Oranges are one of the most popular fruits worldwide.
Yet, other than zesting, orange peels are usually removed and discarded before the fruit is eaten.
Still, some argue that orange peels contain important nutrients and should be eaten rather than thrown away.
This article reviews whether orange peels are a healthy addition to your diet.
Beneficial nutrients and plant compounds
Oranges are juicy, sweet citrus fruits known for being high in vitamin C.
It’s perhaps less well known that orange peels are also rich in several nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, and plant compounds like polyphenols.
In fact, just 1 tablespoon (6 grams) of orange peel provides 14% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C — nearly 3 times more than the inner fruit. The same serving also packs about 4 times more fiber.
Studies show that diets high in vitamin C and fiber benefit heart and digestive health and may protect against certain types of cancer (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Orange peel also contains good amounts of provitamin A, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, and calcium.
Plus, it’s rich in plant compounds called polyphenols, which may help prevent and manage many chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.
One test-tube study found that the total polyphenol content and activity in orange peels was significantly higher than in the actual fruit.
Specifically, orange peels are a good source of the polyphenols hesperidin and polymethoxyflavones (PMFs), both of which are being studied for their potential anticancer effects.
Also, nearly 90% of the essential oils in orange peels are composed of limonene, a naturally occurring chemical that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, including against skin cancer.
Orange peels are rich in fiber, vitamins, and disease-fighting polyphenols. They also contain limonene, a chemical that may protect against skin cancer.
Despite the nutritional benefits, eating orange peels also has certain drawbacks.
Pesticides are frequently used on citrus fruits like oranges to protect against mold and insects.
Though studies have found the inner fruit of oranges to have very low or undetectable pesticide levels, the peels contain significantly higher amounts .
Studies link chronic pesticide intake to negative health effects, including increased cancer risk and hormone dysfunction.
These effects are primarily associated with chronically high levels of exposure rather than the relatively small amounts found in the peels and skins of fruits.
However, it’s still recommended to wash oranges under hot water to reduce the amount of pesticides ingested.
The FDA allows a very limited/regulated use of citrus red 2 food dye to be sprayed on some oranges to improve color but the amount used is extremely small. Human research is lacking on any health effects of consuming citrus red 2 dye.
May be hard to digest
Due to their tough texture and high fiber content, orange peels can be difficult to digest.
Eating them, especially larger pieces at a time, could cause stomach discomfort, such as cramps or bloating.
Unpleasant taste and texture
Unlike the inner fruit of an orange, the peel has a tough, dry texture that is difficult to chew.
It’s also bitter, which some people may find off-putting.
Despite its nutritional benefits, the combination of a bitter flavor and tough texture may make orange peels unappealing.
Orange peels have an unpleasant, bitter flavor and tough texture, which may be difficult to digest. Also, they may contain pesticides and need to be washed before eating.
How to eat it
Though you can bite directly into the skin of an orange, it’s best to eat smaller amounts at a time to prevent stomach upset.
Using a knife or vegetable peeler, orange peels can be cut into thin strips and added to salads or smoothies.
For a sweeter take, they can be candied or used to make orange marmalade.
Finally, orange zest is an easy way to incorporate smaller amounts of orange peel by adding it to yogurt, oatmeal, muffins, salad dressings, or marinades.
Still, if you decide to try them, remember to wash the fruit first.
Orange peels can be enjoyed raw in salads and smoothies, cooked to make orange marmalade, or zested to add a pop of orange color and flavor to foods.
The bottom line
Though often discarded, orange peels are rich in important nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C, and polyphenols.
Still, they’re bitter, can be hard to digest, and may harbor pesticide residues.
You can offset many of the drawbacks by rinsing them under hot water and then adding small pieces to smoothies or dishes like salads.
Nevertheless, given that you can obtain the same benefits from enjoying a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, eating orange peels isn’t necessary.