Don't Toss Those Cancer-Fighting Veggie Parts
whole vegetables

Are you gonna eat that?

Next time you’re cooking up vegetables and about to toss out those ‘extras’ – stop. Many vegetable parts that we usually toss out are perfectly edible, and are packed with nutrition and flavor. 

Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your veggies. They’ll help you eat more of a variety of vegetables—one of AICR’s key recommendations for cancer prevention. You'll also reduce food waste and save money.

Squash and Seeds

Squash seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a fall favorite, but you can roast seeds from any winter squash, including butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash. Squash seeds are a great source of protein.

To roast, scoop out seeds, rinse and drain. Let them dry, spread flat on a baking pan and bake at 300 F for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Use them in our Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Seeds with Autumn Spices.


Beet greens

Buy beets with the greens still attached and it’s like getting two vegetables in one. Beet greens contain loads of vitamin C and beta-carotene — nutrients linked to lower cancer risk.

Separate the greens from the beets by cutting just above where the stem begins. They’re great sautéed in olive oil, with garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Or, try Beet and Cannellini Bean Salad, which combines beets and greens in one dish.

broccoli with stalk

Broccoli stems

No need to toss that broccoli stem — it is delicious raw or added to stir-fries — and stems are rich in cancer-protective vitamin C and fiber.

Use a vegetable peeler or large knife to remove the thick, tough outer layer of the broccoli stem (if you use a knife, make four lengthwise cuts along the four sides of the stem to make a long rectangle). Try Creamy Broccoli Soup, which incorporates broccoli stems and florets into the soup.

broccoli with leaves

Broccoli leaves

Broccoli leaves are starting to show up at grocery stores — they look a lot like collard greens but taste sweeter. Dark green broccoli leaves are rich in vitamin C,  beta-carotene and sulforaphane, a phytochemical with anti-cancer properties.

Prepare these nutritional powerhouses like you would any other green. Braising is a great option and our Braised Broccoli Leaves recipe walks you through how to do it. The braising technique works for any green.

potato peel

Potato and sweet potato peels

Potato peels are the perfect way to add extra fiber, nutrients, and texture to many dishes. You'll get more minerals and about a third more fiber by eating the skin.

Try leaving the peels on when mashing potatoes — this works particularly well for red potatoes. You can also leave the peel on when baking or roasting potatoes or sweet potatoes. Just be sure to scrub the vegetables well if you’re planning to eat the peel.

sweet potato leaves

Sweet potato leaves

You’ll be hard pressed to find these edible leaves at the grocery store —try farmers' markets — but sweet potato leaves are tender and mild. They are also a good source of vitamins A and K, and carotenoids.

Look for sweet potato leaves at your farmer’s market or at local gardens, and try them lightly braised (use our recipe for broccoli leaves and substitute sweet potato leaves). Please note that sweet potato leaves are edible, but other potato leaves and stems can be poisonous. If you're not sure; avoid.

cauliflower stalk

Cauliflower stems

Using the whole cauliflower, including the stem, in cauliflower “steaks” is trendy right now. Cut all the way through a cauliflower head from the top to make cauliflower steaks, which can be broiled or pan roasted. These “steaks” make a beautiful presentation.

Or, try our Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, which use the whole cauliflower including the stem.

veggies in pan

Get cooking!

Now that you’ve got some ideas, it’s time to get cooking. Sign up to receive our weekly Health-e-Recipes and find delicious, cancer-fighting recipes.

You can find out more about these foods' nutrients, cancer-related research, and recipes in our Foods that Fight Cancer.

Connect with us on twitter (@aicrtweets) or Facebook and share your ideas.

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    Published on March 13, 2015

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