Zucchini is a neutral tasting summer fruit (yes, fruit!) that is anything but boring. This squash variety has a subtly sweet flavor, making it the perfect addition to meals for people who are skeptical about eating their greens.
With plenty of nutrients like vitamin C, folate, manganese and magnesium, eating zucchini should be on your summer to-do list. Not to mention that it’s incredibly versatile: Zucchini is easy to spiralize into pasta, air fry as crispy “fries” or “chips,” use raw in salads or smoothies, or shred into muffins or quickbreads.
Learn the health benefits of eating zucchini, as well as some unique facts about the fruit and healthy recipes to add to your weekly meal plan.
Zucchini nutrition facts
One medium zucchini has:
- 33 calories
- 2 grams protein
- 1 gram fat
- 6 grams carbohydrates
- 2 grams fiber
- 512 milligrams potassium (11% daily value (DV))
- 0.3 milligrams manganese (13% DV)
- 35 milligrams vitamin C (39% DV)
- 0.3 milligrams vitamin B6 (18% DV)
- 47 ug folate (12% DV)
The health benefits of zucchini
There are several standout nutrients in zucchini, but potassium, vitamin C and folate are most notably linked to several health benefits.
Potassium is an electrolyte that is present in every cell in the body. It plays a major role in blood pressure regulation and cellular fluid balance (aka hydration). Many studies demonstrate that adequate potassium intake can lower blood pressure, a major indicator of heart health. Most people don’t eat enough potassium on a daily basis, which is why including zucchini in a heart-healthy diet is important.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that has also been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. This important vitamin not only helps with immune function, it’s necessary for collagen production and protein metabolism. What’s more, research suggests that the vitamin C in zucchini plays a role in reducing bodily inflammation and may even aid in the death of cancer cells.
Zucchini also contains two other antioxidants, called lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds are known for their protective role in eye health. Research states they are the only carotenoids (plant compounds) that accumulate in the retina and slow the progression of age related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss for older adults.
Lastly, zucchini is a good source of folate, a vitamin that is important for women of childbearing age. Folate is crucial for pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive because it plays a pivotal part in reducing the risk of neural tube defects in the baby. Not to mention that vitamin B6 may mitigate pregnancy nausea, so zucchini should be on the list of every pregnant woman.
More nutritional information on everyday foods
Are there drawbacks to eating zucchini?
Zucchini is not only delicious, but it’s perfectly safe to eat. Some people with severe kidney diseases may need to watch their potassium intake and limit zucchini consumption. Otherwise, there is no reason not to eat more zucchini.
Fun facts about zucchini
Besides the abundance of health benefits, here are a few more reasons to add zucchini to your weekly meal plan.
Zucchini is hydrating
The body is made up of about 60% water, and taking in plenty of fluids throughout the day is vital for health. While drinking water frequently is one of the most important aspects of hydration, eating foods with water also contributes to overall hydration levels.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming 20% of your fluid needs through foods, and zucchini is made up of 95% water. Cooking it removes some of the water, so the best way to keep all the hydration in is to eat it raw. Shave a few slices of zucchini into your salad or add some zucchini slices to your smoothie for a hydrating boost.
You can eat zucchini flowers
If you’ve ever tried “squash blossoms” you’ve eaten the flower of a zucchini. The yellow orange flower is how the plant pollenates, and it has a mild taste that is great for frying or sautéing. Look for squash blossoms at your local Farmer’s Market or select grocery stores. Or you can pluck them right out of your own garden.
It adds moisture to baked goods
Since zucchini is mostly water, it probably comes as no surprise that it adds flavorful moistness to baked goods. Although you can’t use it to replace fat, like butter or oil, zucchini does give a soft texture to baked goods with a mild flavor. Plus, it’s a great way to get a little bit more nutrients in your dessert.
Healthy zucchini recipes
Pick up some zucchini at the local market today and get cooking. These simple and healthy recipes will inspire you to eat more zucchini.
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Courtesy Joel Gamoran
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Helen Healey / TODAY