Is It Healthy to Eat Orange Peels?

You may not realize that some people don't throw away the peels of their oranges — they eat them. Adding orange zest to recipes such as cookies and breads can offer a good way to add flavor.

Can you eat an orange peel? (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/GettyImages)

When eating plain peels, the tough orange peel will not be as juicy or sweet as the orange’s inner pulp and some people find the outer peel and inner white part of the peel rather bitter. Eating orange peels may not be as weird as you think, but there are some things you need to look out for.

Basics

If you were to eat an entire peel, or about 100 g of the orange’s outer coating, you’d consume 97 calories, 1.5 g of protein, 25 g of carbohydrates and 10.6 g of fiber, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Since eating an entire peel may not sound all that appetizing, you can instead eat 1 tbsp. of the peel, or about 6 g, and get about 6 calories, 0.09 g of protein, 1.5 g of carbohydrates and 0.6 g of fiber. Orange peels do not contain sodium or cholesterol.

Vitamins and Minerals

Orange peels pack in the vitamin C, with 8.2 mg in a single tablespoon of peel - that's 14 percent of your daily value. Other vitamins include riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin B-6.

The peel’s mineral content includes 10 mg of calcium along with small amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium.

Chemicals

A major concern with eating an orange peel is its origin. If you eat a non-organic orange peel, you could be eating a peel steeped in chemicals. Unless the orange came from a certified organic farm or orchard and displays a white and green USDA Certified Organic sticker, there is no way to know what types of chemical pesticides or herbicides invaded the peel. Certified organic farmers only use natural weed and pest control methods.

Health Benefits

Orange peels contain a substance called limonene, which accounts for 90 percent of the citrus peel oil. Limonene may provide a potential health benefit for those at risk for skin cancer.

Research published in "Nutrition and Cancer," found that those who ate peels of citrus fruits had a lower chance of developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. This reduction in risk may be attributed to a combination of high intakes of citrus juice, which contain powerful antioxidants, and the regular intake of limonene from the peel.

Considerations

The peel’s digestibility may be a potential concern. Large chunks of the peel might not sit well in your stomach, so zesting it into smaller pieces may digest easier.

If the tough, outer orange peel is too bitter for you, you can still get some nutrients from the inner part of the peel. The white inner coating of the peel, called the albedo, contains vitamin C, fiber, pectin, and flavonoids.

How to Eat The Peel

Taking large bites of orange peel may not sound too appealing, so start small. Cut the peel into small strips and add to a salad. Zesting the peel into oatmeal or yogurt is also an option.

If smoothies are your go-to breakfast, try adding a piece of the peel to your morning smoothie to add some extra nutrients and fiber.

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