different from the flesh of the fruit or vegetable itself. Many skins and peels may be eaten raw, but creativity helps too. For example, consider cooking tangerine peel and adding it to pasta sauce, or frying up some potato skins for a side. Before you throw away your next skin or peel, think about whether or not you might be able to use it, and experiment with a new, healthy recipe.
The traditional method of cooking broccoli in America—in which the bulk of the stem and the leaves are removed—leaves a lot of good nutrients unused and wasted. Sure, most everyone knows that broccoli is a healthy food, but the stems and leaves are actually some of the best parts of the plant to eat. That’s because stems are an excellent source of fiber, and the leaves actually contain more beta-carotene (which is one of the world’s top antioxidants, and may reduce the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women as well as decreasing the chances of age-related muscular degeneration (AMD)) than the florets, along with some distinct types of vitamins. So the next time you cook broccoli, maximize its value and reduce waste by keeping the stems (merely peel off the outer layer and cook them a little longer) and the leaves, and by steaming it to retain the greatest amount of nutrients.
Some larger fruits and vegetables have a large amount of seeds, which too often get overlooked and tossed aside. Perhaps the best candidates for consumption are the seeds found in pumpkins and watermelons. Both types of seeds are frequently discarded, but aside from being delicious, they offer unique nutritional advantages (including concentrations of protein, vitamins and minerals. In terms of cooking, pumpkins and watermelon seeds are excellent when roasted with a little bit of salt, or can be added to salads or trail mix for some extra crunch.
4. Greens or Leaves
Many different fruits and vegetables have greens or leaves that are routinely tossed out without a second thought. Unfortunately, these parts of many such plants are perfectly edible and nutritious. For example, carrots, celery, and fennel leaves can be chopped finely to add taste to parsley as a garnish or mixed into some types of salsas. Similarly, onion tops can be cooked briefly and used as a flavorful addition to soups, stews, or mixed with mashed potatoes. The list of greens and leaves that can be used is long, but among others, it also includes turnips, cauliflower, radish, and peach leaves. In fact, even tomato leaves and stems can be steeped in hot soup or tomato sauces to add flavor before being discarded.
5. Corn Cobs
Including this food item on this list may be the biggest surprise of all, but even corn cobs do not have to go to waste once the kernels have been cut or eaten off. Rather, they can be used to form a simple soup stock along with onions and carrots, or can be added to the broth itself for corn or clam chowder. As this final example demonstrates, there are few limits to just how creative you can become in using all of your fruit and vegetable products. Best of all, not only can you start discovering some exciting, new, and nutritious ways to use all of your food, you can help to reduce your waste and save some extra money in the meantime.
Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.