Zucchini 101: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes, and More

Zucchini 101: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes, and 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 squash go beyond calorie control.

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

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health agrees that eating a diet rich in vegetables like zucchini may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases, while also keeping your weight in check.

Below is a more in-depth look at what the current research says about the potential health benefits of eating zucchini.

May Help With Weight Management

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

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

Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that eating more vegetables (like zucchini) won’t necessarily help with weight loss or weight management, unless they replace other higher-calorie foods, such as refined carbs or empty-calorie snacks.

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

May Promote a Healthy Gut

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

Fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables can also help decrease bowel 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).

Overall, 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 produce like zucchini, do so gradually and drink plenty of water to help reduce gas and constipation.

May Reduce Cancer Risk

Fruits and vegetables like zucchini present strong links to an overall reduced cancer risk, though more studies need to be done to determine whether they may prevent cancer. Instead, research is finding that certain fruits and vegetables may be linked to reducing the development of certain types of cancers.

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

One recent study found that cucurbitacin types 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 analyzing zucchini’s effects on the development of other types of cancer is needed to determine whether this squash could prevent overall cancer risk.

May Improve Cardiovascular Health

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

Fibrous foods like zucchini may also help you manage cholesterol by preventing your body from taking in some of the cholesterol you consume via other foods. This may help reduce 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, one study in rats specifically showed zucchini’s potential in preventing cardiovascular disease. Researchers report that, despite an otherwise 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.

Can Help With Blood Sugar Control

Noshing on high-fiber foods may also help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels in check. When you eat fibrous foods such as zucchini, your blood sugar won’t spike as much as with other types of carbohydrates, in part because your body can’t break the fiber down.

Zucchini and other types of summer squash are nonstarchy vegetables that can also be more satiating than starchier vegetable options.

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

May Protect Your Vision

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