Zucchini benefits contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Cooked zucchini is particularly high in vitamin A, though raw zucchini contains slightly less. Here we are going to discuss the benefits of zucchini and its side effects.
Zucchini Benefits For Health
Zucchini Benefits For Weight Loss
Zucchini is a low-starch fruit. Which means it is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. Which means it will fill you up and discourage overeating. That’s precisely what most people looking to lose weight want, right? The fruit also has a high water content that can keep you full for longer periods. It is one of those foods with a low glycemic index. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables and low-fat foods has been linked to healthy weight loss and weight maintenance. Another benefit of high-fiber foods is they require more chewing – because of which the individual takes more time to eat and is unable to gorge on a large number of calories in a short period.
Improves Heart Health
Also called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, this diet is aimed at improving heart health by lowering hypertension. According to a report published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, zucchini is a prominent part of the DASH diet. Zucchini is low in cholesterol, sodium, and fat, and helps maintain a balance of carbohydrates – a requirement for optimum heart health.
Another reason zucchini works great for the heart is the presence of fiber. High intakes of fiber have been associated with significantly lower risks of developing stroke, hypertension, and heart disease. Zucchini is also rich in folate, and as per a Chinese study, folate intake is inversely associated with heart disease risk. The fact that it is rich in other nutrients like potassium and magnesium makes zucchini a superfood for the heart. Research has stated that deficiencies in the two nutrients can be directly linked to heart failure.
Another nutrient in zucchini that is worth your attention is riboflavin, which is a B-complex vitamin essential for energy production. In one study, children with cardiac disease were found to be shockingly deficient in riboflavin, emphasizing the possible link between riboflavin and heart health. Another Chinese study has linked riboflavin with alleviated cardiac failure in diabetics.
Improves Eye Health
One doesn’t need to be reminded of the importance of vision. That said, zucchini seems to be more than food for your eyes. The fruit is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that were found to prevent age-related macular degeneration. It is shocking to note that certain serious (and often irreversible) eye diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration have no warning signs. So, what’s the best approach? Including zucchini in your diet. Zucchini is also a good source of vitamin A that has been shown to improve eye health. It is important for eye development and maintenance. As per a report published by Flaum Eye Institute of the University of Rochester Medical Center, a low-fat diet could be beneficial for the eyes – and zucchini can very well be a part of this diet. The squash is also a wonderful source of beta-carotene that can improve eye health and offer protection against infection.
Helps Control Diabetes
It is but unfortunate that a household without a diabetic is a rare scene. Well, that’s the sad part. So, is zucchini good for diabetics? Yes, the good part is, zucchini can help. Non-starchy foods like zucchini can fill you up and aid in diabetes treatment. And the dietary fiber, which zucchini is replete with, can delay glucose absorption and help patients with type 2 diabetes. A German study states that insoluble fiber (which zucchini has a good amount of) can be very much effective in preventing type 2 diabetes. Another study indicates the efficacy of insoluble dietary fiber that has been shown to reduce diabetes risk. Higher fiber intake is also associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which is one of the factors contributing to diabetes. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, soluble fiber can improve glucose tolerance in diabetics. (Zucchini contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, by the way.)
Helps Lower Cholesterol
Zucchini is one of the few foods that are free of cholesterol, and hence you can include it in your cholesterol-lowering diet. Soluble fiber has been found to interfere with cholesterol absorption. This helps lower the bad cholesterol or LDL in the blood.
Helps Cure Asthma
As per an Iranian study, the high levels of vitamin C in zucchini help cure asthma. The anti-inflammatory properties of zucchini also contribute to asthma treatment. Along with vitamin C, zucchini also contains copper that is far more effective in treating asthma. One Finnish study has found the benefits of vitamin C in treating not only asthma attacks, but also bronchial hypersensitivity (which is a characteristic of asthma). As it is well known that vitamin C helps treat common cold symptoms, it is quite logical to use vitamin C for alleviating asthma symptoms.
Protects Against Colon Cancer
The fiber in zucchini is the most important reason it can help in the treatment of colon cancer. The fiber does multiple things – it absorbs the excess water in the colon, retains enough moisture in the fecal matter, and helps it to pass smoothly out of the body. Because of all this, fiber works beautifully well in preventing colon cancer. Though precise knowledge about the subtypes of fiber (soluble or insoluble) in this aspect is important, dietary fiber as a whole has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
As per a Los Angeles study, dietary fiber plays an important role in regulating normal intestinal functioning and maintaining a healthy mucus membrane of the intestine. Though the exact amount of fiber and the type is still not clearly known, an expert panel from the study had recommended a fiber intake of 20 to 35 grams per day to prevent colon cancer. The lutein in zucchini may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.
