Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a summer squash in the Cucurbitaceae plant family, alongside melons, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers.
It can grow to more than 3.2 feet (1 meter) in length but is usually harvested when still immature — typically measuring under 8 inches (20 cm).
Although zucchini is often considered a vegetable, it is botanically classified as a fruit. It occurs in several varieties, which range in color from deep yellow to dark green.
While squashes originated in the Americas, this particular variety was first developed in the early 1800s in Italy.
Zucchini has been used in folk medicine to treat colds, aches, and various health conditions. However, not all of its uses are backed by science.
Here are 5 evidence-based benefits of zucchini.
Nutrition Facts About Zucchini
Rich in Many Nutrients
Zucchini is rich in several vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds.
One cup (223 grams) of cooked zucchini provides:
- Calories: 17
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 40% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 14% of the RDI
- Potassium: 13% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 9% of the RDI
- Folate: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 5% of the RDI
It also contains small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and several other B vitamins.
In particular, its ample vitamin A content may support your vision and immune system.
Raw zucchini offers a similar nutrition profile as cooked zucchini, but with less vitamin A and more vitamin C, a nutrient which tends to be reduced by cooking.
High in Antioxidants
Zucchini is also rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are beneficial plant compounds that help protect your body from damage by free radicals.
Carotenoids — such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene — are particularly plentiful in zucchini.
These may benefit your eyes, skin, and heart, as well as offer some protection against certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.
Research indicates that the skin of the plant harbors the highest levels of antioxidants. Yellow zucchinis may contain slightly higher levels than light green ones.
Contributes to Healthy Digestion
Zucchini may promote healthy digestion in several ways.
For starters, it’s rich in water, which can soften stools. This makes them easier to pass and reduces your chances of constipation.
Zucchini also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and helps food move through your gut more easily, further reducing constipation risk. This benefit is compounded if you have enough fluids in your diet.
Meanwhile, soluble fiber feeds the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that nourish your gut cells.
What’s more, SCFAs may help reduce inflammation and symptoms of certain gut disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Zucchini may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
At 3 grams of carbs per cooked cup (232 grams), zucchini provides a great low-carb alternative to pasta for those looking to reduce carb intake. It can be spiralized or sliced to replace spaghetti, linguini, or lasagna noodles in dishes.
Low-carb diets can significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels, both of which may keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce the need for medication in people with type 2 diabetes.
What’s more, zucchini’s fiber helps stabilize blood sugar, preventing levels from spiking after meals. Diets rich in fiber from fruits and vegetables — including zucchini — are consistently linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The fiber found in zucchini may also help increase insulin sensitivity, which can help stabilize blood sugar as well.
Additionally, animal studies note that zucchini peel extract may help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. This may be due to the skin’s potent antioxidants.
However, human research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
May Improve Heart Health
Zucchini may also contribute to heart health.
Its high fiber content may be largely responsible. Observational studies show that people who eat more fiber have a lower risk of heart disease.
Pectin, one type of soluble fiber found in zucchini, appears particularly effective at reducing total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
In a review of 67 studies, consuming as little as 2–10 grams of soluble fiber per day for around 1–2 months reduced, on average, total cholesterol by 1.7 mg/dl and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dl.
Zucchini is also rich in potassium, which may help reduce high blood pressure by dilating your blood vessels. Healthier blood pressure is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Moreover, diets rich in carotenoids — likewise found in zucchini — appear particularly protective against heart disease.