Zucchini is a summer squash. Summer squashes are members of the gourd family, cousins of winter squash. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Zucchini, yellow crookneck, and pattypan (scallop) squash are common varieties of summer squash. Zucchini is also called marrow (vegetable marrow or Italian marrow) and courgette, depending on where in the world you live.
Zucchini is easy to find in most markets and provides micronutrients, such as vitamins C and B6. This versatile vegetable (that is technically a fruit) is low in calories and makes a great addition to most healthy diets.
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The Favored Jewel of Summer
Zucchini squash is the favored jewel of the summer squashes. Its flavor is light and sweet with flesh as delicate as a flower and texture that makes it almost melt in the mouth.
Summer squashes, as well a winter squashes, are native to the Americas and belong to the family of curcurbita. Archaeologists have traced their origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500 BC, when they were an integral part of the ancient diet of maize, beans, and squashes.
That pre-Columbian food trio is still the mainstay of the Mexican cuisine and is known today as the “three sisters.”
The colonists of New England adopted the name squash, a word derived from several Native American words for the vegetable which meant “something eaten raw.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were squash enthusiasts who even enjoyed growing them.
Zucchini Squash Nutrition
Zucchini deliciously delivers big health benefits – phytonutrients and zeaxanthin and lutein help keep eyes sharp.
Zucchini squashes are very low in calories. There are only 13 calories in a half-cup of raw zucchini.
According to USDA data, if you eat one cup of raw zucchini, you will consume only about 21 calories and approximately 4 grams of carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrate is sugar, but you’ll benefit from 1 gram of fiber.
The estimated glycemic load of a single serving of zucchini is 2, making it a low-glycemic food. Glycemic load takes serving size into account when estimating a food’s impact on your blood sugar levels.
There is less than half a gram of fat in a one-cup serving of zucchini.
A serving of zucchini provides a small amount of protein, about 1.5 grams.
Vitamins and Minerals
Zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is a good source of vitamin B6. You’ll also get smaller amounts of vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Minerals in zucchini include manganese, potassium, and small amounts of magnesium and phosphorus.
Sprinkle shredded fresh basil on zucchini.
Nutritionally, zucchinis are rich in valuable antioxidants. Plus contain beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid and calcium. Zucchini squash is also a good source of fiber (4 grams per cup). An adult should get about 30 grams of fiber per day in their diet. One cup of zucchini has nearly as much potassium as a banana. Plus it contains the valuable mineral nutrient phosphorus.
These delicious vegetable pancakes are an excellent showcase for zucchini, which is so abundant during the summer.
Health Benefits of Zucchini Squash
The nutrients in zucchini may provide certain health benefits.
Protects Cells From Free Radicals
Zucchini provides about 24% of your daily needs for vitamin C in a one-cup serving. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is important in boosting immunity, repairing cells, and slowing down the aging process.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C is believed to prevent oxidative stress caused by exposure to free radicals in our environment (such as cigarette smoke) or free radicals made by the body. Experts recommend consuming antioxidants in foods such as fruits and vegetables, rather than taking an antioxidant supplement.
May Help Prevent Some Cancers
Some research has suggested that diets that include more fruits and vegetables are associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers, most notably lung, breast, colon or rectum, stomach, oral cavity, larynx or pharynx, and esophagus.
Some studies suggest that vitamin C may be responsible for this benefit due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But more evidence is needed to fully understand this potential benefit.
Delays Skin Aging
The vitamin C in zucchini is also responsible for the production of collagen, the main protein in your skin. Vitamin C may also assist in antioxidant protection and protect against age-related skin decline and UV-induced photodamage.
Authors of a research review published in a 2017 issue of Nutrients noted that healthy skin is positively associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake in a number of studies. Although they note that the active component in the fruit and vegetables responsible for the observed benefit can’t be identified, vitamin C availability may be a factor.
May Reduce Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms
The vitamin B6 in zucchini may help reduce symptoms of PMS, according to some studies. But research is limited. Also, most studies showing a benefit have been poor quality and more evidence is needed to establish that vitamin B6 can provide this benefit.
May Reduce Morning Sickness
Preliminary studies also show that vitamin B6 may also help to reduce morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy. However, study results have been mixed. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) does suggest that vitamin B6 is a safe, over-the-counter treatment that may be tried for morning sickness, but the organization does not discuss food sources.
In the UK or France, the zucchini is called ‘courgette’.
Most of the nutrients in zucchini are concentrated in the glossy green rind.
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