It isn’t a big secret that lemons are very healthy. Lemon juice with honey in warm water, a childhood remedy my parents would give me when I had a cold, still brings me comfort when I’m sick. But this article is about a specific part of the lemon, a less popular part one, a part that gets discarded, ignored, and underestimated: the peel, also called zest. This article will be standing up for the underdog, the too often invisible, yet nutritiously powerful lemon zest. Hopefully, after reading this article, lemon peels will migrate from your compost to where it truly belongs, as an integral part of a healthy and balanced diet.
History Of Lemon Peel
Lemon peel is full of incredible health benefits, which have been documented long before modern science. During the 12th century, a Hebrew physician, who lived in Egypt, wrote about the health benefits of different parts of the lemon, including the peel1. Among the array of benefits he talked about, one of them concerned one of our most valued and romanticized organs: the heart.
Health Benefits Of Lemon Peel
Lemon zest is indeed beneficial to the heart thanks to its richness in antioxidants. A study compared the levels of antioxidants in the peel of citrus fruits with their juice. They found the antioxidant content in zest is much higher than in juice2.
Among others, lemon peel is rich in eriocitrin, an antioxidant of the flavonoid family3. Scientists conducted a study on rats, giving some a high-fat diet, and some a high-fat diet with eriocitrin. After four weeks, the second group was found to be healthier: the antioxidant has protective effects against inflammation and oxidative stress due to high-fat diets, helping to prevent potential cardio-vascular diseases4. This means lemon peels can contribute to preventing obesity-related diseases and generally help with heart health.
The antioxidants in lemon peels aren’t only beneficial to your heart, they can also help another vital organ: the liver. A study done on zebrafish showed that eriocitrin can help prevent hepatic steatosis, a liver disease that occurs due to the accumulation of fat in the liver5. Even while trying to have the healthiest of diets, it can sometimes be difficult to avoid eating too many fats in our society. When in doubt, reach for lemon peels: they are an excellent way to protect yourself from any potentially undesirable effects of high-fat foods.
Lemon peel can also contribute to making your skin ever more beautiful. Maybe you have some undesirable acne, maybe you are worried about getting wrinkles, maybe you have beautiful skin and you want to maintain it that way… in any case, lemon peel is your friend. Lemon peel contains powerful anti-microbial agents, which can get rid of skin flora such as Pseudomonas and Micrococcus6. These microbes can cause skin infections and be predisposing factors for acne.
So, if, like me, and many others, you have the tendency to use only the juice of lemons, I hope this article will have led you to reconsider. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, lemon zest could be a precious addition to a healthy diet. If you are a baker, you probably already know, lemon peel is delicious in all sorts of lemon flavored baked goods. It is also yummy in salad dressings along with lemon juice, it brings a unique brightness to the whole salad. So if life gives you lemons, use the zest!
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include, not only eating, but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA with a specialty in “Cultivating Resiliency and Food Justice Through Community”. She is truly a citizen of the world and continues to explore cultures through world travel.