- “Can you eat an orange peel?”,
- “Should you eat orange peel?”,
- “Why on Earth would I eat orange peel!?” And even,
- “How to eat orange peel?”
These are all questions that many of us – surprisingly or not – have wondered at some point or another!
Yes, some people do eat the peel! And no, it’s not as bad as it seems!
But the question really comes down to why you would even want to! Well, today we will explore the question and find out what this whole shenanigan is about!
Time to zest things up a bit!
“What’s The Point?”
Starting off, why should you eat orange peel? Isn’t it only good for unhealthy foods like marmalade?
Well… You may know that eating too many oranges and other sweet fruit isn’t advised due to the high sugar content. Maybe having up to 3 servings* a week is optimal as long as you’re also eating plenty of fresh vegetables and low-sugar fruits such as tomatoes and olives, etc. High amounts of sugar has many health risks.
However, some of these fruits do contain a considerable amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, too. So, having a little* sweet fruit each week or once in a while is fair. Especially considering dietary adaptations our ancestors would have made in different seasons and foreign lands on occassion.
Oranges, in particular, are a good source of vitamin C, soluble fibre, potassium, beta-carotene, and other phytonutrients.
This is anti-ageing and benefits our immune system, collagen and elastin (connective tissues), skin health, digestive health, and heart health. (The key is moderation, still)
The peel can provide many additional benefits, though. In fact, pound for pound, the zest of an orange may contain more vitamin C than the fruit itself! Add to that a much higher fibre content, and other types of anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidative compounds, and you’ve got quite a healthy zest with many applications! And one of the best parts is the very low sugar content! To get 10g of sugar, you’d need to eat about 66 tablespoons of the stuff!
Imagine that you used to throw out all that nutrition! We’ll talk about the delicious ways to use it in a bit…
What Are The Benefits?
The sum up some of the best health benefits of orange peel and zest, here is a handy list. This is why the peel is worth it:
Fights off infection
Orange peels contain a high amount of vitamin C, vitamin A carotenoids, (D-)Limonene, and antioxidants. These help to strengthen the immune system, kill harmful microbes, and prevent damage to healthy cells and tissues. It may even help to relieve bronchitis. Limonene – a highly non-toxic terpene – has been linked in studies to many benefits, which we will discuss now.
Could Help To Prevent cancer
Not only can antioxidants such as flavonoids in orange zest combat free radicals, but D-Limonene has been demonstrated to fight numerous types of cancer.
This terpene has multiple chemoprotective properties (^). Studies conclude that it has cytotoxic effects against types of gastric(^), colorectal, and breast (^), prostate (^), and liver cancers (^)*! Orange oil also helped to encourage the growth of healthy cells in one study on its effect on liver cancer*. In the study on gastric cancer, D-Limonene actually induced apoptosis (death) of cancerous cells.
More study is needed to fully confirm the anti-cancer properties of this terpene though.
Stress is one of the most destructive forces on health that we know of. There is much that goes into reducing and preventing it, including proper nutrition, exercise, and avoiding its causes as much as possible. However, natural remedies and foods can also help to reduce stress, much like they can depression.
Orange oil has been used in traditional medicines such as Ayurveda for this effect, and research has shown that it has measurable anti-stress actions (^). This is in part due to its therapeutic and anti-inflammatory effects on the nervous system.
Supports Gall Bladder Health and Reduces Heartburn and Gastroesophageal Reflux
Limonene has another surprising benefits here. It helps to dissolve gallstones, and at the same time has properties which help to cleanse the gall bladder of fat buildup.
It also helps to neutralise gastric acid and encourage normal digestive muscle activity. For this reason, it is often claimed to help with acid reflux and thus heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) (^), and there are many attestations to these benefits that can be found online.
May Improve Skin Health
Another traditional use of orange peel is to apply it to the skin or use it in soaps and other topical applications. The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects help to prevent and even combat acne. At the same time, vitamins C and E, as well as antioxidants, could prove beneficial in preventing signs of ageing and wrinkles.
Supports Digestive Health
Some of the beneficial effects already covered such as reduced inflammation and a high amount of fibre help to explain this.
We find pectin (a soluble fibre) in many plants, fruits and vegetables alike. Due to orange containing a high content of this, they could help to promote digestion and prevent constipation. In fact, citrus peels typically are comprised 30 to 35% of pectin!
The benefits of this fibre are various, and the way it helps digestive health is too. It can help to reduce constipation (^), diarrhoea (^), and vomiting. At the same time, it encourages a healthy gut microbiome (or flora) by acting as a prebiotic to boost your probiotics! (^)
Additionally, insoluble fibre is found in considerable amounts. This can have multiple benefits, too. We’ll talk more about these and soluble fibre in relation to those with digestive issues later on.