In addition to the many benefits of zucchini you have already seen, the wonder squash also aids digestion. According to a report published by the University of Rhode Island, green fruits and vegetables, like zucchini, promote healthy digestion. You can have zucchini as an after-meal eat – simply shred some carrots and zucchini on a quick bread or muffins and relish the taste (and the benefits too!).
In fact, the late Henry Bieler (a prominent American physician who had batted for the idea of treating disease with foods alone) used to treat digestive issues in his patients with a pureed soup broth made from zucchini. Now, isn’t that a reason good enough to entrust the ‘digestive-healing responsibilities’ to our humble zucchini?
The dietary fiber in zucchini adds bulk to your diet and aids digestion. However, ensure you introduce fiber in your diet gradually. Increasing dietary fiber in your diet too quickly can lead to bloating, abdominal cramps, and even gas. It has been found that dietary fiber forms the major components of foods that have low energy value, and hence are of particular importance. Especially when it comes to dealing with abdominal issues.
If you are suffering from digestive issues, simply including zucchini in your meal might do the trick. It has been found that the addition of fiber in bread, cookies, breakfast cereals, and even meat products was found to have desirable results. As we have already seen, zucchini contains both soluble as well as insoluble fiber. The insoluble fiber, also known as ‘the regulator’, accelerates the passage of water through the digestive tract. This reduces the time available for harmful substances to come in contact with the intestinal walls.
I would recommend you to go for all-natural sources of fiber, and not just zucchini alone. If you are purchasing fiber-rich foods from the supermarket, there is but one ground rule – a good source of fiber is one that has at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. Foods having more than 5 grams of fiber per serving are excellent. But, anything lower than 2.5 grams would just be a waste of money.
Lowers Blood Pressure
If you walk down a random street and pick any person you first see, chances are (s)he might be (or is likely to be) suffering from high blood pressure. If you ask us, blood pressure is more of a mind thing. We are so stressed about everything in life that blood pressure issues have become inevitable. But with zucchini by our side, there is hope for respite.
Zucchini, being rich in potassium, is one of the most preferred foods to combat hypertension. Surprisingly enough, zucchini has more potassium than a banana. Potassium is vasoactive, meaning it can affect the diameter of blood vessels. And hence, the blood pressure as well. In a London study, potassium supplementation was linked to lowered blood pressure levels. Though the study talks about certain conflicting results in pertinence to oral potassium supplementation, potassium was never shown to elevate blood pressure levels. Hence, it can be used without apprehension.
As per another New Orleans study, potassium intake is mandatory to combat hypertension, especially when the individual is unable to reduce his/her sodium intake. In addition to controlling blood pressure, potassium also lowers the heart rate and counters the harmful effects of sodium. According to the National Academies Press, the adequate intake of potassium for adults is 4.7 grams per day. As per WHO, this dosage of potassium had the greatest impact on blood pressure levels. However, this dosage might vary as per the health condition of an individual. Hence, consult your doctor for further details.
So, why is potassium so important with respect to lowering blood pressure? Because the nutrient is one of the principal electrolytes in the human body. It is required in proper balance with sodium, in a ratio of 2:1. The junk foods we so very lovingly consume every other day have higher levels of sodium than potassium. This is why they contribute to high blood pressure like no other. Zucchini is a good source of potassium. A medium-sized fruit offers 512 milligrams of nutrient, which roughly equals 11% of your daily need.
Slows Down Aging
Anti-aging is a big market today. No less than a billion-dollar industry. But you probably wouldn’t have to contribute much to that segment if you have zucchinis in your kitchen. Zucchini is a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids exhibit powerful anti-aging properties. They protect the cells of the body and the skin from free radical damage, which may otherwise lead to premature aging. Lutein and zeaxanthin have also been found to lighten the skin and improve its health.
In a study, lutein was found to prevent cell loss and membrane damage. It also has photoprotective properties that protect the skin from UV damage. Zucchini is also rich in beta-carotene, the low levels of which were found to increase mortality risk in older men. The riboflavin in zucchini maintains the health of the skin, hair, nails, and mucus membranes. It slows down aging by boosting athletic performance and preventing age-related memory loss and other related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
In one study, riboflavin was found to prolong the lifespan of fruit flies – indicating a similar possibility in human beings. Zucchini, as we have seen, is rich in vitamin C. According to a South Korean study, the vitamin was found to decelerate aging in human heart cells. Also, vitamin C is found in high levels in the skin layers, the content of which sees a decline due to aging. Hence, intake of vitamin C appears to be a logical solution to slow down the signs of aging.
