Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Is Eating Orange Peels Bad For You?

Also Known As: Orange zest, Orange skin



Short answer

Eating orange peels can offer nutritional benefits due to their high vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidant content. However, they might contain pesticides and are tough to digest, which can lead to discomfort for some people. When eaten in moderation and after thorough washing, preferably from organic oranges, peels can be a healthy addition to the diet.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Orange Peels

Orange peels are frequently discarded as inedible, but surprisingly, they are not only consumable but also loaded with nutrients. The peel of an orange is rich in various vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which can offer health benefits if included in the diet. Let's dissect the nutritional profile of orange peels to understand their potential positive impact on health.

Vitamins and Antioxidants: Orange peels contain high levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants. They are particularly rich in flavonoids, such as hesperidin, which studies have linked to reduced inflammation and potential protective effects against heart disease and diabetes. The concentration of vitamin C in the peel is higher than in the orange flesh itself, making it an excellent, albeit unconventional, source of this essential nutrient.

Dietary Fiber: Dietary fiber is abundant in orange peels. In fact, they contain almost four times more fiber than the fruit inside. Soluble and insoluble fibers are both present and contribute to digestive health, help regulate blood sugar levels, and can assist in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

Minerals: Several important minerals are found in orange peels, including calcium, which is critical for bone health, and potassium, which is essential for maintaining proper heart function and muscle health. Magnesium, another mineral found in orange peels, plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and is important for neurological and muscular function.

Essential Oils: Orange peels are a natural source of essential oils that are commonly used in aromatherapy and have been traditionally used for their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and mood-lifting properties. D-limonene, an important compound in these oils, has been studied for its potential cancer-preventative effects and ability to promote digestive health.

Here is a quick glance at the nutritional value of a tablespoon (6 grams) of orange peel:

Nutrient Amount per Tablespoon (6g) of Orange Peel
Calories 6
Total Fat 0 g
Total Carbohydrates 1.5 g
Dietary Fiber 1.4 g
Sugars 0.3 g
Protein 0.2 g
Vitamin C % of Daily Value varies based on preparation method
Hesperidin (Flavonoid) % of Daily Value varies based on preparation method

While the peel provides a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, it's important to note that the bioavailability of these nutrients, meaning how well they can be absorbed and utilized by the body, can vary based on the preparation and consumption method. Moreover, sourcing from organically grown oranges can help minimize exposure to pesticides commonly present in the peels of conventionally grown produce.

Despite the notable nutritional content of orange peels, it's recommended to incorporate them into the diet cautiously and in moderation, especially if you're not accustomed to consuming them. Their intense flavor and tough texture can make them difficult to digest for some individuals. It's also imperative to wash them thoroughly to remove any contaminants or pesticide residues.

Potential Risks of Pesticides and Chemicals in Orange Peels

While incorporating orange peels into one's diet can offer a range of health benefits, it is also crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with the consumption of pesticides and chemicals that may be present in the peels. Oranges, like many other fruits, are often treated with pesticides to protect crops from pests and diseases. The outer skin of the fruit, the peel, is exposed to these chemicals and may absorb them. Let's explore these risks and the necessary precautions one should take.

Pesticide Residue: The peel of an orange is where the highest concentration of pesticide residue can be found. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which publishes an annual report known as the Dirty Dozen, often includes non-organic citrus fruits on its list due to the high levels of pesticide residues. Studies have found that certain pesticides can have detrimental effects on human health, affecting the nervous system, disrupting hormones, and even contributing to chronic illnesses when consumed in large quantities over time.

Risk of Chemical Exposure: In addition to pesticides, post-harvest treatments on oranges can include fungicides and dyes to preserve freshness and enhance appearance. Though these chemicals are regulated by agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is an ongoing debate on the safety levels of such substances in our food supply.

Wax Coating: It's also common practice for oranges to be coated with a thin layer of wax to prevent moisture loss and mold growth during transportation and storage. While the wax used is generally food grade and considered safe for consumption, it can trap pesticides and other chemicals underneath, making them more difficult to wash off.

To mitigate these potential risks, here are several actionable steps you can take:

  • Choose Organic: Opting for organic oranges is recommended to reduce exposure to pesticides. Organic farming practices do not allow the use of synthetic pesticides, which can lead to significantly lower levels of chemical residue on the fruit.
  • Wash Thoroughly: Whether organic or not, washing oranges under running water and using a natural produce wash or a homemade solution of water and baking soda can help remove some of the surface chemicals.
  • Peel Scrubbing: Using a dedicated produce brush to scrub the surface of the orange peel can also help remove additional residues.
  • Sourcing: Choosing oranges from local farmers who use minimal pesticides or integrated pest management practices can be a good alternative for those concerned about pesticide use in larger commercial operations.

