Next time you’re looking to zest up your meals, don’t forget about zucchini. Zucchini is an excellent option for a vegetable that you can add to a variety of different recipes. It is typically green in color and has a mild, semi-bitter/sweet flavor.
It is also called a courgette or baby marrow, which is a type of summer squash that grows on a vining plant. Zucchini is an easy-to-prepare food that you can cook or eat raw.
Did you know zucchini has been shown to have a variety of health benefits when you eat it as part of a balanced diet?
Keep reading to find out all about zucchini and why you should be making it a staple in your diet.
Table of Contents
- History & Facts
- Nutrition Facts
- Benefits of Zucchini
- Potential Risks
- Ways to Enjoy
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
History & Facts
Zucchini comes from the Cucurbitaceae family which is the largest family of fruit and vegetables, including approximately 125 genera and 960 species (1). Some of its most popular fruits and vegetables that you may be more familiar with are melons, cucumber, and squash. It is cultivated all over the world.
Plants belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, including zucchini, were used in traditional medicine in India and Bangladesh. (2) In traditional literature, zucchini was noted to have been used to treat various medical problems such as anemia, colds, tumor growth, inflammation, indigestion, and worms/parasites. (3) (4)
Some of the first written mentions of specifically zucchini seem to have occurred in the early 1840s-1900s when its characteristics were described in a book from Milan in 1901. In it, zucchini was noted to have originally been used as a container for storing tobacco (5).
Summary:Zucchini comes from the Cucurbitaceae family, which boasts other fruits and vegetables including melons, cucumber, and squash. It was used in traditional medicine for treating many health problems.
Zucchini is a delicious addition to a balanced diet because of its high amount of nutrient value. It is important to note that the nutrient content of each zucchini may differ.
Per 100 grams of raw zucchini, some of the highlighted nutrition facts include (6):
- Calories: 21 kcal: Zucchini is nutrient-dense, meaning it is lower in calories and high in nutrients. You may feel full longer and quicker when eating zucchini because of this.
- Protein: 2.71 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams: Zucchini is considered a low-fat food.
- Carbohydrates: 3.11 grams
- Fiber: 1.1 grams: This is around 3-5% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for someone on a 2,000-calorie per day diet (7). Americans generally do not eat enough fiber daily so eating zucchini can help meet the recommended amount of 25-38 grams per day.
Vitamins and Minerals
Look at all of the vitamins and minerals below that you will find in just one serving of raw zucchini! (8) (9)
- Calcium (Ca): 21 milligrams (mg), 1.6% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Iron (Fe): 0.79 milligrams (mg), 4.4% of the RDI
- Magnesium (Mg): 33 milligrams (mg), 7.8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus (P): 93 milligrams (mg), 7.4% of the RDI
- Potassium (K): 459 milligrams (mg), 9.8% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 34.1 milligrams (mg), 38% of the RDI
- Folate: 20 micrograms (mcg), 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 25 micrograms (mcg), 2.8% of the RDI
As you can see, zucchini is high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient, meaning it must be obtained from the diet and the body cannot create it on its own. (10) Vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it can help to decrease the number of free radicals in the body that damage cells in the body. Vitamin C has also been noted to be necessary for the body’s immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria. (11)
In addition to these nutrients, zucchini has been found to be a good source of beta-carotene and carotenoids including lutein, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin. (12) Do you know what these nutrients are good for? Keep reading to find out!
Summary:Zucchini contains a variety of vitamins and minerals and is overall low in calories. Specifically, it is high in vitamin C and phytochemicals like beta carotene, lutein, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin.
Benefits of Zucchini
Zucchini is beneficial for health because of its impressive nutrient profile. Let’s have a look at some of the many health benefits of zucchini.
It May Improve Heart Health
By now it is no secret that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. (13) Cardiovascular diseases (heart diseases) are one of the biggest threats to people’s health and this threat increases when people have or are at risk for high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, overweight, metabolic syndrome, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and imbalanced diet. (14)
Having a balanced diet including eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease. (15) Vegetables, such as zucchini, have been suggested to show heart-protective effects by regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and improving lipid profiles. (16) These are all extremely important factors in heart health.
Some studies have shown that vegetables may be inversely associated with heart disease incidence, meaning they may help to decrease the occurrence of heart diseases in general due to the amount of fiber, vitamins, elements, phytochemicals, and botanical proteins they possess. (17)
Summary:Consuming vegetables like zucchini may help improve heart health by regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and improving lipid profiles.
It May Improve Digestion
Digestive health is one of the key components to maintaining overall health and well-being. Do you ever wonder what you should be doing to have a healthy gut?
One way to maintain digestive health is by eating a balanced diet that is high in fiber. As mentioned earlier, Americans in general do not get enough fiber through their diets which can cause gut health to be poor. Eating zucchini can help fix that! Zucchini contains insoluble fiber and is high in water content, which can help improve digestion and stay regular with bowel movements.