Anti-Diabetic and Reduces Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Studies have demonstrated orange peels to inhibit the actions of enzymes related to hypertension and type-2 diabetes. One of these is known as ACE (angiotensin-l-converting enzyme). This enzyme helps to regulate the amount of fluid in the body, whilst also helping to control the constrictions of blood vessels. In this way, it may increase blood pressure indirectly.
An interesting meta-analysis shows that the essential oils from orange and lemon peels also inhibit alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes (^). These convert starches and carbohydrates into sugars during digestion, respectively. By inhibiting this from happening, elevated levels of blood sugar may be prevented.
A 2012 study conducted in India also found that D-Limonene actively reduced plasma glucose levels and the activity of glucose- and fructose-converting enzymes, and increased glucose metabolism via glucokinase activity (^). Their findings indicate hypoglycemic effects from D-Limonene.
If the above reasons are not good enough answers to: “Should You Eat Orange Peel?”, I don’t know what is!
Note on Cholesterol
Other sources claim that orange peel may reduce cholesterol levels due to certain medicinal properties and components. However, I have found little conclusive research on this other than a study claiming that these effects may not be so. Here is a link to it if you are interested.
At the same time, some studies show pectin to reduce LDL cholesterol, whilst not affecting HDL. So, it could have a small positive effect.
For now, whilst the peel is certainly healthy, it perhaps shouldn’t be relied on for any cholesterol or triglyceride lowering effects.
Think Before You Buy! The Best Choices…
For Peels, Always Go Organic
There are some very clear guidelines that we should stick to when using orange peels. First and foremost, DO NOT use non-organic fruit! Make sure that if you intend to use the peel in any way, it is certified organic and watch out for words such as “grown organically” packaging that doesn’t actually explicitly state it is organic. Some companies may grow crops to organic standards and spray them with chemicals afterwards. So it has to say that the product is actually organic itself. If it just says “Organic”, then it is good!
Citrus peels can be quite waxy. Because of this, they have a very high lipophicility, which means that chemicals from pesticides, herbicides, and so on absorbed by the pill in large percentages.
One publication from Independent in 2005 actually was on the pesticide limits of oranges. Government investigators deemed many fruits to contain excessive amounts of pesticides, many of which have harmful effects.
Even though it is 2019 and standards are slowly getting better, orange peels often still contain dangerous chemicals if not organic. These can cause all sorts of damage to internal organs and systems.
Organic oranges generally aren’t too expensive if you want to get some in your local supermarket. Wash the peels of organic anyway to be on the safest side, using a little vinegar when doing so goes a long way too!
Fibre and Digestive Issues
Another precaution is for those with any digestive issues. Because it is very high in fibre, it could aggravate symptoms of people with inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome (or similar ailments). Many people do better with more soluble than insoluble fibre in their diet if they have digestive issues such as these. In general, citrus peels contains slightly higher amounts of insoluble fibre than they do soluble.
Should you eat orange peel if you have any concerns? Well, if you are worried about this, you can try starting with only small amounts, grated or blended and eaten with other foods. Additionally, it might help to seek the advice of a medical professional who knows about your condition. Otherwise, you can always still get many benefits from the peel by using it as a tea or infusion!
You can actually use other citrus fruits such as lemons, too, when it comes to the benefits of Limonene!
“Well… I’m Not Just Going To Eat It Plain…”
And you don’t have to! It doesn’t seem the most appetising thing to bite into, after all…
To obtain the therapeutic effects of limonene, you can make a strong infusion by boiling a lot of the peel in water, or using a supplement. Here is one with many positive reviews from people suffering with acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD, in particular!
Some other cool and easy uses include:
- Zesting into oatmeal, yoghurt, or on your roasted/slow-cooked meats!
- Slicing/dicing into salads.
- Adding to your blender to make smoothies or shakes!
- Drying (or keeping fresh) and using in herbal teas!
Just remember the above, and not to eat too much orange fruit because of the sugar content! You can buy useful dried or powdered peel online or in health food stores to use for your very own convenience when making tea or cooking!
That’s All Folks!
I hope you enjoyed this article as we tried to answer the question: “should you eat orange peel?”. I’m sure the answer and the benefits of orange peel are surprising for many people, especially since the peels on citrus fruits are mostly just thrown away, or used sometimes in cocktails or marmalades (which I think we all now aren’t particularly healthy)!
If you learned anything new, please repay the favour and also spread the knowledge by sharing this with your friends and family on social media! Feel free to also follow Healthy Ronin on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for updates, fun facts, and any news!
Until next time, stay healthy