Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a summer squash in the Cucurbitaceae plant family, alongside melons, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers.
It can grow to more than 3.2 feet (1 meter) in length but is usually harvested when still immature — typically measuring under 8 inches (20 cm).
Although zucchini is often considered a vegetable, it is botanically classified as a fruit. It occurs in several varieties, which range in color from deep yellow to dark green.
While squashes originated in the Americas, this particular variety was first developed in the early 1800s in Italy .
Zucchini has been used in folk medicine to treat colds, aches, and various health conditions. However, not all of its uses are backed by science.
Benefits of zucchini.
Here are 12 evidence-based benefits of zucchini.
1. Rich in Many Nutrients.
Zucchini is rich in several vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds.
One cup (223 grams) of cooked zucchini provides :
▪️ Calories: 17.
▪️ Protein: 1 gram.
▪️ Fat: less than 1 gram.
▪️ Carbs: 3 grams.
▪️ Sugar: 1 gram.
▪️ Fiber: 1 gram.
▪️ Vitamin A: 40% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
▪️ Manganese: 16% of the RDI.
▪️ Vitamin C: 14% of the RDI.
▪️ Potassium: 13% of the RDI.
▪️ Magnesium: 10% of the RDI.
▪️ Vitamin K: 9% of the RDI.
▪️ Folate: 8% of the RDI.
▪️ Copper: 8% of the RDI.
▪️ Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI.
▪️ Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI.
▪️ Thiamine: 5% of the RDI.
It also contains small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and several other B vitamins.
In particular, its ample vitamin A content may support your vision and immune system.
Raw zucchini offers a similar nutrition profile as cooked zucchini, but with less vitamin A and more vitamin C, a nutrient which tends to be reduced by cooking.
2. High in Antioxidants.
Zucchini is also rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are beneficial plant compounds that help protect your body from damage by free radicals.
Carotenoids — such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene — are particularly plentiful in zucchini .
These may benefit your eyes, skin, and heart, as well as offer some protection against certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer .
Research indicates that the skin of the plant harbors the highest levels of antioxidants. Yellow zucchinis may contain slightly higher levels than light green ones.
3. Contributes to Healthy Digestion.
Zucchini may promote healthy digestion in several ways.
For starters, it’s rich in water, which can soften stools. This makes them easier to pass and reduces your chances of constipation .
Zucchini also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and helps food move through your gut more easily, further reducing constipation risk. This benefit is compounded if you have enough fluids in your diet .
Meanwhile, soluble fiber feeds the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that nourish your gut cells .
What’s more, SCFAs may help reduce inflammation and symptoms of certain gut disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
4. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels.
Zucchini may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
At 3 grams of carbs per cooked cup (232 grams), zucchini provides a great low-carb alternative to pasta for those looking to reduce carb intake. It can be spiralized or sliced to replace spaghetti, linguini, or lasagna noodles in dishes.
Low-carb diets can significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels, both of which may keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce the need for medication in people with type 2 diabetes .
What’s more, zucchini’s fiber helps stabilize blood sugar, preventing levels from spiking after meals. Diets rich in fiber from fruits and vegetables — including zucchini — are consistently linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes .The fiber found in zucchini may also help increase insulin sensitivity, which can help stabilize blood sugar as well .
Additionally, animal studies note that zucchini peel extract may help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. This may be due to the skin’s potent antioxidants .
5. May Improve Heart Health.
Zucchini may also contribute to heart health.
Its high fiber content may be largely responsible. Observational studies show that people who eat more fiber have a lower risk of heart disease .Pectin, one type of soluble fiber found in zucchini, appears particularly effective at reducing total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels .
In a review of 67 studies, consuming as little as 2–10 grams of soluble fiber per day for around 1–2 months reduced, on average, total cholesterol by 1.7 mg/dl and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dl .
Zucchini is also rich in potassium, which may help reduce high blood pressure by dilating your blood vessels. Healthier blood pressure is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke .
Moreover, diets rich in carotenoids — likewise found in zucchini — appear particularly protective against heart disease.
6. May Strengthen Your Vision.
Adding zucchini to your diet may aid your vision.
That’s partly because zucchini is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene — two nutrients important for eye health.Zucchini also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Research shows that these antioxidants can accumulate in your retina, improving your vision and reducing your risk of age-related eye diseases .
This may include a lower risk of macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in older adults.
In addition, diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin may also lower your likelihood of developing cataracts, a clouding of the lens which can lead to poor eyesight.
7. May Aid Weight Loss.
Regular consumption of zucchini may help you lose weight.
This fruit is rich in water and has a low calorie density, which may help you feel full .Its fiber content may also reduce hunger and keep your appetite at bay .
Moreover, studies consistently link high fruit and vegetable intake to weight loss and a slower rate of weight gain over time .
What’s more, intake of non-starchy, dark green or yellow vegetables — with similar nutrition profiles to zucchini — appears particularly beneficial to weight loss.
8. Easy to Add to Your Diet.
Zucchini is incredibly versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Here are some ways to incorporate it into your meals:
▪️ Add it raw to salads.
▪️ Stew it with other summer fruits and vegetables to make ratatouille.
▪️ Stuff with rice, lentils, or other vegetables, then bake it.
▪️ For a mild stir-fry, add olive oil and sauté it.
▪️ Boil it, then blend it into soups.
▪️ Serve it as a side, grilled or sautéed with a little garlic and oil.
▪️ Try it breaded and fried.
▪️ Spiralize it into spaghetti- or linguine-like noodles, or slice it to replace lasagna sheets.
▪️ Bake it into breads, pancakes, muffins, or cakes.
In some cultures, the zucchini flower is considered a delicacy. You can either deep-fry it or sprinkle it raw atop salads, soups, and stews.
Other Potential Benefits.
Zucchini may offer some additional benefits. The most well-researched include:
_ Bone health.
Zucchini is rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamin K and magnesium, all of which can help strengthen bones .
_ Anticancer effects.
Test-tube and animal studies indicate that zucchini extracts may help kill or limit the growth of certain cancer cells. However, human research is needed .
_ A healthy prostate.
Animal research shows that zucchini seed extracts may help limit prostatic hyperplasia, an enlargement of the prostate that commonly causes urinary and sexual difficulties in older men .
_ Thyroid function.
Testing in rats reveals that zucchini peel extracts may help keep thyroid hormone levels stable. That said, research in humans is needed.
Zucchini contains cucurbitacins which are bitter compounds that are sometimes added to certain types of insecticides. However, under normal circumstances, cucurbitacins are produced at low enough concentrations that they are not perceived as being bitter by humans.
In some cases, factors such as high heat can cause cucurbitacin-containing fruits to have a bitter taste. Occasional cases of stomach cramps and diarrhea have occurred in people ingesting bitter zucchini. There are no FDA regulations or guidelines specific to the presence of cucurbitacins in food.
Alina Petre (19-2-2019), “12 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Zucchini”، www.healthline.com
Barbie Cervoni (24-4-2020), “Zucchini Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits”، www.verywellfit.com