Cucumber (scientific name: Cucurbita pepo, known as zucchini in mainland China and jade melon in Hong Kong) .
Rich in various nutrients
Zucchini is rich in many vitamins, minerals and other beneficial plant compounds.
One cup (223 g) of cooked zucchini provides:
- Calories: 17
- Protein: 1g
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Sugar: 1g
- Fiber: 1g
- Vitamin A: 40% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 16% of RDI
- Vitamin C: 14% of RDI
- Potassium: 13% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 10% of RDI
- Vitamin K: 9% of recommended daily intake
- Folic acid: 8% of RDI
- Copper: 8% of RDI
- Phosphorus: 7% of RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of recommended daily intake
- Thiamine: 5% of the RDI
It also contains small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc and several other B vitamins.
In particular, its rich vitamin A content supports your vision and immune system.
The nutritional profile of raw zucchini is similar to cooked zucchini, but it is lower in vitamin A and higher in vitamin C, which is often reduced by cooking.
Rich in antioxidants
Zucchini is also rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are beneficial plant compounds that help protect your body from free radical damage.
Zucchini is particularly rich in carotenoids.
These may benefit your eyes, skin, and heart, and provide some protection against certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.
Research shows that the epidermis of plants contains the highest levels of antioxidants. Yellow zucchini may have slightly higher levels than light green zucchini.
Helps with healthy digestion
Zucchini can promote healthy digestion in a variety of ways.
First, it is rich in water, which softens stool. This makes them easier to pass and reduces the chance of constipation.
Zucchini also contains soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and helps food pass through your intestines more easily, further reducing the risk of constipation. This benefit is even more pronounced if you have enough fluids in your diet.
At the same time, soluble fiber provides nutrients to the good bacteria in your gut. In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that nourish your intestinal cells.
In addition, short-chain fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and symptoms of certain intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
May lower blood sugar levels
Zucchini may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
With 3 grams of carbohydrates per cup of cooked zucchini, it is a great low-carb alternative to pasta for those looking to cut back on carbs. It can be spiralized or sliced to replace spaghetti, linguine or lasagna in dishes.
A low-carbohydrate diet can significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels, both of which can keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce the need for medications in people with type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, zucchini's fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent post-meal spikes in blood sugar levels. A diet rich in fiber from fruits and vegetables is consistently associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The fiber found in zucchini may also help improve insulin sensitivity, which also helps stabilize blood sugar.
Additionally, animal studies indicate that zucchini peel extract may help lower blood sugar and insulin levels. This may be due to the skin's powerful antioxidants.
However, human studies are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.
May improve heart health
Zucchini may also contribute to heart health.
Its high fiber content is probably the main reason. Observational studies show that people who eat more fiber have a lower risk of heart disease.
Pectin, a soluble fiber found in zucchini, appears to be particularly effective at lowering total cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.
A review of studies shows that consuming 2-10 grams of soluble fiber per day for about 1-2 months reduces total cholesterol by an average of 1.7 mg/dL and "bad" LDL cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dL.
Zucchini is also rich in potassium, which can help reduce high blood pressure by dilating blood vessels. Healthy blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, a diet rich in carotenoids appears to be particularly protective against heart disease.
Can enhance your vision
Adding zucchini to your diet may help your vision.
Part of the reason is that zucchini is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene—two nutrients important for eye health.
Zucchini also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Research shows that these antioxidants can build up in your retina, improving your vision and reducing the risk of age-related eye diseases.
This may include reducing the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in older adults.
In addition, a diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin may also reduce the likelihood of cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye that causes poor vision.
May help with weight loss
Regular consumption of zucchini may aid weight loss.
This fruit is rich in water and low in caloric density, which can help you feel full.
Its fiber content also reduces hunger and suppresses appetite.
Additionally, research agrees that high fruit and vegetable intake is associated with weight loss and slower weight gain over time.
Additionally, consuming non-starchy, dark green or yellow vegetables (which have similar nutritional profiles to zucchini) appears to be particularly beneficial for weight loss.
Other potential benefits
Zucchini may bring some added benefits. The most intensively researched include:
- Bone health. Zucchini is rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamin K and magnesium, all of which help strengthen bones.
- Anti-cancer effect. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that zucchini extract may help kill or limit the growth of certain cancer cells. However, human studies are needed.
- Healthy prostate. Animal studies suggest that zucchini seed extract may help limit prostate enlargement, which often causes urinary and sexual difficulties in older men.
- Thyroid function. Tests on rats suggest that zucchini peel extract may help keep thyroid hormone levels stable. That said, studies need to be conducted on humans.
Easily add to your diet
Zucchini is very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Here are some ways to incorporate it into your meals:
- Eat it raw and add it to salads.
- Stew with other summer fruits and vegetables to make ratatouille.
- Stuff with rice, lentils or other vegetables and bake.
- For a gentle stir-fry, add olive oil and sauté until fragrant.
- Bring it to a boil and stir it into the soup.
- Serve it as a side dish, grilled or sautéed with a little garlic and oil.
- Try breading and frying.
- Roll it into spaghetti or linguine-like noodles, or slice it in place of lasagna sheets.
- Bake it into bread, pancakes, muffins or cakes.