7 Surprising Parts of Food You Never Knew You Could Eat
Some of these food parts actually taste good and have a ton of nutritional value.
Just a few days ago, on a warm Southern California day, I set out to harvest the Brussels sprouts I so diligently planted in the late fall. The tiny and delicious bulbs had sprung to life, beckoning to be plucked from the stalk and sauteed into something yummy. But, as I cut back the overgrown green leaves that protected the itsy bitsy Brussels, I thought to myself, “Man, this is a lot of greenery to go to waste.”
So, instead of putting the leaves in my composter, I hit Google and found out that Brussels sprout leaves are damn delicious and nutritious.
Very little is written about the leaves that accompany the small green vegetable that Americans are obsessed with. Though I did find one thing: A short blurb on the Food Network’s site saying you can bake them or saute them as you would collard greens.
I got to work, picking, cleaning, and cutting the leaves. I sprinkled on some garlic and onion powder, along with a few secret spices that will be taken to my grave with me (this is my discovery, sorry I’m not sharing it), and popped them in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes. What emerged was a crispy, garlicky treat that most certainly rivaled expensive kale chips.
And that got me thinking—what else am I wasting? It turns out I am wasting a lot. And so are you.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year is wasted. That accounts for approximately 1.3 billion tons of food. Worst of all, fruits and vegetables—all the healthy things we should be consuming—have the highest wastage rates of any food.
It’s time we change that. Here are seven food parts—like the mighty Brussels spout leaf—you should be eating instead of wasting.
Don’t toss out those long green carrot tops just yet. The greens, while bitter, come packed with vitamins, including significant amounts of vitamin A, dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and iron, according to Organic Facts. And, like the root part of the plant, the greens too may help improve your vision. Mix them into hummus, stirfry, or a salad for a vitamin boost.
Like those green carrot tops, beet greens are also an excellent addition to your meal for an extra nutritional punch. According to Reader’s Digest, beet greens come with vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain a phytonutrient that can benefit eyesight. Pop them in those same salads with your carrot tops and maybe you’ll get x-ray vision like Superman.
This summer when you’re cutting up a juicy watermelon, don’t throw out the rind. The green part of watermelon rinds, Kate Geagan, R.D., author of Go Green, Get Lean, told Women’s Health, are filled with citrulline, an amino acid that helps relax and dilate arteries, which can be good for your blood pressure. And, as a bonus, the rind could even improve your libido. Try pickling them for an unexpected BBQ side.
After you’re done dressing a salad or adding a squeeze to your water, keep those lemon, lime, or orange peels–they're good for your health.
“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,” Lauren Popeck RD, LD/N, told Reader’s Digest.
Try this recipe featuring a dash of lemon zest.
Yes, really, eat the entire banana. Peel and all.
According to a 2011 article published in the Journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, banana peels have "various bioactive compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids and others."
"Banana peel is eaten in many parts of the world, though [it's] not very common in the West," Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist, told Live Science. "It contains high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium. It also contains some fiber and protein." Instead of biting into plain banana peels, try baking with them.
RELATED: Classic Banana Bread Recipe
Don’t just use the tops of those tiny trees. Broccoli stalks, it turns out, could be even more nutritious than their tops (known as broccoli crowns). According to LiveStrong, 100 grams of broccoli stem contains 2.98 grams of protein, 48 milligrams of calcium, 88 milligrams of iron, 25 milligrams of magnesium, 325 milligrams of potassium, 27 milligrams of sodium, and 400 IU of vitamin A. The stems have the same nutritional value as the crown itself. So, if you’re throwing them away, you’re throwing out all those nutrients too.
Cutting up a pineapple is serious work. Don’t let all that effort go to waste once you hit the core.
“Pineapple contains bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme; it has anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce nasal and sinus inflammation, and it can mitigate arthritis and muscle pain,” Popeck additionally shared with Reader’s Digest. “It also has anticoagulant properties, meaning it breaks down the blood clotting protein fibrin, for a potential cancer-fighting effect.”
Not sure how to use it? Here are 16 fresh pineapple recipes to help you be less wasteful and get as many nutrients in your body as possible.