Citrus fruits have been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years in countless ways, from cooking and baking to cleaning and other household uses. The juicy pulp inside can be eaten fresh or prepared in numerous different ways. The juice of citrus fruits is also highly valued; beyond its culinary uses, citrus juice has been used as a deodorizer, pesticide, all-purpose cleaner, and even a means of preventing scurvy on long sea voyages. Lemons are of course one of the most popular citrus fruits in the world, and they are often celebrated for their uniquely tart juice. Yet one aspect that sometimes goes underappreciated is the lemon peel.
Facts About Lemons
Though the complete history of the lemon isn’t fully known, it is thought to have originated in an area of northern India called Assam. Modern genomic studies have also uncovered evidence that the lemon was originally a hybrid between two other citrus fruits: the citron and the bitter orange. Lemons then made their way to southern Europe during the time of the Roman Empire, but they were only first cultivated by Arabic farmers nearly a thousand years later. It wasn’t until the 15th and 16th centuries that the lemon spread to other parts of the world.
The lemon plant is actually a small evergreen tree or bush that can reach heights of 10-20 feet if it isn’t pruned and maintained. The fruit itself is an oval or ellipsoidal-shaped form with a bright, yellow rind that starts out as a deep green color before fully ripening. The skin of a lemon is a variously bumpy or smooth glossy texture and dotted with oil glands; these small glands are the source of the lemon’s familiar aromatic odor. The white spongy pith just under the skin is mostly tasteless, but it surrounds the juicy inner pulp that is full of acidic lemon juice.
What Are the Benefits of Lemon Peel?
The fleshly pulp of the lemon is typically not eaten or used in household or commercial recipes because the taste is very tart and acidic, but the juice can be used for everything from lemonade to frosting to lifting stains out of soiled clothing. However, once the juice has been extracted, it is quite common to discard the remaining peel. The truth is, though, that the peel is loaded with nutritional content and health benefits that make it a valuable dehydrated ingredient in food products like salad dressings, sauces, soups, ready meals, and seasoning blends. Below is a list of some of the potential health benefits of lemon peel and lemon zest:
- Nutritional value: Even when only eaten in small amounts, lemon peel has a surprising amount of nutritional value. One tablespoon, for instance, has 1 gram of fiber and 9% of the daily value of vitamin C. Lemon peel also contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, and D-limonene, a major component of the oil that gives lemon its recognizable fragrance.
- Immune system: The high vitamin C content of lemon peel is one of its most valuable features; vitamin C is an important micronutrient that contributes to immune system health in part by protecting epithelial tissues from pathogens and by boosting the body’s ability to eliminate microbes.
- Bone health: Lemon peel also contains calcium, which is an important nutrient in the growth and maintenance of bone tissue. There is also some evidence that the ascorbic acid in lemon peel may also aid in the management of osteoporosis and improve overall bone health.
- Digestion: Lemon peel (and citrus peels in general) has a relatively high amount of fiber compared to many other sources, and the main source of that fiber is the polysaccharide pectin. Pectin is a type of soluble fiber, which means that it dissolves in digestive fluids and develops a gel-like consistency that helps with digestion and bowel motility. Pectin may also bolster the beneficial bacteria of the gut microbiome and relieve some gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Anticancer properties: Recent studies have shown that lemon peel and other plants have compounds called flavonoids that can potentially provide some protection from cancer. The mechanism for this effect is thought to be flavonoids’ antioxidant properties; antioxidants prevent damage from particles called free radicals that are thought to be a trigger for the development of certain types of cancer cells.
- Heart health: The flavonoids, limonene, and pectin content of lemon peel may be able to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. This is in part because of the ways antioxidants reduce oxidative stress in the body, but pectin may also play a role in lowering LDL cholesterol levels that can otherwise lead to plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Oral health: Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to a variety of oral health problems like gingivitis and bleeding gums, so the robust vitamin C content in lemon peel can help avert such a deficiency. However, there are also antimicrobial properties of lemon peel that can help prevent gum infections.
- Weight loss: Though more research is needed, some studies have shown that the pectin in lemon peel may aid those struggling with obesity. This is thought to be because of the solubility of pectin and its ability to increase feelings of fullness after eating; this can indirectly lead to weight loss by decreasing the number of calories consumed.
- Fluid balance: The potassium in lemon peel is beneficial because it helps the body maintain a normal and healthy fluid balance. Without sufficient potassium, the sodium found throughout the body can cause an increase in body fluid; this can lead to swelling, bloating, and temporary weight gain.
- Skin care: While there may be some benefit to using lemon peel extract as a topical, the potential skin care benefits of lemon peel come from the antioxidant properties of several components. In addition to cancer as noted above, the damage from free radicals can also affect other tissues including the skin.
Lemon Peel and Other Quality Ingredients
Even though lemon zest is fairly well established as a culinary element, the truth is that the whole lemon peel is a useful part that shouldn’t be wasted. Silva offers dried lemon peel, orange peel, and a wide variety of other high quality fruit, vegetable, and herb ingredients that are useful in many different kinds of commercial food products. To learn more about our offerings and what it’s like to partner with Silva, please contact us today. Our robust production process ensures the highest standards of quality, food safety, and flavor for any recipe. We are passionate about working with you to provide what you need to deliver excellent products to your customers.