So, is the peel of a lemon good for you? You sure bet. "Despite the fact that lemon peels are often discarded, they do have nutritional benefits," says registered dietitian Katherine Brooking, RD. And if you were wondering what are the nutritional components of lemon peel, they're similar to lemon juice, but potentially even better. "The lemon peel contains small amounts of calcium, vitamin C, and potassium, as well as fiber," Brooking says.
- Katherine Brooking, MS, RD , dietitian, speaker, nutrition counselor, author, influencer and nutrition advocate
That said, considering you're not exactly likely to sit down and nosh on these citrus peels, you might be wondering what the best way is to reap that stellar list of lemon peel benefits. Well, keep reading my friend. Besides more details on the nutritional benefits, we've got some other surprising ways to start putting lemon peel to good use.
6 impressive lemon peel nutrition benefits
1. Lemon peels contain calcium. As Brooking previously pointed out, lemon peels have a small amount of calcium, which is important for maintaining strong bones and cellular communication. Simply put, if you don't get enough calcium, your body isn't going to function properly, which becomes even more important especially as you age. So, how much calcium should folks be getting daily? For women and men, it's roughly 1,000 milligrams a day for folks 50 of younger.
2. They're good for your immune system. Like other citrus fruits, lemon peels contain vitamin C, which can help keep your immune system strong and healthy. If you're starting to feel sick, zesting lemon peel into your foods or even in your tea could help give your body the extra boost it needs to power through. Not to mention, it's one of the best foods for longevity, according to research conducted on some of the longest-living people around the world.
That said, you may be wondering, how is lemon zest different from lemon peel? In short, the outermost, bright yellow layer of lemons are typically considered the zest, while the bitter white under-layer is called the pith. (The peel is comprised of both the pith and zest.) As such, you'll want to ensure you're consuming the zest with at least a little bit of the pith (in other words, as much of the whole peel as possible), to really reap the most lemon peel benefits.
3. Lemon peels have potassium. Lemon peels also have a small amount of potassium, which like calcium, is needed for cells in the body to communicate properly. Especially if you sweat a lot (yes you, in your post hot-yoga drenched workout clothes!).
4. They're good for your digestive system. Brooking's point about the fiber in lemon peel, this is important because fiber is crucial for keeping your digestive track running properly. Other major fiber benefits: helping lower inflammation and keeping your metabolism in check.
5. They could be good for your heart. "There is some evidence that lemon peels may help to lower blood pressure," Brooking says, citing a scientific study that found that a combination of consuming lemon and walking every day lowered blood pressure. "The water extract of lemon peels had a suppressive effect on blood pressure," the study reads, in part.
6. Lemon peels could help protect against cancer. "Some studies indicate that limonene and the other flavonoids in lemon rind are directly linked to preventing the formation and spread of cancerous tumors, particularly, cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and stomach," Brooking says. That's to say, it seems that their anti-inflammatory powers are really quite strong.
How to consume lemon peels
1. As a zest. All of these health benefits sound fantastic, but what exactly is the best way to consume lemon peel? According to Brooking, the most common way is as a zest—and it literally works on anything (think a warm, relaxing lemon water before bed drink). Not only will you reap the nutritional rewards, but it makes everything taste just a little bit fresher. "While most of us don't eat raw lemon peels, a great way to incorporate the peel into your diet is by freezing whole, organic lemons," Brooking says. "Grate the sprinkles of lemon peel over your yogurt or oatmeal, in your drinks, and on your soups for a zesty flavor." Keep in mind, you'll want to get a little bit of the pith in there too, if you can tolerate its bitter flavor.
2. Make a lemon peel-infused olive oil. Make your own lemon peel olive oil to drizzle on your salad, zucchini noodles, or fish to get all the nutritional benefits mentioned here and a good serving of healthy fats. You can easily DIY lemon peel olive oil at home by simple submerging clean (and dried) lemon peels in olive oil, and simmering the mixture for just 10 minutes or so to infuse the flavors. Then, once it's cool, transfer it to a sterile container. Talk about a genius pantry staple! You can also apply a somewhat similar technique to make preserved lemons, too.
3. Work it into your butter. This is an especially good tip if butter is an oft-used item at your house. Zest lemon peel right into your butter so it's ready to spread on all your fave foods. This tastes delish on savory and sweet dishes. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Other surprising (non-edible) uses for lemon peels
1. Use them to make a non-toxic all-purpose cleaning solution. Lemons are an all-natural cleaning powerhouse, peels included! Make your own solution by infusing lemon peels in a jar of vinegar. And you'll still get that "just cleaned" smell, too.
2. Work it into a DIY beauty treatment. Thanks to the citric acid, lemon peels could be beneficial for treating acne and potentially help improve skin health. Make your own beauty water by grating lemon skins into a bowl, squeezing the juice into another bowl, and then mixing the peels and juice together. Then, gently massage the solution into your face for an all-natural, acne-fighting treatment.
3. Use them to make insect repellant. Um, best smelling bug spray ever, do we think? Instead of something loaded with difficult-to-pronounce chemicals, rubbing lemon peel on your skin can help keep insects away.
4. Stash them anywhere that stinks. Whether it's the bottom of your trash can, your bathroom, or in the fridge, lemon peels can help neutralize foul smells. Just throw them wherever needs some extra lemon-y-scented freshening up.
What's the best way to store lemon peel?
According to a recent TikTok video by @sunkistcitrus, one of the best (and easiest) ways to store lemon peels is by freezing them. To do so, evenly spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet (without touching one another), before transferring them to a freezer-safe container once fully frozen. Not only will this keep them fresher for much longer, but it'll be one of the best ways to ensure none of your lemons (and, more importantly, lemon peels) ever go to waste. In short, this means you can use the lemon juice way before you even tap into your lemon peel reserves. We sure love a no-food-waste moment 'round here.
Lemons on your mind? These gut-healthy, gluten-free lemon chia seed loaves will hit the spot:
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- Stone MS, Martyn L, Weaver CM. Potassium Intake, Bioavailability, Hypertension, and Glucose Control. Nutrients. 2016 Jul 22;8(7):444. doi: 10.3390/nu8070444. PMID: 27455317; PMCID: PMC4963920.
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- Wang L, Wang J, Fang L, Zheng Z, Zhi D, Wang S, Li S, Ho CT, Zhao H. Anticancer activities of citrus peel polymethoxyflavones related to angiogenesis and others. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:453972. doi: 10.1155/2014/453972. Epub 2014 Aug 28. PMID: 25250322; PMCID: PMC4163462.
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