Zucchini Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Uses & Recipes

Zucchini nutrition
iStock: Olesia Shadrina

Zucchini, also called courgette, is a popular summertime food, even though it is used year-round in a number of recipes.  Zucchini noodles are a keto-friendly, low-carb alternative to starchy pastas, but this versatile summer squash can be used in many unique ways.

It is a member of the gourd (Cucurbitaceae) family and part of the Cucurbita genus, which includes cultivated species of the family. The Cucurbita pepo species includes winter squash and pumpkin, in addition to summer squash like zucchini. These fruits have been domesticated and cultivated for centuries.

Did you just see that the zucchini is a fruit? It’s alarming, I know. Even though it looks like a vegetable and people call it a vegetable, it’s actually botanically classified as a fruit. And that might not be where the surprises stop. There are several ways that zucchini benefits health.

Zucchini Nutrition Facts

Zucchini is nutrient-dense and features numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One cup (180 g) of cooked, unsalted zucchini offers:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 28.8 1%
Protein 1.2 g 2%
Carbohydrate 7.1 g 2%
Fiber 2.5 g 10%
Vitamin A 2011 IU 40%
Vitamin C 8.3 g 14%
Vitamin K 7.5 mcg 9%
Manganese 0.3 mg 16%
Potassium 455 mg 13%
Magnesium 39.6 mg 10%
Copper 0.2 mg 8%

 

Zucchini also contains phosphorus, thiamine, iron, calcium, zinc, folate, vitamin B6, and a selection of other members of the B complex. As you can see, zucchini contains a variety of nutrients, and you’re getting all of that in just 28 calories.

Apart from the vitamin A value, the numbers might not seem overly impressive, but when you consider the amount of calories it takes to deliver them, they look much better. It’s practically free nutrition!

Zucchini Benefits for Health

May Aid Digestion

Adding more plant-based foods to your diet is almost a sure-fire way to help improve digestion. Zucchini can benefit your system in a couple of ways. First off, it is a high-water fruit, which means it can help soften stool. It is also a decent source of fiber.

Although a cup of cooked zucchini only has about two grams, it is made up of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which help draw water into the gut as well as create bulk so stool passes easily.

Soluble fiber can aid digestion and nutrient absorption by feeding the “good” bacteria in your gut. This helps limit inflammation in the gut, aids nutrient absorption, and creates a better environment for digestion.

Might Help Manage Blood Sugar Levels

Zucchini is very low-carb and could be very useful in keeping blood sugar low and managing insulin spikes as well as type 2 diabetes.

Spiraled or sliced zucchini (aka zoodles) is a popular low-carb alternative for spaghetti and other pastas because it can mimic the consistency.

Another benefit it has over traditional noodles and pasta is that it contains more fiber, which can also effectively slow sugar absorption and limit spikes. Adopting a high-fiber diet is recognized as a way to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

May Have Benefits for Your Heart

Zucchini is packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants. For starters, a high-fiber diet is very closely associated with heart health. People who eat plenty of fiber routinely display lower blood pressure, less inflammation, and healthy cholesterol levels, which all reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

Antioxidants like carotenoids, which are found in zucchini, also have evidence to indicate they promote heart health.

Being a rich source of potassium also boosts the influence of zucchini on heart health. Potassium may help lower stroke and heart attack risk by relaxing blood vessels to improve blood flow.

May Reduce the Risk for Age-Related Vision Problems

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants that can play a big role in eye health. Zucchini contains both of them. Research has shown these two antioxidants accumulate in the retina to improve and maintain vision into advanced age.

Most notably, adequate lutein and zeaxanthin intake may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of age-related vision impairment and loss. These nutrients may also help reduce the risk of cataracts.

Good Source of Antioxidants

Both the skin and flesh of zucchini is rich in antioxidants that can promote cellular integrity and reduce inflammation. This may help fight against conditions ranging from skin aging to chronic disease. Some of the nutrients and compounds that offer these benefits include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Glutathione peroxidase
  • Superoxide dismutase

The skin is a very good source of these nutrients, so leave it intact. The skin is particularly good when grilled, or when zucchini is sliced and used as a topping or in ratatouille.

Zucchini Uses

One of zucchini’s biggest benefits is its versatility. It can be included in your diet in countless ways year-round, to help increase fiber intake and incorporate more plant-based foods into any diet.

You can use zucchini:

  • In keto-friendly pasta/noodle substitutions (sliced or spiraled)
  • Added raw to salads or cut up and used to dip in hummus, etc.
  • In vegetable stews like ratatouille
  • Stuffed and baked
  • Added to stir-fry
  • Grilled as a side dish
  • Fried
  • Baked into cakes and other desserts

Zucchini Recipes

1. Zucchini Keto Enchiladas

Time: 40 minutes        Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2  garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Coarse sea salt

3 cups shredded roasted chicken

1 1/3 cups red enchilada sauce, divided

4 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise in half

1 cup shredded Monterey jack

1 cup shredded cheddar

Sour cream

Fresh cilantro

 

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring until soft, for about five minutes.
  3. Pour in garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Add salt to taste. Cook for one minute, then add chicken and one cup of enchilada sauce and stir until coated.
  4. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini into thin slices. Place three slices next to each other, slightly overlapping, and top with spoonful of chicken mixture. Roll up and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining zucchini and chicken mixture.
  5. Pour the leftover cup of enchilada sauce over the zucchini enchiladas and top with cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the enchiladas warm throughout.
  7. Top with sour cream and cilantro, if desired.

2. Parmesan Baked Zucchini Chips

Time: 20 Minutes       Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

2  zucchini (medium-sized)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Black pepper, freshly ground

Garlic salt, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. (Make sure the oven rack is in the center position.)
  2. Cut the zucchini into 1/4-inch coins. Lay out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet with little space in between. Lightly season with black pepper and garlic salt to taste. Using a teaspoon, spread a thin layer of parmesan cheese on each slice.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. (The cheese should appear golden brown.)

3. Oatmeal Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Time: 45 minutes        Serves: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups pastry flour (all-purpose)

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 large organic, free-range egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini

1 2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup quick oats

3/4 cup chopped pecans

 

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 350 F. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together for 20 seconds. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and coconut sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, and whip. When creamy, mix in the egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Add the shredded zucchini and set mixture to low speed, while slowly adding flour. Mix in chocolate chips, oats, and pecans.
  4. Use two tablespoons each to shape dough into balls. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space the cookies two inches apart.
  5. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes until the edges turn a light golden color. Let them cool on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring to a wire rack to completely cool.

Sources:
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