I once saw my Japanese friend peeling the grapes and eating just the flesh! Yeah. I mean grapes, not apples, not bananas, not kiwis, GRAPES! When asked why she was doing so, she looked at me nonchalantly and said, “because the skin is dirty!”
And no, this is not a debate over cultural fruit-eating practices or who eats what how! Trust me, I have seen enough Indian moms peeling Apples, Cheekus, Guavas, and Peaches. So save the Us Vs them debate because just be real, we have all been guilty of peeling fruits and vegetables. Some do it because of the notion of “it being dirty”, some for the fear of “pesticides” and some because of social media mania…
remember the wax on apple frenzy?
Did that surprise you? Did you all of a sudden start peeling your apples? Did you share or forward that video on your WhatsApp? Be honest!
That is food grade wax btw. Wax or plant resins that are totally safe for human consumption. I had once visited an apple orchard and picked apples literally from the tree. And let me tell you, those all natural apples had a white waxy layer on them, It is called the “bloom”. Turns out much like how human skin produces sebum to hydrate and protect itself, fruits too secrete waxy substances to retain the moisture and also to create a barrier between itself and invasive microbes!
After harvesting they are washed to get rid of the dirt and any surface chemical residue but in the process, some of the natural wax is lost! So to replace the loss, a minuscule amount of food grade wax is applied to the fruit surface. Yes, of course, it makes it look shiny and bright and more appealing, but that is not the principal purpose of the wax application at all.
The main purpose is to bring the fruit from farm to your basket as intact and as fresh as possible!
More on Food grade waxes: some are plant-based (carnauba/palm wax, soy), some are derived from animals (beeswax, shellac) and others are synthetic (paraffin wax). All these are used in different formulations by fruit packers. Though the waxes themselves are non-toxic (body does not absorb them) and hypoallergenic, I have two qualms with them-
- sometimes fungicides are mixed in them (to extend the shelf life)
- and sometimes milk and soy proteins are added (especially to shellac wax) as thickening agents . Both milk and soy are known allergens!
How to avoid the waxes? We will come back to that later. First, let’s see why not take an easy route of “peeling the skin off”…
What is in the fruit skin that is so important?
- Dietary fiber: A lot of it actually. A raw apple with skin contains almost twice the amount of fiber that of a peeled one [2, 3] and most of the skin fiber is insoluble fiber (aids in keeping the bathroom trips short!). Same with the potatoes, peel it and you are giving up on almost half of its fiber content!
- Triterpenoids: are these group of plant saponins that possess amazing antioxidant, anticancer, antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory properties , and guess where can you find them? Yup. “The Fruit Skin”! [5, 6]
- Vitamins and Minerals: If you peel an apple you lose more than four folds of Vitamin K and Vitamin E, almost half the Iron and vitamin A and ALL of the Folic Acid! This stands true for almost all fruits and veggies, with the skin they all lose different nutrients.
Does peeling still seem like a good option to you?
But what about the Wax and the pesticides?
Option A (a cheaper option): Wash them thoroughly. Learn how to remove ~99% of pesticides and wax from produce here.
Option B (a safer option): Purchase organic. Just know that Organic produce can still have some permitted pesticides and permitted coatings on them. In that case, check with your grocer/fruit vendor about what really is on your fruit.
Option C (a smarter option): Buy Local! Yes, locally grown apples from Kashmir and Himachal (like Kashmiri Ambri, Chaubattia Anupam, Red Delicious) are known for using little to no wax coating. I did a test at home myself, check it out,
But to be prudent, always grill your fruit vendor (and by grill, I mean ask questions, jeez!)
Take Home Message
We all want only the best quality fruits, all round the year, it should be easily available AND we want it dirt cheap!
With these kinds of unrealistic demands, are you really surprised if the farmers and cultivators are using pesticides and waxes to cut the crop losses and increase their product’s shelf life? Stop. Think. How does an apple picked up from a farm thousands of miles away, that too a couple of months ago still stay so crisp? It’s not a rocket science. Use of chemical in and on the food is a monster of our own creation. Our greed for the best thing at the least price created this…
So wake up. As consumers, and as homemakers. Buy what is fresh. Buy what is in the season. Buy what is locally produced. And most importantly control the urge to purge the peel! Nutrients and antioxidants that you will gain from that peel will far outweigh any negative effects of consuming whatever little wax and pesticides are left on it after you give it a good wash.
Stay prudent Y’all 🙂