13 Fruits and Vegetables You Shouldn’t Peel—And 9 You Should
Food experts share what fruits and veggies have edible peels. Here are some you should avoid peeling, and others you should peel, to reap the most nutritional benefits.
Here’s why you should eat the peel
The skin or peel of fruits and vegetables are generally higher in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than the flesh, according to Malina Malkani, RDN, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle. Unpeeled fruits and vegetables may have up to 33 percent more fiber than those without the peel. And antioxidant levels in the skins of fruits could be up to 328 times higher than those found in the flesh, Malkani says.
Still, Alyssa Pike, RD, the manager of nutrition communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation, says the amount of nutrients in each peel differs by the type of fruit or vegetable. And the only skins Hillary Cecere, RDN for Eat Clean Bro, doesn’t recommend eating are the ones that are too tough or not tasty to eat. With that in mind, if your goal is also to increase the health-promoting nutrients in your diet, experts say it’s best to eat the following fruits and vegetables without peeling them. (And make sure you peel the rest!)
Don’t worry about peeling berries, cherries, or grapes
Malkani says it’s better to eat berries, cherries, and grapes without peeling them. Aside from the fact that it’s challenging to peel cherries and grapes, and not really possible to peel most berries, the peels offer lots of antioxidants and nutrients. Grape skin is particularly beneficial since this part of the grape has the highest amount of antioxidants in the whole fruit. The boost in antioxidants is why these are some of the 10 of the healthiest fruits for your body.
Avoid peeling pears, peaches, and plums
Peach, pear, and plum skin each have a lot of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. A 2013 study published in the journal Nutrition Research even found that removing peach skin results in 13 to 48 percent fewer antioxidants. For fruits and vegetable you don’t peel, and those you do, always clean them thoroughly before eating.
Avoid peeling apples and apricots
Apples are one of the fruits Cecere especially recommends not peeling. “Apple skin has insoluble fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, and the flavonoid quercetin,” she says. Although apple skins contain so many nutrients and fiber, they are a higher pesticide fruit. So make sure you wash them well or consider buying organic apples. Apples and apricots are some of the healthy foods that are more nutritious than you realized.
Avoid peeling kiwis and cucumbers
Kiwi skins are surprisingly edible, Malkani says. The kiwi skin has lots of vitamin C, and eating it triples the amount of fiber, Cecere says. Try slicing it really thin to warm up to eating the fuzz, she suggests. As for cucumbers, you’ll want to keep the skin for the vitamin K, fiber, and potassium—but you can do without that waxy layer. “Cucumber skins can be waxy, so be sure to wash well and even use a paper towel to rub off the waxy layer,” Cecere says.
Avoid peeling eggplants and zucchini
Keep the eggplant skin on if you want the extra fiber, flavonoids, and magnesium, according to Cecere. Another reason to keep eggplant skin and zucchini skin on too is because of water. Both zucchini and eggplant have a high water concentration; zucchini is 95 percent water, and eggplant is 92 percent water. The skin of these veggies is where most of the nutrients are.
Avoid peeling potatoes
The peel of potatoes contains fiber, iron, vitamin C, potassium, and folate, Cecere says. Instead of stripping away those nutritious benefits, use a vegetable brush to scrub the potato gently before cooking. Also, here’s why you should never store potatoes in the fridge.
Save the peels of citrus fruits
The peels of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges are edible if you cook or grate the skin into zest, Malkani says. Oranges and other citrus fruits are not only some of the best antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, but their peel is also one of the food scraps you didn’t know you could eat.
Save the peels of pumpkins and winter squashes
Pumpkins, technically a fruit, and winter squashes have skins you can only eat if you cook and soften them, Malkani says. (There’s a good chance you’re making these 20 other produce mistakes, too.) Try these powerfully healthy pumpkin recipes.
Always peel tropical fruits
Pineapples, papayas, mangos, bananas, melon, and lychee are tropical fruits that you should always peel. These fruits have skins that are so hard to chew and digest that they are considered inedible, Malkani says. (Also, find out what other foods besides pineapple you can eat raw.)
Always peel avocados, garlic, and onions
Like tropical fruits, avocado skin is tough to digest and not something you should eat. Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, folic acid, and monounsaturated fats. As for garlic and onions, the peel is not especially beneficial or tasty—so it’s worth taking that layer off. (This is the easiest way to peel garlic.)
It comes down to personal preference
There are many benefits in eating the peels of most fruits and vegetables, but it’s not the only nutritious part. So Malkani, Pike, and Cecere agree: If the peel of a fruit or a vegetable is particularly hard or unappetizing, it’s better to eat it without the skin—and benefit from the nutrients within—than to avoid eating fruits or vegetables altogether. (This is what happens to your body when you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.)
- Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle
- Alyssa Pike, RD, the manager of nutrition communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation
- Hillary Cecere, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian for Eat Clean Bro
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Extractable Amounts of trans-Resveratrol in Seed and Berry Skin in Vitis Evaluated at the Germplasm Level”
- USA Pears: “Pears are an excellent source of fiber!”
- Nutrition Research: “Antioxidant activities of peel, pulp and seed fractions of common fruits as determined by FRAP assay”
- Planta Medica: “Preclinical Evidence for the Pharmacological Actions of Naringin: A Review"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Tomatoes, red, ripe, canned, with green chilies”
- USDA: “Eggplant, raw”