As Nutritarians, we know overripe bananas are great for making tasty smoothies or a healthy ‘nice’ cream, and we also know not to discard the liquid after cooking chickpeas (because aquafaba can be repurposed and used in quiche, mousse, and other traditionally egg-containing recipes).
But as you cook, are you throwing out way more than necessary when prepping fruits and vegetables? For example, if you lopped off the tops of celery before using the stalks or discarded the outer layers of a red onion when you peeled it, you were throwing away some of the nutritional benefits of the produce you buy – not to mention some of your hard-earned money you used to purchase it, too.
Next time you are chopping up veggies or fruit for a meal, don’t be so quick to throw out what some may wrongly consider scraps. Instead, use them and reap the health benefits of the stuff you used to waste. Listed below are some of my favorite overlooked treasures. Find out why I like to give these trimmings new life, and learn more unique facts and amazing health benefits of some of my favorite foods in my magazine, 100 Best Foods for Health and Longevity.
If you’ve been tossing the following, then you’ve been throwing nutrients in the trash!
Turnips Tops – These nutrient-dense leafy green tops of turnips are even more packed with nutrients than the white roots. Like kale, collards, and bok choy, they are cruciferous greens, with cancer-fighting glucosinolates. One cup of turnip greens contains about twice as much vitamin C as the root, and they are rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. In addition, they contain omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the building block for DHA and EPA, beneficial fats that are associated with brain and cardiovascular health.
Beet Greens - Don’t throw away the leafy greens that are attached to beets. Beet greens are very similar to Swiss chard in color, flavor and nutrition – actually the two plants are closely related. They offer vitamins, minerals and fiber, and are best used in soups, stews or a stir fry, and not eaten raw, because cooking reduces the oxalic acid content, which binds calcium. These greens contain the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that keep eyesight strong and prevent cataracts.
Celery Leaves - One rarely considers the leaves when dicing celery. But celery leaves can be used just like flat leaf parsley. Using the leaves adds vitamin C, potassium and calcium to your dishes, and they are a perfect addition to soup stocks, and are also great for juicing.
Onion Skin – Inside the papery skin, the outer, deeply colored layers of red onions contain the most nutrients compared to the center of the onion. These layers are particularly rich in quercetin, a powerful phytonutrient that fuels the growth of favorable bacteria and has anti-inflammatory benefits. So be careful not to remove too much of your onion when removing the outer papery skin; try using it to add extra nourishment when making a vegetable stock.
Butternut Squash Seeds - Did you know that the seeds of a butternut squash are edible? They can be dried and eaten just like pumpkin seeds and are similarly nutritious. They are a good source of fiber and protein, and are rich in magnesium and zinc.
Kiwi Peel - You don’t have to peel a kiwi in order to eat it. The skin is fuzzy, but entirely edible! Kiwis are not only delicious, but by weight they pack more vitamin C than oranges and almost as much potassium as a banana, and the peel provides a hefty dose of extra fiber.
Fennel Fronds -Fennel is a delicious bulbous vegetable that tastes just like licorice. The fronds actually contain more nutrition than the bulb; however, they are often discarded. Remember the entire fennel plant is edible and rich in vitamin C and other potent anti-inflammatory compounds. The fronds, leaves and core can be used to flavor soup stocks, in baked goods and even fermented foods like sauerkraut.
Radish Tops – The tender radish greens can be eaten fresh in salads, sautéed as a unique side dish, or added to soups or smoothies to ramp up their nutrient value. Don’t forget – radishes are a cruciferous vegetable, so those leaves contain valuable anti-cancer compounds.
Kale Stems – In removing the stems to make a salad or cooked kale dish, don’t waste these nutritional pearls, save them to blend with your soup stock.
Leak Leaves – Use the entire green leafy top of the leeks. You may want to discard the last half inch if it does not look fresh, but utilize as much as you can of this entire allium super food. It is best used blended and added to soup bases and stews.
What are your recycled favorites? Tell us what edible bits we might be missing by sharing the creative ways you help to reduce waste and/or extend your food dollars.