Also known as courgette in Europe, zucchini is a small squash that belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family.
It has a similar shape to the cucumber and is one that I use a lot in soups, but it can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, fried, or roasted if you so choose.
In culinary, zucchini is used as a vegetable because it’s cooked and presented as a side or savory dish. However, zucchini is a fruit. Botanically, it is defined as a large berry with multiple seeds.
In this article, I’ll provide you with information about zucchini, including its health benefits and nutritional content, to give you an idea as to why you should add it to your diet.
What is zucchini?
Most people think of zucchini as a vegetable, but it’s a young fruit from the Cucurbitaceae plant family, alongside other popular ones like cucumber and gourd.
Zucchini is categorized as a type of summer squash and is harvested before it fully matures. Unlike some fruits, zucchini is fully edible, which means you can eat the seeds, skin, and flesh.
Among the zucchini kind, you can find around 14 different varieties, including:
- Black beauty zucchini (the most common or popular variety)
- Dunja zucchini
- Gourmet gold
- Round zucchini
- Crookneck squash
- Pattypan squash
- Rampicante zucchini
- Zucchini flowers
- Golden egg
Zucchini is seen as a fruit that takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, which is why chefs and home cooks cook it alongside tasty vegetables and ingredients.
The best zucchini will be firm on the outside but soft on the inside, so keep that in mind when shopping.
Recommended Read: Is Rhubarb a Fruit or a Vegetable?
What are the health benefits of zucchini?
Zucchini’s health benefits derive from its components, namely its macro and micronutrients, as well as other plant compounds like phytonutrients (chemicals produced only by plants).
Let’s look at some of the evidence-based benefits that zucchini may provide:
High in Antioxidants
Zucchini contains antioxidants.
These are beneficial plant compounds that protect your body against damage from free radicals. Among the different antioxidants, zucchini contains carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
These properties may benefit your eyes, skin, heart, and they may also offer protection against certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.
Promotes Healthy Digestion
Zucchini can also promote digestion in several ways.
Firstly and foremost, zucchini is rich in water which can soften the stools, which effectively reduces your chances of getting constipated.
Secondly, zucchini is also rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut, which produce short-chain fatty acids that nourish the cells in your gut, preventing health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Meanwhile, the insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool which helps move food around the gut more easily, further reducing the risk of constipation.
May Improve Heart Health
Zucchini may also improve heart health because of its high fiber content.
According to studies, people who eat more fiber have a lower risk of heart disease. One of the soluble fibers found in zucchini called pectin seems to be particularly effective at reducing LDL cholesterol.
A more significant review of 67 studies found that consuming more fiber reduced both total and LDL cholesterol by fairly significant margins. Additionally, the potassium content in zucchini is also helpful in reducing high blood pressure, which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
May Aid Your Vision
The reason why zucchini may be beneficial for eye health is mostly due to vitamin C and beta-carotene, two components that are essential to eye health. However, that is not all.
Antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin may also present some benefits to eye health as they accumulate in your retina, which may assist in reducing the risk of age-related eye diseases.
May Aid Weight Loss
Zucchini may help you lose weight because of three reasons: It has high water content, it’s very low in calories, and it contains fiber content which can reduce hunger and eliminate potential cravings.
More importantly, studies link high fruit and vegetable intake to weight loss and slower weight gain.
There’s no surprise in knowing that diets high in vegetables are effective for losing weight.
The nutritional content of zucchini
Zucchini is rich in many vitamins, minerals, as well as other plant compounds.
One cup of cooked zucchini can provide you with:
- Calories: 17
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 40% DV (daily value)
- Manganese: 16% DV
- Vitamin C: 14% DV
- Potassium: 13% DV
- Magnesium: 10% DV
- Vitamin K: 9% DV
- Folate: 8% DV
- Copper: 8% DV
- Phosphorus: 7% DV
- Vitamin B6: 7% DV
- Thiamine: 5% DV
Keep in mind that the nutritional content of the zucchini might vary from one zucchini species to another, particularly the value of the micronutrients in each one.
Recommended Read: Is Lettuce a Vegetable?
How to eat more zucchini
As we’ve mentioned earlier, zucchini is often used as a vegetable, and its ability to carry the flavors of other ingredients makes it highly versatile and easy to use.
Here are some ways to include zucchini in your diet:
- Boil it and blend it into soups (leave the skin on)
- Stew it with other fruits and vegetables
- Add it to raw salads
- Try it breaded and fried
- Convert it into noodles or use it to replace lasagna sheets.
- Serve it as a side dish, sauteéd or grilled with some salt and olive oil.
Zucchini can be used in numerous recipes, so it’s a splendid way to add some extra nutrients to your meals.
Although zucchini is used as a vegetable, it’s technically a fruit because it grows from the flower of the plant, whilst a vegetable is every other part of the plant.
Moreover, fruits contain seeds while vegetables consist mainly of leaves, stems, and roots.
You will find that certain vegetables and fruits are regarded differently based on two different perspectives: the culinary and botanical perspectives. The more technically sound is the botanical, science-based perspective.
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