I recently wrote about how carrots could almost be considered an “orange physique stick.”
I was just kidding around with the name, but I was trying to make a point about how two chemicals found in carrots – the fatty alcohols falcarinol and falcarindiol – can promote physique changes by increasing insulin sensitivity almost as well as the powerful anti-diabetic drug rosiglitazone.
Those two fatty alcohols block fat cells from absorbing more fat, along with causing muscle cells to absorb more glucose. (4) Beyond their potential effects on physiques, though, I cited research about how these same two fatty acids found in carrots could significantly reduce your chances of developing colon cancer or prostate cancer. (1,3)
Similarly, related research found that eating just 50 grams of carrot a day (less than the weight of a medium-sized carrot) can reduce a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer by a mind-blowing 50%. (6)
I stand by all of what I reported, but I have to make an important addendum to my article and it’s advice you’ve no doubt heard before but probably ignored:
Wash, but don’t peel your carrots before eating them. For that matter, don’t peel any vegetable or fruit you don’t have to, including a lot that you normally wouldn’t even consider eating without peeling because you could easily wipe out all those insulin sensitizing and cancer-preventing benefits, in addition to a lot more.
Not Peeling is Appealing
You know those two fatty alcohols I just mentioned above, the ones implicated in increasing insulin sensitivity, making it hard for fat cells to absorb fat, and preventing prostate cancer?
Well, the same scientists who compared them to a powerful anti-diabetic drug also found that carrot peels contained about 10 times more falcarinol and falcarindiol than the actual meat of the carrot. (2)
Sure, the meat of the vegetable still contains some of those two fatty acids, but you’d probably lose more than half of those fat-fighting, cancer-thwarting fatty alcohols by peeling your carrot.
This is also true of a lot of other fruits and vegetables whose skins, like those of carrots, contain a cornucopia of fiber, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and other phytochemicals, so stop peeling just about every damn fruit or vegetable you can think of.
And don’t just decide not to peel the conventional ones – get a little freaky in your non-peeling.
Orangutans Don’t Peel Their Bananas. Why Should You?
Native American folklore is filled with stories about how the tribes people used every part of an animal, wasting nothing. Well, take a lesson from them, Dances with Cucumbers, by either not peeling or repurposing the peels of the following fruits and vegetables:
- Sweet Potatoes
Okay, I know the last four items on this list – kiwis, bananas, oranges, and watermelons – seem a bit weird, but bear with me. Kiwi skin is quite edible and can quite harmlessly be eaten, along with the fruit.
Eating orange peels is a little more daunting, but you can easily repurpose the skins by zesting them, chopping them up and using them to flavor teas, water, and other drinks.
Banana peels can be blended into shakes and drank or fried or baked before chewing, and watermelon rinds can be juiced or even stir-fried alongside broccoli and carrots.
Hey, it may sound weird, but it all works.
What About the Pesticides?
The second thought that probably popped into your head when you think about eating unpeeled fruits and vegetables, after yuck, is probably, “Yikes, pesticide poisoning!” I don’t blame you, because it can be a concern.
That concern is probably what caused a lot of people to start peeling in the first place. I won’t say the fear is unfounded, but pesticides can also be found in the meat of the fruit or vegetable as several pesticides permeate the skin and others that are water-soluble find their way into every part of the plant.
Fortunately, several of the fruits and vegetables I mentioned are considered “safe,” or at least safer, than the bulk of fruits and vegetables raised commercially. They include kiwi, eggplants, watermelons, and sweet potatoes.
And, if pesticides are a concern, there are at least three legitimate ways to avoid the issue or largely decontaminate them:
- Buy organic. Problem solved!
- Wash them in a 1% baking soda solution for 2 to 8 minutes and then rinse with water. This method was found to remove 96% of the phosmet and 86% of the thiabendazole (phosmet penetrates into the skin to only a depth of 20 micrometers, while thiabendazole penetrates to a comparatively deep 80 micrometers). (5)
- Do what I do, which is “steam clean” your vegetables by cooking them with a vegetable steamer. Just like the car wash, the steam permeates the nooks, crannies, and pores of the vegetables and washes away a large percentage of the chemicals.
Just don’t drink the residual water as some granola crunchers might advocate, lest you turn your liver into a toxic waste dump.
- Ulrik Deding, Gunnar Baatrup, Lars Porskjaer Christensen, Morten Kobaek-Larsen, “Carrot Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study of 57,053 Danes,” Nutrients, Volume 12, Issue 2, 27 January, 2020.
- Stine Kreutzmann, et al. “Investigation of bitterness in carrots (Daucus carota L.) based on quantitative chemical and sensory analyses,” LWT-Food Science and Technology, Volume 41, Issue 2, March 2008.
- Morten Kobaek-Larsen, Rime B. El-Houri, Lars P. Christensen, Issam Al-Najami, Xavier Fretté and Gunnar Baatrup, “Dietary polyacetylenes, falcarinol and falcarindiol, isolated from carrots prevents the formation of neoplastic lesions in the colon of azoxymethane-induced rats,” Food and Function, Issue 7, 2015.
- Rime El-Houri, Dorotka Kotowska, Kathrine Christensen, et al. “Polyacetylenes from carrots (Daucus carota) improve glucose uptake in vitro in adipocytes and myotubes,” Food and Function, Issue 7, 2015.
- Yang, Tianxi, et al. “Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2017, 65 (44), pp 9744–9752.
- Xu Xi, Cheng Y, Li S, Zhu Y, Xu X, Zheng X, Mao Q, Xie L. Dietary carrot consumption and the risk of prostate cancer. Nur J Nutr. 2014 Dec;53(8):1615-23.