Is It Safe To Eat Orange Peels?

Oranges are one of those fruits that teeter on the line between good for you and maybe you should stay away. With the high acidity content, oranges can actually have the same effect on your teeth as that of sugar in soda. Before you ban oranges from your shopping list for good, though, there may be one part of the orange that you're overlooking, which actually renders more nutrients than the flesh itself — the peel. Yup, that pesky, hard-to-separate orange peel may not be meant for the garbage after all, but is the nutrient-rich outer layer of an orange really safe to eat?

Let's first talk about why you would even consider an orange peel worth eating. According to Live Science, the orange peel is nutritionally beneficial. It contains more fiber than the fruit itself and is packed with flavonoids. Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant pigments and one of the main reasons fruits and vegetables are so good for us (via Psychology Today). The consumption of flavonoids has been known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and asthma, and minimize the growth of cancer cells. 

Unfortunately, even though orange peels are safe to eat, and the health benefits may make you want to skip the peeling process altogether and take a big bite of the rind, there are a few things you should know. Orange peels are incredibly bitter and unappetizing, though they are not poisonous. The tough exterior can be difficult to chew and with the peel being so high in fiber, it can also be difficult to digest. Healthline says consuming large pieces of an orange peel at a time may cause cramps or bloating.

Thankfully, Cooking Light offers a tasty way to stomach an orange peel by throwing them on the grill. This helps to soften the peel and makes it more tender and easier to eat. The bitterness of the orange peel mellows out a bit and the citrus flavors become more intense.

You may wan to get your flavonoids elsewhere

Potential for cramps and bloating aside, there is another drawback to consider when eating orange peels, and that's the use of pesticides. Pesticides are frequently used on citrus fruits in order to protect them from insects and molds. Even the recommendation of using organic oranges may not keep you from ingesting these pesticides.

When it comes to whether or not orange peels are safe to eat, the answer is yes. If you can put up with the somewhat uncomfortable digestive issues it may cause, along with the tough texture and bitterness you'll have to endure during consumption, then go for it.

It is worth noting that some orange peels are dyed to look, umm, more orange. According to Taste of Home, some growers use the dye known as Citrus Red #2 to make their fruits more appealing to consumers, who tend to favor bright and vibrant produce. While the jury is still out on the red dye, some studies have shown it to be harmful and it is banned in California and Arizona. If you prefer to avoid foods that contain artificial dyes, the outlet suggests you shop from a local producer or organic market, or look for produce grown in one of the two states mentioned above that don't allow the dye to be used.