This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Citrus fruit, like all other fruit, is filled with a wealth of health-promoting nutrients, enzymes and phytochemicals. Yet studies show that the peel, which is usually discarded, is often more nutritious than the pulp and contains compounds that provide additional health advantages.
Here are some beneficial properties of organic citrus peel worth considering.
Protects Against Skin Cancer
A study published in Nutrition and Cancer assessed the skin cancer protection of the consumption of citrus pulp, juice and peel by an older population of Arizona residents. While no benefit was noted from ingestion of the pulp and juice, a preventive effect was found from eating the peel. Furthermore, the advantage was dose related, with the highest consumption associated with the lowest risk of the malignancy. Limonene, a compound in the skin of lemons, oranges and grapefruit, is the likely phytochemical responsible for the cancer-fighting property. The compound also demonstrated effectiveness in other studies that involved preclinical models of colon and breast cancer.
In research published in Life Sciences, the benefits of the citrus peel extracts of nobiletin, tangeretin and synephrine were evaluated. After hamsters were fed a high-fructose diet to induce insulin resistance and high triglycerides, the extracts were added to the diet of a portion of them. After four weeks, the hamsters that consumed the extracts showed improved insulin sensitivity; therefore, it was determined that citrus peel may help in the prevention and alleviation of diabetes.
Promotes Good Cholesterol
According to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, compounds in citrus peel have the potential to lower cholesterol. When hamsters were fed a cholesterol-elevating diet containing 1 percent of polymethoxylated flavones, compounds found exclusively in the peel and tissues of some citrus, the bad cholesterol, known as LDL, reduced by 32 to 40 percent.
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, doctor of Chinese medicine, says lemon peel helps digestion by decreasing gas and cramping. Mother Earth Medicine reports that the limonene in citrus peel aids in the relief of heartburn and acid reflux as well as supports peristalsis, the movement of food through the digestive tract.
Offers Antioxidant Action
The high antioxidant content of citrus peel helps protect DNA from cancer-causing damage. Moreover, one of the compounds found in the peel of grapefruit, lemon and mandarin can decrease radiation-induced harm to cells.
Inhibits Bone Loss
In addition to the outer peel, the inner white layer of the peel has health-promoting compounds. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that hesperidin, a flavonoid in the white part of oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, inhibited bone loss in mice that had undergone surgical removal of their ovaries. The results suggest it would be of value for postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology concluded that the oils in lemon peel have strong antimicrobial activity. They have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, which means they could help fight colds, flu, bacterial infections and intestinal parasites.
Lemon peel is a good beauty aid. Its antibacterial action fights acne, the acid dissolves dead cells and its antioxidants detoxify the skin. You can make a beauty treatment by cutting the peel in pieces and mixing it with lemon juice and honey. Apply it to the skin and leave it on for five minutes before rinsing.
How to Add Citrus Peel to Your Diet
Aside from the compounds unique to citrus peel, it contains more fiber and higher levels of some vitamins and minerals than the pulp. You can include it in your diet by adding it to smoothies and juices. Other ideas include sprinkling the zest over yogurt or salads. Those interested in eating citrus peel should buy organic produce to avoid ingestion of pesticides.