Zucchini 101: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes & More

Zucchini is a low-calorie food that can help you lose weight as part of an overall healthy diet. However, the benefits of this pumpkin go beyond calorie control.

“Due to its rich antioxidant content, zucchini may also protect against a variety of chronic diseases, including heart disease, certain types of cancer, and age-related cognitive decline,” explains Gillespie.

The Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health agrees that eating a diet rich in vegetables like zucchini can help reduce the risk of chronic disease, while also keeping weight in check.

Below is a deeper look at what current research says about the potential health benefits of eating zucchini.

May help with weight control

Like other nutritionally dense foods, such as whole grains, beans, legumes, and lean meats, fruits and vegetables can fit well into a diet to lose or maintain weight. Vegetables like zucchini are low in calories and fat, but their water and fiber content will help keep you full, making you less likely to overeat.

(Zucchini’s high water content also makes it a convenient way to add extra water to your diet, Rizzo notes.)

However, it is important to note that eating more vegetables (such as zucchini) will not necessarily help with weight loss or control, unless replace other high-calorie foods, such as refined carbohydrates or empty calorie snacks.

For example, swap a cup of pasta or rice for a cup of zucchini noodles (or “zoodles”), and you’ll significantly reduce your calorie intake while still consuming the same volume of food.

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May promote a healthy gut

Zucchini can also contribute to a gut-friendly diet, thanks to its fiber content. High-fiber foods can help improve your overall gut health, while essentially cleansing you of buildup and bacteria by keeping your bowel movements regular.

Fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables can also help lower intestinal pressure, thereby reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and possibly preventing diverticulosis (a condition that occurs when small pockets form in the wall of the colon).

In general, the recommended daily fiber intake for adults ages 19 to 50 is at least 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men. If you’re trying to increase your fiber intake with items like zucchini, do so gradually and drink plenty of water to help reduce gas and constipation.

May reduce the risk of cancer

Fruits and vegetables like zucchini have strong links to reduced overall cancer risk, although more study is needed to determine if they can prevent cancer. Instead, research is finding that certain fruits and vegetables may be linked to reducing the development of certain types of cancer.

For example, evidence suggests that high-fiber foods may help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

A recent study found that cucurbitacin type B and I, which are compounds naturally found in zucchini, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers, may limit the development of colon cancer by blocking the growth of cancer stem cells.

Additional research looking at the effects of squash on the development of other types of cancer is needed to determine if squash might prevent overall cancer risk.

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May improve cardiovascular health

Research overwhelmingly supports the fact that eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as lower blood pressure.

Fibrous foods like zucchini can also help you control cholesterol by preventing your body from absorbing some of the cholesterol you eat through other foods. This can help lower your overall cholesterol and triglyceride levels and, in turn, your risk of heart disease.

While more human studies are needed to support zucchini as a cardiovascular health booster, a rat study specifically showed zucchini’s potential for preventing cardiovascular disease. The researchers report that despite a high-fat diet, the rats that ate zucchini had improvements in cholesterol levels and showed less oxidative stress, which is a marker of cell damage.

May help with blood sugar control

Eating foods rich in fiber can also help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels. When you eat fibrous foods like zucchini, your blood sugar doesn’t rise as much as it does with other types of carbohydrates, in part because your body can’t break down fiber.

Zucchini and other types of summer squash are non-starchy vegetables that can also be more filling than starchy vegetable options.

While there is not enough research available to support eating zucchini alone to prevent diabetes, it is clear that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is associated with an overall lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

You can protect your vision

Research on zucchini and eye health is specifically lacking, but research associates fruit and vegetable consumption with a reduced risk of age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

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