Eat Your Vegetables—and Their Peels, Leaves, and Stems

Quit scrapping those nutritious scraps.

If you’re like most people, you peel your fruits and veggies and discard the scraps (hopefully in the compost pile). But did you know that you might be ditching a whole load of nutrition in those peels, stems, and leaves? Indeed, the scraps we discard are often the most nutrient dense components of the food.

Here are five scraps to stop scrapping.

Onion Skins: Who wants to eat a papery onion skin? If you want an antioxidant boost, you’d be wise to take a second look at the onion skin, which contains more antioxidants than the entire onion. The skin is especially rich in quercetin, which can reduce blood pressure and prevent arterial plaque. Don’t worry—you don’t have to try to chew and swallow the unappetizing, papery skin. Toss it into a soup or stew for extra flavor—and a nutritional boost—and then discard the skin before serving.

Broccoli Leaves: If you chop up the florets and discard the stems and leaves, you’re missing out. Broccoli leaves are particularly high in vitamin A. In fact, the leaves contain 90 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement, compared to only 3 percent for the florets. Broccoli leaves are delicious sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and salt. You can also toss them into soups and stews.

Celery Leaves: Celery leaves are loaded with nutrition. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, magnesium, and several antioxidants. The leaves have five times more magnesium than the stalks. Toss celery leaves into your green smoothies or chop them to use in salsas and sauces.

Swiss Chard Stems: The stems of Swiss chard are tough and fibrous—but packed with nutrients. They are loaded with glutamine, an amino acid that works as an immune booster. To incorporate the stems into the menu, toss them into a soup or stew. You can also braise the stems in a delicious blend of stock, wine, and garlic.

Orange Peels: Upon first glance, the orange peel hardly seems edible—but it contains four times as much fiber as the fruit and is loaded with flavonoids that have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. To eat the peel, grate it and sprinkle it on vegetables, such as green beans. You can also simmer strips of the peel and serve them with a delicious chocolate sauce.