If you are looking to change your diet, try adding zucchini. This vegetable is packed with essential nutrients, including disease-fighting antioxidants and gut-friendly fiber.
It can be eaten in savory dishes or sweet foods since it has a gentle flavor that works well with both types of food.
Zucchini is an integral part of the gourd family. It’s like pumpkins, butternut squash, and some other vegetables.
There are different colors of zucchini (dark green, pale green, or nearly white). The flavor and nutrition are the same for each type of zucchini. Zucchini is also a fruit (a berry), but it’s often prepared as a veggie.
Zucchini has many nutrients that are good for your body. These include fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Zucchini also has antioxidants like vitamin C and polyphenols.
The seeds inside the zucchini are also nutritious because they have fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 cup sliced raw zucchini (~113 grams) contains:
- 19 calories
- 1 gram protein
- < 1 gram fat
- 4 grams carbohydrate
- 1 gram fiber
- 3 grams sugar
Zucchini is full of healthy things, like carotenoids. Carotenoids are natural plant pigments that give color to zucchini. Zucchini can be yellow or green, and both have carotenoids, but the green ones have less. In a study from 2017, it was found that yellow zucchini has more carotenoids because it is yellow!
Antioxidants are molecules that destroy free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can lead to oxidative stress, which causes cells to be damaged and increases the risk of getting chronic diseases like cancer. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating a diet rich in antioxidants may help control free radicals, protect cells from oxidative stress, and thus stave off illness.
Fiber is essential for your health. Zucchini is an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber helps make sure the good bacteria in your gut are healthy, which keeps them from getting sick. Soluble fiber is beneficial because it allows water to be absorbed as it passes through the GI tract and creates a gel-like substance that can help you manage diarrhea. Insoluble fiber bulks up stool and encourages regular intestinal muscle movements, which can prevent constipation (source).
Zucchini can also help your blood sugar levels. This is important because frequent blood sugar spikes can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Here’s how it works: The body cannot break down or absorb fiber, so it stays in the GI tract, slowing down the absorption of sugar—and therefore its release into the bloodstream—which ultimately keeps blood levels from spiking, says Sarah Muhammad, R.D., registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition with Intention (source).
The fiber contained in Zucchini can help your good cholesterol levels. Fiber cleans the bad cholesterol out of your blood and pushes it out of your body. This can protect you from heart disease because high LDL cholesterol levels might increase your risk for stroke and heart disease. Along with Zucchini, you can also check this list of 9 foods that may help you to lower your cholesterol levels.
Zucchini has vitamin A, which is important for your eyes. It protects your eye tissue from sunlight and makes it healthy. Vitamin A also helps keep the function of the cells in your eyes, which help you see things by recognizing light. Furthermore, if you eat vitamin A, then it reduces the risk of night blindness and dry eyes (source).
Zucchini is not a food that normally causes allergies, but there are some people who might be allergic to it. If you’re allergic to ragweed pollen, then raw zucchini might cause allergy symptoms like an itchy throat and swollen lips/tongue/mouth.
On the other hand, you might be able to eat cooked zucchini even if you don’t like it. The heat changes the protein so your body can’t see them as harmful. But if you have allergies to pollen, talk to an allergist first before trying the squash.