It’s common for vegetables to be peeled before they are eaten. This is a practise that many of us follow on with from our parents and the way they prepared vegetables. If a vegetables has a skin, often it gets peeled – carrots, cucumber, pumpkin and so on. However, do we need to? Is the skin bad for us or could we be saving oursleves a lot of effort and waste by eating the skin?
Considering we waste $8 billion of food each year, with the average household throwing out one in five grocery bags per week, couldn’t we simply stop peeling our veggies?
Many might dislike the idea of not peeling veggies for fear of food safety, but it’s not as much of a concern as we think. From a food safety perspective it’s probably not necessary, Food Standards Australia and NZ Spokeswoman Lorraine Haase told The Huffington Post Australia.
So we now know that it’s not of great concern to our health – that rules out the main reason for peeling. So long as we wash out vegetables thoroughly, they should be fine to eat as is.
Accredited practising dietitian Caroline Trickey agrees. Trickey said. If someone has issues with their immune system, things like pre-packaged mixed lettuce bags need to be washed a lot more carefully — but more generally, just rinse your fruit and veggies under the tap.
If a vegetable is going to be cooked then this in particular removes the risk of food poisoning and the necessity for peeling e.g. boiling, roasting/baking – all of these methods should destroy any bacteria present so long as the temperature reached is high enough. It is still recommended to give them a quick rinse before cooking to remove any excess dirt etc.
Heat is the natural enemy of bacteria, so in the cooking step it will mitigate the risk of food contamination, Haase said. If you’re cooking up a beautiful chicken and vegetable soup or stew, it’s going to get really hot and get to a temperature that will kill the bacteria.
The most beneficial aspect of retaining the skin is the added nutrients you’ll be receiving. A lot of nutrition is lost when the peel is removed. The peel contains a lot of fibre which is great for digestion. It also has many other beneficial micronutrients.
There are so many valuable nutrients in and under the skin of fruit and vegetables, Trickey told HuffPost Australia. That’s where a lot of the fibre and phytonutrients is concentrated, so if you’re peeling them you’re losing a lot of that fibre and nutrients.
The main concern is around vegetables that are to be eaten raw, like salad vegetables. These should definitely be washed thoroughly and no dirt should be visible. If washed properly, they are still safe to consume.
The main risk associated with raw vegetables is the possible water, soil or animal contamination while they are being grown. With salad vegetables in particular, if there’s going to be any kind of risk of contamination, it’s because these vegetables are grown quite close to the soil or in the soil, Haase said. So if there’s an issue that has occurred along the primary production chain, it can affect the produce — including ones from your own backyard.
At the end of the day, it also tends to come down to taste, texture and whether someone is comfortable eating the peel – many people struggle to get their head around the idea of eating pumpkin or carrot skin. However, if you can adjust to this change and if you prepare them in a safe manner, it is a healthy change to make in order to maximize the nutrient content of the vegetables/fruit, save waste and also save time!