Surprise! The apple cores, banana peels and kiwi skins you usually throw away (or toss in the compost bucket) are chock-full of hidden nutrients that can boost your well-being. Here are six food scraps to stop getting rid of and start using.
Broccoli stalks amp energy by 33 percent.
For the stamina you need to power through your day, toss a few broccoli stalks into your favorite soup or stir-fry recipe. While many of us trim off the stems and only munch on the florets, broccoli stalks are actually packed with a compound called sulforaphane, which helps your muscle cells better convert food into fuel. In fact, Norwegian scientists say savoring a cup of broccoli (stalks included!) daily raises your energy by 33 percent in a week.
Flush toxins and feel better with celery leaves.
Feeling mentally sluggish? Your body may still be shaking off a buildup of toxins that occurs over the winter, when reduced physical activity triggers slowdowns in key detox organs. Luckily, Canadian scientists say plant compounds in celery switch on pathways in the liver to speed the removal of waste. And a celery compound called phthalide reins in the stress hormone cortisol, which University of Chicago scientists say lowers your blood pressure so you feel more at ease.
Registered dietitian Maggie Moon, author of The MIND Diet ($11.69, Amazon), adds that celery leaves, in particular, have been shown to curb harmful oxidative stress that can contribute to brain fog. “The leaves are actually more flavorful than the stalks, and they work well in soups or as part of a mixed-green salad,” suggests Moon.
Boost immunity with apple cores.
An apple a day really does keep the doctor away! University of Illinois scientists say compounds called quercetin and boron make immune cells more aggressive against viruses, cutting cold symptoms in half and speeding your recovery by three days. And that effect is even more potent if you crunch on the core (minus the seeds). “A study in Frontiers in Microbiology found that apple cores contain millions of probiotics, or good-for-you bacteria,” Moon explains, which separate studies have shown help keep your immune system in peak shape. Slice an apple widthwise, and you’ll hardly notice the core — or snack on apple chips, which you can find at the supermarket.
Want to drop pounds? Eat a whole apple before your largest meal, and Penn State University scientists say you’ll consume 200 fewer calories a day — enough to drop up to 20 pounds a year! The filling soluble fiber helps keep you from overindulging.
Protect your heart with kiwi skin.
Kiwi skin is completely edible, and more than doubles the fiber content of the fruit, Moon shares. Plus, studies show it has 34 percent more vitamin E compared to eating the flesh alone. Snack on two to three whole kiwis daily, and Norwegian researchers say you’ll reduce your levels of heart-hampering triglycerides as well as ward off blood clots. Simply give the fruit a good rinse, then bite into it like you would an apple.
Struggling with insomnia? Munching on two whole kiwis (skin included) an hour before bed helps you fall asleep faster and snooze 40 minutes longer, Taiwanese investigators report.
Soothe sore muscles with pineapple cores.
When stiff, achy muscles complain, whip up a tropical pineapple smoothie — core included. “Pineapple cores contain more bromelain, a potent anti-inflammatory,” Moon says. And according to University at Buffalo researchers, bromelain curbs pain and swelling so effectively that it significantly speeds your recovery time. “It’s a little more fibrous than the pineapple flesh, but it works really well blended into a smoothie”, Moon adds.
Plus, eating 3/4 cup of fresh pineapple before a heavy meal cuts your risk of indigestion and bloat in half, Canadian scientists say. Natural enzymes break down food and speed it through the digestive tract, warding off intestinal spasms.
Increase happiness with banana peels.
Every day can be a good day when you work a whole banana into your diet. The fruit boasts a compound called tryptophan, which British scientists say ups the production of the “happiness hormone” serotonin for four hours. The joy-boosting bonus? Eating the peels! A New Zealand study shows the peels have more mood-elevating dopamine than the fruit’s flesh. Moon says pureeing clean, ripe peels and adding them to a quick bread or muffin recipe makes for a tasty snack. Even better, Indian scientists say banana peel’s antibacterial properties help fend off two types of oral bacteria that contribute to gum disease.
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This story originally appeared in our print magazine.