Our vegetable of the week is Zucchini.
If you have a garden like I do, you know it doesn’t take long before you feel overrun with ALL the zucchini! Not sure what to do with it and how it benefits you health wise to eat it?
Be sure to keep reading to learn all about the health benefits of zucchini and how it grows…
What are the Health Benefits of Zucchini?
With just 20 calories per cup, zucchini is an AMAZING weight loss friendly foods. And these are 20 nutrient dense calories! If you are trying to lose weight and are reducing calories, you want to consume nutrient dense foods to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep you healthy and full of energy.
Think of it like this… 20 calories of Cheetos (what, is that like 2 Cheetos?!?! Who even eats only 2 Cheetos!?! LOL) Anyways, 20 calories of Cheetos is not the same as 20 calories of zucchini. While foods like Cheetos are super yummy, they don’t provide many, if any nutrients to fuel our bodies and protect it from diseases. I promise you, you would NOT feel satisfied with just 20 calories of Cheetos either!
But…. You would feel more satisfied and way FULLER after eating a cup of zucchini.
With zucchini, you fill your plate and still lose weight.
So, let’s jump into the health benefits of zucchini and the magic that fills them!
1 cup of zucchini provides 18% of the RDA for calcium. Eating calcium rich foods like zucchini help keep our bones and teeth healthy and strong. Calcium helps to regulate our blood pressure and even enables our blood to clot. FUN FACT- 99% of our body’s calcium is in our teeth and bones!
There is approx. 294 mg of potassium or about 8% of the RDA in 1 cup of zucchini. Eating potassium rich foods like zucchini helps to reduce our blood pressure, may help lower your risk of stroke, helps to maintain proper fluid balance, can help prevent kidney stones and is vital for muscle contraction and proper nerve function. Do you often get leg cramps? You may be low in potassium. Eating zucchini can help.
Zucchini is rich in vitamin A. Eating vitamin A rich foods like zucchini has been linked to a decrease of certain cancers like lung, bladder, breast and ovarian cancer. Vitamin A is vital for both sperm and egg development and has been shown to improve both the male and females’ reproductive systems. Eating more vitamin A rich foods can help improve your night vision and has been shown to help prevent age related vision loss.
1 cup of zucchini provides approx. 20% of our vitamin C needs. This gives our immune system a nice boost! Also helps to lower your risk of heart diseases, reduces your chance of having a stroke and lowers blood pressure. Vitamin C even helps to lower cholesterol. Eating vitamin C rich foods may even help prevent our memory as we age and reduce our risk of dementia. Vitamin C has been shown to shorten healing time on wounds. Are you anemic? Vitamin C can help iron be absorbed more readily into your blood.
Zucchini is also very rich in antioxidants. These include beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Antioxidants slow or even prevent damage from being done to our healthy cells and this helps reduce our risks of heart disease and cancer. Important to note, most of the antioxidants are found in the skin of zucchini.
All those health benefits for only 20 calories! OH, and it’s low carb as well. Only 3.5g per cup.
How to choose the perfect zucchini to maximize the health benefits of zucchini
Zucchini is readily available all year round, but zucchini is in peak season from May-August in North America.
When choosing your zucchini, look for one that is firm and uniform in color and about 6-8” long. If your zucchini gets overlooked in the garden (it happens to the best of us) and grows to 10-12” long or bigger, the seeds will be large and more bland tasting. It’s best to grate really large zucchinis for use in muffins or breads. Smaller zucchini have more flavor and are best for eating raw, oven roasted or sautéed.
How to store, cook and prepare zucchini:
Storing your zucchini
Store your unwashed zucchini in a paper bag or wrap in a paper towel and place in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Do not store in a plastic bag as it will rot faster. If you are eating the zucchini within 1-2 days, they can be stored on the countertop.
Ways to cook and prepare zucchini:
Using a spiralizer, you can make “zoodles!” Basically, noodles made out of zucchini. Zoodles can be substituted for spaghetti or even mixed in with a little bit of spaghetti. They go great with any red sauce or white sauce and are the perfect way to maximize the health benefits of zucchini!
Zucchini boats are a family fave in my house! This is a great way to use up extra large zucchini. You can basically take any ground beef or ground turkey concoction and make these DELISH zucchini boats. Take a larger zucchini and slice it half, long ways. Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and make a “well” in the zucchini. Precook your ground beef or ground turkey and season however you’d like. Think taco meat, sloppy joe filling or even a red meat sauce. You can use rice too.
Then stuff your zucchini boat and cook it in the oven at 350* for 30-45 minutes. Poke the zucchini with a fork to be sure it’s soft. When it’s soft, it’s done! Oh, and you can always add some cheese topping and bake 5 additional minutes.
OH MY YUM are these delish! Kids love the “boat” and a great way to get them to eat their veggies!
Grilled zucchini seasoned with any of your favorite seasoning is a great side dish in summer!
My favorite way to prepare zucchini is to just sauté it or oven roast with a little bit of olive oil and whatever seasoning I’d like. Sometimes I’ll even eat it cold with some leftover grilled chicken and drizzle it with Italian dressing. Very light and refreshing lunch on a HOT summer day!
Oh and what’s not to love about zucchini muffins or chocolate zucchini bread!
What a great way to start your day with a zucchini and egg frittata! Or maybe have “brinner” like I often do in my house. Brinner is breakfast for dinner. 😉
What is your favorite way to eat zucchini?
Be sure to share your recipes let us know in the Veggie Obsessed Facebook group!
How to grow Zucchini
Now that you know the Health Benefits of Zucchini, it’s time to dig into how to grow it!
Even if you don’t have a green thumb and have ZERO intention of growing your own zucchini, I think it’s important that we know how our food grows and what it looks like as it grows.
Here is what a Seed of a zucchini squash looks like: It basically looks like a pumpkin seed. Lots of seeds in the squash family look like this.
Here are Zucchini Seedlings.
The seeds germinate and grow pretty fast. Within about 10-14 days, you have pretty decent sized seedlings.
Before long, you have a rather large plant and many zucchini to harvest. It only takes about 40-55 days from seed to harvest. This varies depending on the variety. The plants can get quite large or you can choose to grow smaller varieties.
As with most squashes, you have a male and a female flower. The male flower doesn’t have any “fruit” growing at the base of the flower whereas the female flower is attached to the zucchini.
The plants grow quite quickly and then they will get big, beautiful blossoms. They are a very vibrant, beautiful orange/yellow. This is to attract pollinators like bees to come and do their work. (pollinate the plant)
Now that you know the Health Benefits of Zucchini, will you be adding zucchini to your meal plan?
Have additional ways to cook and prepare zucchini? I’d love to hear all about them! Be sure to comment below or share them in our Veggie Obsessed Facebook Group!
Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health! I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!