Summary:Due to its high water and fiber content, zucchini can aid digestive health by preventing constipation and improving digestion.
It May Help With Weight Loss
Obesity continues to be a problem globally and especially in the U.S., which is caused by environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors altogether. (18) While the number of obese persons in the nation continues to rise, exercise and diet control remain to be the main method of prevention. It is important that obesity be prevented since it can increase the risk of a number of other health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammation. (19). Increasing intake of non-starchy vegetables like zucchini has been associated with lowering body weight (20) therefore helping individuals achieve their weight loss goals.
As mentioned earlier, zucchini is considered to be a nutrient-dense food. This means that in relation to its weight, it has a high number of vitamins and minerals. You will typically feel fuller when eating it while still consuming a relatively low number of calories. This may be helpful for someone wanting to lose weight.
Summary:Since zucchini is considered a nutrient-dense food, it can help you to feel full longer, which as a result can help be a tool for weight loss in certain individuals.
It Is Important for Eye Health
As mentioned above, most vegetables that are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, such as zucchini, are a good source of beta-carotene, lutein, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin. (21) These nutrients may provide benefits including decreasing the risk of age-related eye disease. (22)
Adults over the age of 50 eat an average of <2 milligrams (mg) per day. Studies have shown that consuming approximately 6 milligrams (mg) per day may be associated with a decreased risk of eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. (23)
Even if you don’t currently deal with any eye problems, eating fruits and vegetables like zucchini can help to maintain your eye health and prevent problems in the future.
Summary:Zucchini contains phytochemicals like beta-carotene and lutein, which are both important for maintaining eye health and may help to prevent eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.
Eating zucchini is typically safe and a healthy addition to most diets. Since zucchini is a food low in carbohydrates and naturally low in sodium, it makes it a food safe for people with diabetes and high blood pressure to consume. Although zucchini is generally safe to eat, there are some things to keep in mind with consuming it on a regular basis:
- It may contain cucurbitacin:: Does it taste bitter? In rare cases, zucchini may taste extremely bitter. This could indicate that the zucchini contains a high amount of cucurbitacin, which is a toxic compound that can cause adverse effects. (24) This occurrence is especially rare if the zucchini was produced commercially.
- It may upset your stomach: One of zucchini’s side effects can be gas and bloating due to the high amount of insoluble fiber it contains. If you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) you may want to be cautious with eating zucchini.
Summary:Zucchini is generally safe to eat, but sometimes it can taste bitter which would indicate that it contains cucurbitacin, which is toxic. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome may have digestive issues when eating zucchini.
Ways to Enjoy
Zucchini can be enjoyed year-round in an assortment of ways. Keep in mind that the method of preparing zucchini to eat it can alter the nutrient content. Be sure to properly wash and rinse the zucchini before consuming it.
Here are some ways you can add more of it to your diet:
- Grilled zucchini (cut into cubes, slices, and/or add to kabobs)
- Spiralize zucchini into noodles (“zoodles”)
- Roasted zucchini
- Zucchini bread
- Sliced zucchini (as a substitute for lasagna noodles)
- Zucchini boats with your favorite toppings added
- Zucchini pancakes
- Pureed zucchini (add to soups or smoothies)
- Zucchini chips
Did you know?:If you refrigerate zucchini, it can last for up to two weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is zucchini the same as a cucumber?
No. Cucumbers and zucchini belong to different families of plants. Cucumbers belong to the gourd family while zucchini belongs to the Cucurbita family. However, both are often considered fruits.
Can you eat zucchini raw?
Yes! Zucchini works great as a raw food due to its crisp and fresh taste. It can be an easy food to cut up and add to salads and add to vegetable dips like tzatziki. In more recent years, a popular way to eat it is by spiralizing zucchini and using it as a pasta or lasagna noodle. This makes it a more “keto-friendly” food due to its low carbohydrate content.
Did you know?:Did you know zucchini is technically a fruit and not a vegetable? This is due to the fact that zucchini is grown from seeds of the flowering part of the plant!
Zucchini is an excellent choice of squash if you are wondering what vegetable you should next incorporate into your diet. Not only will it taste great no matter the way you prepare it, but it will also stay ripe in the fridge for a decent amount of time if needed!
In addition to the tons of vitamins and minerals it has, zucchini has a ton of health benefits. Consuming zucchini on a regular basis may help with decreasing your risk of heart disease and helping with weight loss. It may also aid in digestion and help with improving or maintaining your eye health. Additionally, it is in general a safe food to consume raw or cooked.
There are so many different ways that you can prepare zucchini. Start trying some of our suggested ways today or come up with your own way for eating your new favorite “vegetable”!