It is important to note that peeling the fruit entirely eliminates the risks related to consuming the peel, but it also results in the loss of the valuable fiber and nutrients that otherwise could be gained. Thus, one must weigh the health benefits against the potential risks, and proceed with informed choices regarding the inclusion of orange peels in their diet.

Finally, for the most precise and individualized advice, consulting with a dietitian or healthcare provider is advisable, particularly if you have specific health concerns or conditions that could be affected by the intake of pesticides or other chemicals.

Digestibility and Gastrointestinal Effects of Citrus Peels

The consumption of citrus peels, such as those from oranges, is not a widespread practice, largely owing to their bitter taste and tough texture. However, when considering incorporating orange peels into your diet, it's crucial to examine their digestibility and effects on the gastrointestinal system. Here's a detailed look at what you need to know.

  • Fiber Content: Orange peels are rich in dietary fiber, particularly pectin, which has been shown to promote a feeling of fullness and regulate bowel movements. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry highlights the high content of dietary fiber in citrus peels, suggesting potential benefits in weight management and digestive health.
  • Cellulose and Hemicellulose: The complex carbohydrates cellulose and hemicellulose are abundant in orange peels. These can be difficult to break down, as humans lack the enzymes to fully digest them. This might lead to increased bulk in stool and can aid in preventing constipation, yet it may also cause gastrointestinal discomfort for some individuals.
  • Essential Oils and Flavonoids: Orange peels contain essential oils and flavonoids that can influence digestion. Some research, like that from the European Journal of Pharmacology, indicates that certain flavonoids can possess anti-inflammatory properties, potentially supporting those with inflammatory bowel conditions. Yet, in excessive amounts, these substances might irritate the gut lining.
  • Possible Gastrointestinal Irritants: For people with sensitive digestive systems or conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), orange peels might exacerbate symptoms. The rough texture and indigestible compounds can lead to bloating, cramping, and gas in sensitive individuals.
  • D-limonene Content: D-limonene, a compound found in orange peels, shows promise in aiding digestion and relieving heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms. However, excessive intake might lead to adverse effects, as noted by a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology.
  • Bioavailability Concerns: Nutrients found in orange peels, such as vitamin C, flavonoids, and certain antioxidants, may not be easily absorbed by the body due to the peels' tough structure. Chewing thoroughly or processing the peels into powders or extracts can enhance bioavailability.

It's worth noting that the impact of consuming orange peels on the gastrointestinal tract varies from person to person. While some may find the fiber beneficial, others could experience discomfort. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian is recommended, especially if you have pre-existing digestive issues.

Overall, moderate and mindful incorporation of orange peels into one's diet—potentially through grating or zesting—could offer dietary benefits without significant adverse gastrointestinal effects. Ensuring proper preparation and paying attention to individual tolerance can optimize the digestion and absorption of the nutrients present in orange peels.

Beneficial Phytochemicals and Their Impact on Health

Contrary to what many may believe, orange peels are more than just a protective covering for the juicy segments we enjoy. These often-discarded parts of the fruit are a powerhouse of phytochemicals—biologically active compounds that can have significant health benefits.

One of the most notable phytochemicals in orange peels is hesperidin, a flavonoid that is less prevalent in the fruit's flesh. Research has linked hesperidin to an array of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition suggests that hesperidin can bolster cardiovascular health by improving blood vessel function and lowering blood pressure.

Additionally, orange peels are abundant in polymethoxyflavones (PMFs), particularly tangeretin and nobiletin. These compounds are exclusive to citrus peels and have gained attention for their potential in obesity management and cancer prevention. For instance, an animal study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that PMFs could reduce lipid accumulation and body weight gain.

Beyond these, orange peels contain an impressive range of other phytochemicals such as:

  • Vitamin C – An essential nutrient known for its immune-boosting and skin health properties.
  • Various carotenoids – These have antioxidant effects and may contribute to eye health.
  • Other flavonoids – Such as quercetin, which may help reduce inflammation and have antihistamine effects.

It's important to note that phytochemicals often work synergistically, meaning the combined effect of these compounds when ingested as part of a whole food, like an orange peel, can be greater than what might be expected from each phytochemical in isolation. A diet rich in phytochemicals, like those found in orange peels, is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, according to a review in the Advances in Nutrition journal.

While the benefits of these phytochemicals are clear, consumption of orange peels should be approached with caution. The peels of non-organic oranges may contain pesticides or other harmful chemicals. If you do choose to eat orange peels, it's recommended to source organic oranges and wash them thoroughly before consumption. Alternatively, considering using the zest of the peel to enhance flavor in foods and benefit from the phytochemicals without consuming the entire peel.