Strengthens Bones And Teeth
Green vegetables and fruits, like zucchini, promote stronger bones and teeth. The lutein and zeaxanthin in zucchini keep the bones and teeth strong. In addition, they also strengthen the blood cells. Zucchini also contains vitamin K, which contributes to stronger bones. Magnesium is another nutrient zucchini is rich in. Most of the body’s magnesium resides in the bones, which helps build strong bones and teeth. Magnesium also works along with calcium to improve muscle contraction.
The folate in zucchini also protects the bones. And so does beta-carotene. Studies show that the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which contributes to bone growth. Zucchini contains phytochemicals such as indoles, which, according to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, maintain strong bones and teeth. Similar findings have been published by the California Department of Public Health.
Helps Balance Thyroid And Adrenaline Function
Zucchini is rich in manganese, a mineral that promotes the optimal functioning of the thyroid gland.
Helps During Pregnancy
Dark green vegetables are a must during pregnancy, and zucchini is one of them. In the nine months of pregnancy, consuming zucchini offers adequate B-complex vitamins that help maintain energy levels and mood. Zucchini is rich in folic acid that has been shown to reduce the risk of certain birth defects like spina bifida (the baby’s spinal cord doesn’t develop properly) and anencephaly (absence of a major portion of the brain). As per a Canadian study, over 50 countries that have fortified their food staples with folic acid saw a dramatic decrease in neural tube defects in pregnant women.
One more reason folate is beneficial to pregnant women is its ability to produce red blood cells in the body. This is how it reduces the risk of developmental problems in the baby during pregnancy. It is important to keep in mind that folic acid (or folate) works best when taken before getting pregnant and during the first trimester. As women need additional folic acid during pregnancy, it is advisable to take a folic acid supplement as well. Around 400 mcg of folic acid per day is recommended for women in this aspect. Another reason zucchini is good for pregnancy is its magnesium content. As per an Italian study, magnesium is very important for women with a high risk of gestosis or premature labor.
Helps Prevent Gout
Zucchini’s vitamin C grabs the spotlight, yet again. One study has linked vitamin C intake with a lower risk of gout in men. It achieves this by lowering serum uric acid levels via a process called the uricosuric effect. The vitamin was also found to prevent not just gout, but numerous other urate-related diseases as well. You can also intake zucchini to complement your gout treatment or if your treatment isn’t working well. And with respect to the vitamin C dosage in this regard, talk to your doctor.
Including zucchini in your diet can help prevent gout. And it’s pretty easy as well – as its mild taste combines properly with most recipes. Though gout generally affects men over the age of 40 or anyone with a family history of the disease, it can occur anytime. To anyone. It is caused due to the excessive build-up of uric acid in the body, leading to its accumulation in tissues in the form of needle-shaped crystals. But, worry not – apart from taking zucchini and other foods rich in vitamin C, something as simple as drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily can prevent gout.
Promotes Prostate Health
When it comes to men’s health, zucchini is one of the vegetables that is often overlooked. But, seldom does one know that its phytonutrients greatly benefit the prostate. The high carotenoid content of zucchini also associates it with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. We have seen that zucchini is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Both of these nutrients, as per a study, were found to be positively associated with prostate cancer. Vitamin C reduces oxidative DNA damage and hampers the growth and ability of prostate cancer cells.
And we have lutein in zucchini too. As per a report published by the University of California San Francisco, lutein is inversely associated with prostate cancer. Dietary fiber has been found to bind with carcinogens and eliminate them from the body. It also has the ability to prevent prostate cancer progression. And phytonutrients protect the cells from damage. Both of these healthful compounds are abundant in zucchini, making them a powerful weapon to combat prostate cancer.
Aids Collagen Formation
As we have seen, zucchini contains riboflavin, whose deficiency was found to affect the maturation of collagen. One more reason zucchini can be great for the skin is its high water content – which has been found to enhance skin health tremendously. Vitamin C in the squash plays a major part in the synthesis of collagen, which, as we know, is quite important to maintain the health of joints, cartilage, skin, and blood vessels. The vitamin also protects the body from cellular damage. In addition to collagen, vitamin C also helps in the production of elastin, both of which are essential for radiant and healthy skin.
