Bananas are America's most popular fresh fruit. And for good reason: Whether you're using one to sweeten a smoothie, mixing one into baked goods to replace added fats, or simply throwing one in your bag for hanger insurance, the options are endless. Bananas are also a great source of healthy vitamins, minerals, and prebiotics—but did you know you're probably throwing out half the nutrition every time you eat one? The banana peel has just as much good stuff as the flesh and, yes, you can eat it.
You probably already know and love the flesh for having loads of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B-6. But the peel has twice the amount of fiber and even more potassium than the inside. The peel also contains lutein, a carotenoid known to boost eye health; tryptophan, an amino acid with relaxation properties; and prebiotic fiber to promote good gut bacteria, according to Victor Marchione, MD, editor of The Food Doctor newsletter. (Note: It's more important to buy organic if you plan on taking advantage of these peel perks.)
Not quite ready to crown the banana peel 2016's first superfood? If it still doesn't sound very appetizing, we don't blame you. Anyone who's ever bitten into the tough, chewy peel knows that on their own, banana peels just taste bitter and have a weird way of coating your tongue. But non-Western cultures have been cooking with banana peels for centuries. It's all in the technique.
The simplest way to prepare your peel: Treat it like all the other foods you know are good for you but don't love the taste of, and blend it into a smoothie (hello, kale!). Start with just a couple of slices and work your way up to more peel as you get used to the taste. Another trick is to wait until the banana is super ripe. Much like how the fruit sweetens with time, the peel sweetens and thins out as it ripens.
If you're feeling more adventurous, try frying banana peels for a traditional southeast Asian delicacy. Bon apetit!