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10 Ways You're Eating These Fruits and Vegetables Wrong

You may be peeling and steaming away the nutritional benefits of your produce.

Here at Eat This, Not That!, we've got to agree with Hershey's: There's really no wrong way to eat a Reese's. But we're putting our foot down when it comes to the nutrient-dense foods that make up the bulk of our daily diet. There are vitamins and nutrients at stake, here! It's a no-brainer that baking instead of frying is healthier, but some other food prep situations are harder to navigate: Is it better to steam or eat carrots raw? Peel the cucumber skin or eat it? Toss old kiwis or salvage them?

The answers to these questions, and others, aren't always obvious or conventional, but there are definitely right and wrong ways—at least when it comes to nutrition—to consume your food.

You Skin Kiwis and Toss Them Too Soon

It may be brown and fuzzy, but don't let that turn you off. "The skin of kiwi fruits contain cholesterol-lowering fiber, antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamin C," says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group. Just as your would rinse a peach or a pear to lower your exposure to pesticides and chemicals, washing kiwis is essential if you plan to bite right in.

More surprising news about this little green fruit: kiwis contain actinidine, an enzyme that breaks down protein, which makes them a great meat tenderizer. Instead of tossing older kiwis, use them to rub both sides of steak or poultry and then transfer the meat to a Ziploc bag for 20 minutes to give it time to absorb the juices and break down.

You Toss Out Watermelon Seeds

It may seem odd that we're suggesting you eat something the majority of people spit out, but hear us out. "Watermelon seeds are an excellent source of magnesium and zinc (which may help battle the common cold) and a good source of protein and iron, too," says Moskovitz. If you're intrigued but not sure how eat the seeds, we've got you covered: Mix them with lime juice and chili powder (to taste) and roast in the oven the same way you'd prepare pumpkin seeds. They taste great mixed into salads. (For more healthy between-meal munching ideas, check out our list of good snacks for weight loss.)

You Don't Save the Broccoli Leaves

While a nose-to-tail approach may be a bit hard to swallow, a stem-to-root attitude is a bit easier to accept and can have major health-boosting benefits. This especially holds true with broccoli. "Broccoli leaves are actually richer in beta carotene than the stems and the florets," explains Moskovitz. So next time you're preparing the nutrient-packed green, don't toss them out! Instead, bake them like you would kale chips. Start by mixing them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Pop them in a 375 degree F oven for five minutes, or until they're crisp. Wait until they have cooled off a bit and munch away. We've got a feeling this snack is going to give kale chips a real run for their money.

You Slice Your Strawberries

It's an innocent mistake—we've all done before—but slicing up strawberries exposes them to light and oxygen, which can break down their precious vitamin C! While this may be a bout of bad news, the fix is a simple one: just pop them in your mouth whole! To take in even more of their vitamin C, researchers suggest storing them in the refrigerator. You better listen up if you want the biggest nutritional boost possible.

You Eat Carrots Raw

There's nothing better than the sweet, crispy crunch of a fresh carrot, but munching on this orange vegetable raw isn't the best way to get your daily dose of vitamins. According to an International Food Research Journal report, boiling the orange vegetable best preserves its nutrients. If learning this was a bit of a shocker for you, it's understandable; many other veggies lose their their water-soluble vitamins once they're boiled. To add a punch of flavor to your boiled carrots, drain and transfer them to a bowl and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of pepper and dried rosemary.

You Don't Wash Apples

For the 10th year in a row, pesticide-laden apples have topped the Environmental Working Group's Dirty annual Dozen List. Almost every sample of apples they tested came back positive for at least one chemical residue. Yuck! If you want to stay safe, simply swiping the fruit quickly under a faucet won't do. Instead, soak your apples in a pot of water for 10-15 minutes and then give them another quick rinse under some running water to make sure they're clean.

You Peel Off the Cucumber Skin

For all of you out there that hate using a vegetable peeler, we've got some good news: If you remove the skin off your cucumbers, you're peeling away the very nutrients—like fiber and vitamin A—that make the veggie a health food powerhouse, Moskovitz explains. Sticking with the skin may also help the scale tip in your favor. The fibrous peel can help increase feelings of satiety, fueling your weight loss efforts. It's a win-win!

You Throw Away Citrus Peels

"Like most fruits, citrus peels contain four times as much belly-filling fiber than the flesh inside. The skin is also where a majority of the fruit's disease-fighting flavonoids are found," explains Moskovitz. The only downside? There aren't too many appealing ways to eat it. Your best bet is to grate up the peels—the same way you'd do it with cheese— and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. This way you'll be prepared a recipe calls for orange or lemon zest. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, try making your own citrus meat rub. Here's how: Dry tangerine or orange peels in a 200 degree F oven. Let them cool before chopping them very finely. Combine 1/4 cup of the dried peels with 2 tablespoons of salt and a tablespoon of black pepper.

You can even save them whole to toss in your spa water the next morning. Just add peels to a pitcher of water and get drinking! Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant de-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organization. It's one of the key steps in our energizing and refreshing one day detox.

You Toss Out the Stalks

While it may be commonplace, there is no reason to discard the broccoli stalk. Believe it or not, "they have more fiber than the crowns," says Moskovitz. "They are also a good course of iron and bone-building calcium." For a healthy and easy snack, cut the stalks into bite-sized pieces and dip into hummus. We like the Athenos Original variety since it's made with heart-healthy olive oil, not soybean oil like some other brands. The stalks also make great additions to Asian inspired stir-fries and crunchy salads.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh
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