Apart from vitamin C, a few other nutrients that contribute to collagen formation are potassium, zeaxanthin, and folate (98). And, as we have seen, zucchini is replete with these. We have seen vitamin C can slow down aging. But did you know that it is collagen that keeps the skin firm and protects it from wrinkles?
Helps In Skin Hydration
There is a reason zucchini is also called summer squash. It hydrates the body (and the skin) and helps it deal with the summer heat. The lutein in zucchini encourages skin health by reducing inflammation responses. But how does that promote skin hydration? Well, here’s the science behind it. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, lutein reduces the inflammation response. This means the sunlight will cause less damage to the skin, and that means less damage to the moisture barrier of the skin as well. And the result? Well-hydrated skin.
We have an interesting fact here – zucchini is 95% water. This obviously means it hydrates the skin well. But yes, there is one thing to be kept in mind – only about 20% of our daily water intake is met through foods. Hence, it is but important that we drink 8-10 glasses of water every day because the skin cells need water to function at their best.
Improves Brain Functioning And Memory
Green foods, especially zucchini, are rich in folate and are excellent for brain health. Folate also helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material. The nutrient, apart from improving mental health, also enhances emotional health. The deficiency of folate is linked to megaloblastic anemia, which results in weakness and fatigue. Increased folate intake has been linked to reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in women.
Also, our brain is 75% water. When there is adequate water in your system, you will be more focused, think quickly, and also display greater creativity. More importantly, sufficient water efficiently delivers nutrients to your brain and aids toxin removal. This results in enhanced concentration and mental alertness. Zucchini, apart from being rich in water, also contains vitamin C, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids – all of which largely contribute to brain health.
Though not very rich in iron, zucchini contains the nutrient in acceptable amounts. As per a study, early iron deficiency can lead to permanent neurobehavioral problems despite diagnosis and treatment. Early iron deficiency can even affect the brain’s physical structure. Iron is also important for producing myelin, the fatty sheath that coats the brain’s nerves and accelerates brain communications.
Promotes Hair Growth
Zucchini, being rich in zinc, promotes hair growth. Vitamin C in zucchini can treat dry and splitting hair. It also makes your hair strands strong and supple. Lack of vitamin C can result in the enlargement of hair follicles, which might eventually stall hair growth. But, with zucchini by your side, that shouldn’t be a problem.
You talk of immunity, and vitamin C is what comes to your mind, isn’t it? We are not going to tell you again that zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C. A vitamin is an active form of ascorbic acid that boosts the immune system. And it does this in several ways. Firstly, vitamin C develops the body’s T cells (a type of white blood cell) into functional T cells that defend against diseases. It also helps you produce more immune cells. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C also prevent cells from dying due to inflammation. The RDA of vitamin C is 90 mg in males and 74 mg in females. Low levels of vitamin C are linked to an increased risk of infection. In fact, high levels of vitamin C are frequently recommended for HIV-positive individuals to enhance their immunity.
223g Zucchini Nutrition
- Calories: 17
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 40% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 14% of the RDI
- Potassium: 13% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 9% of the RDI
- Folate: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 5% of the RDI
It also contains small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and several other B vitamins. In particular, its ample vitamin A content may support your vision and immune system. Raw zucchini offers a similar nutrition profile as cooked zucchini, but with less vitamin A and more vitamin C, a nutrient that tends to be reduced by cooking.
Side Effects Of Zucchini
Zucchini might cause digestive issues in people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In such a case, consume it with caution. Or avoid it altogether. Bitter zucchini might also cause stomach cramps or diarrhea or both.
Zucchini might cause allergies in individuals who are sensitive to it. These include nausea, pruritus (severe skin itching), and certain kinds of oral allergies.
Yes, this can be contradictory to what we spoke about before in the article. Iron does help prevent brain ailments. But studies suggest that too much of it can cause neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s. Though iron is not abundant in zucchini, it still is better to consider its effects.
Since zucchini is a very good source of beta-carotene, this could be a concern for certain individuals. Large doses of beta-carotene might be inadvisable for pregnant and lactating women, people who smoke (beta-carotene supplements), people who have been exposed to asbestos (beta-carotene supplements), and individuals who have undergone angioplasty. Beta-carotene might also interact with medications – especially the ones used for lowering cholesterol and other medicines like niacin.
These side effects need to worry you in case you happen to take zucchini in excess. Otherwise, it sure is a wonder food. And now, sit back and entertain yourselves with these super facts about zucchini.