These compounds in orange peels not only add to our understanding of the fruit's nutritional value but also challenge the conventional practice of discarding them without second thought. Awareness of the health impacts of phytochemicals is vital in making informed dietary choices, and as such, should be further evaluated for their potential inclusion in regular nutritional guidelines.

Culinary Uses and Safe Preparation of Orange Peels

Orange peels are a unique ingredient that can enhance a variety of dishes with their bright, citrusy flavor. When using orange peels in the kitchen, there are several ways to safely incorporate them into your diet. Here's how to prepare and use orange peels for culinary purposes:

Washing and Cleaning:

  • Before using orange peels, wash the fruit thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt and residues. This is essential to minimize exposure to any pesticides or contaminants.
  • Organic oranges are recommended when using the peel to reduce the risk of ingesting harmful chemicals.
  • Use a brush designated for produce to gently scrub the surface of the orange, ensuring you cover the entire peel.
  • Pat the oranges dry with a clean cloth or paper towel before proceeding to use the peel.


  • Zesting involves grating the colored part of the peel, avoiding the bitter white pith underneath.
  • A fine grater or zester is ideal for this. The zest can be used to flavor baked goods, marinades, dressings, and cocktails.
  • Always zest the orange before juicing it, as it's much easier to grate the peel while it's still intact on the fruit.


  • Candied orange peels are a sweet treat that can be enjoyed on their own or used as a garnish for desserts.
  • To make candied peels, simmer strips of peel in simple syrup until they become translucent, then allow them to dry and harden slightly.
  • Ensure that peels are cut into uniform strips for even cooking.

Making Orange Peel Powder:

  • Orange peel powder can be made by drying peels and then grinding them into a fine dust.
  • This powder can be used as a seasoning, in tea mixes, or as a natural flavoring agent for yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies.
  • To dry peels, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and dry them in an oven on the lowest heat setting, or use a food dehydrator.


  • Infuse oils, spirits, or water with orange peels to impart a citrus flavor.
  • Use only the zest, and avoid the pith to prevent bitterness. Add peels to your infusing liquid and let it sit for a specified time, which can vary depending on the desired strength of the flavor.
  • Strain out the peels before using the infused liquid.

Note on Safety:

  • Ensure that any orange peel used in food preparation comes from oranges free of mold and decay.
  • Be conscious of potential allergies; while rare, some individuals may have a reaction to citrus peels.
  • Consume orange peels in moderate amounts, especially if you have a sensitive stomach, as they are high in fiber and can cause digestive discomfort if eaten in excess.

While orange peels are not a traditional ingredient in many cuisines, incorporating them into your diet can add a burst of flavor and also provide additional nutrients. With proper preparation, the incorporation of orange peels can be both safe and beneficial.

Frequently asked questions

Those with digestive issues such as IBS or who are sensitive to high-fiber foods should consume orange peels cautiously. Additionally, individuals with citrus allergies should avoid orange peels, and those on medications should consult with their healthcare provider due to potential interaction with the compounds in the peels.

Orange peel powder can retain many of the nutrients found in fresh orange peels, such as dietary fiber and phytochemicals, if properly prepared and stored. However, some volatile compounds and vitamins might degrade through the drying process. It's a convenient alternative that still offers health benefits.

Orange peels stand out for their high levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and unique flavonoids compared to most other fruit peels. They offer different health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and digestive aid, that might not be as pronounced in other fruit peels.

To make orange peels more palatable, you can candy them, use them as zest in recipes, or infuse them into syrups, teas, or oils. These methods help to mellow the bitter flavor while adding a fragrant citrus note to dishes and drinks.

Ask a question about Eating Orange Peels and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • cramping
  • gas
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • irritation of gut lining

Possible long-term side effects

  • potential pesticide toxicity
  • hormonal disruption
  • nervous system effects
  • chronic illness risk

Ingredients to be aware of

  • pesticide residue
  • fungicides
  • dyes
  • wax coating


  • high in vitamins
  • antioxidants
  • dietary fiber
  • essential oils
  • digestive health
  • may reduce inflammation
  • supports heart and muscle health
  • mood-lifting properties
  • anti-cancer potentials
  • weight management
  • immune-boosting
  • skin health
  • eye health
  • antihistamine effects

Healthier alternatives

  • organic orange peels
  • washing with produce wash
  • peel scrubbing
  • using zest in moderation

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Orange Peel Powder

  • Rich in Vitamin C
  • Natural skin exfoliant
  • Acne and dark spot care
  • Vegan-friendly
  • No added chemicals
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-27-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-27-2023

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