Food & Nutrition

14 Food Parts You Should Never Throw in the Garbage

If you’re immediately tossing those leftover parts of fresh produce in the trash, you could be missing out on some powerful nutrients—and losing money in the process.

Citrus peel

peelPosiNote/Shutterstock

Don’t just squeeze lemon over fish and toss out the rind. According to Lauren Popeck RD, LD/N of Orlando Health Physician Group, there’s some great use for lemon rind when it comes to garnishing dishes and kicking up the flavor. What’s more, there are some great nutritional benefits hiding in the zest, as well. “You can expect three grams of fiber in two tablespoons of zest, five times more vitamin C in the peel than flesh, and other essential vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium,” says Popeck. Her favorite uses for zest: blend into vinaigrette or marinade, toss a piece of peel into smoothies, grate and sprinkle on green beans, blend into yogurt or cottage cheese, stir into oatmeal, cereal, or muffin batter, or add to coffee or tea. Don’t stop with lemons: Use oranges, limes, and even grapefruit for some acidity and flavor with no added calories. Try these 10 other sneaky tricks that make homemade meals healthier.

Banana peels

bananadonikz/Shutterstock

Most of us eat the banana without giving the soft, mushy peel a second thought. Here’s why that’s a mistake: “Bananas contain tryptophan, which boosts serotonin ‘the happiness hormone’ to help with mood regulation and nerve impulses,” says Popeck. A few creative ways to use the peel: First off, go ripe. “Riper peels are softer, thinner, and tastier,” says Popeck. Cook or boil for at least 10 minutes to soften. You can add to smoothies, stir-fries, or soups. Or, you can puree and add to muffin or cake batter. And, for a treat, simply slice and bake a banana with the skin on, she suggests.

Watermelon rind and seeds

watermelonElvira Koneva/Shutterstock

You’re likely not giving watermelon enough love. The delicious, red insides make for a refreshing snack or juice, but you’re able to get some powerful nutrients in the rind and seeds, as well, says Popeck. Instead of tossing, cut that white part under the green exterior and use it in your cooking. “It contains the amino acid citrulline, which is converted into arginine, which helps to improve circulation, increase blood flow, improve heart health, boost immunity, boost libido, and reduce muscle fatigue.” (A 2016 study in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition backs this up.) What’s more, it also has vitamin C and B6, to keep your immune system high, she adds. Add watermelon rind to smoothies in the blender, chop and add to fruit salad, salsa, chutney, or slaw, mix into soup with potatoes and carrots, or pickle it. As for seeds, you can roast in the oven. Toss in olive oil and salt, roast at 350° for 10 to 15 minutes. Then sprinkle on salads or add into trail mix, she says.

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