Have it raw or cooked, zucchini’s versatility is apparent, but do you know about the benefits? Khevna Pandit talks to nutritionists in the city to find out more about the benefits of this tasty squash that we are lucky to have all-year round
It may be a summer squash across the world, but since we’re lucky enough to have it all year round (thanks in part to gourmet food stores), you should know that this cucumber lookalike holds several health benefits. And, apart from its ability to facilitate weight loss, not all of them are as commonly spoken about as they should be. What you should know right off the bat is that the zucchini has several benefits that could save you a trip to the doctor! We spoke to dieticians and nutritionists to chart out its benefits.
So, what is zucchini?
A slightly less popular member of the summer squash family, the zucchini is a type of squash that grows up to a meter long, and, unlike its cousins — pumpkins and cucumbers — it has a dark or light green colour. An interesting fact about the zucchini is that even though it is botanically classified as a fruit, it is usually cooked as a vegetable, since it’s best consumed that way. Zucchini is a popular add-on in pasta and salad recipes, and it also helps to fight several ailments on its own. We spoke to Dr. Kanchan Patwardhan, nutritionist at Kanchan’s House of Health & Nutrition, as well as at Arogya Hospital, Thane, who tells us, “Even though it’s easy to grow, zucchini is produced in very few parts of India, which is why we don’t see it as often at regular stores and markets. Zucchini is great for weight watchers because it contains fewer calories and is high in fibre, both soluble and insoluble. Moreover, it also contains prebiotic fibre — fibre that acts as a good medium for healthy bowel flora. It keeps your stomach healthy and helps to detoxify your system. It also contains folic acid, which is why it is recommended during pregnancy.”
It helps you watch your weight
Zucchini is the perfect side dish for a heavy meal! One cup of sliced zucchini contains approximately 19 calories, which is 40 to 50% lower than the same serving size for low-calorie green vegetables such as broccoli. Since it is rich in nutrients and has virtually no fat, its calorific rate is very low. Because of its water content, it allows you to feel full faster. Another interesting fact about zucchini is that it increases metabolism, helping you to burn fat. That is, you get energy and eliminate the leftover fat by burning it off. This is due to vitamin A, which promotes the oxidation of lipids (fats).
It is high in vitamin C
Zucchinis have a whopping 29% of vitamin C present in them! So, it’s no surprise that the zucchini prevents almost every type of disease that occurs from a vitamin C deficiency, including scurvy, gingivitis and even easy bruising. A diet that is high in vitamin C-rich foods may also lower your risk of hypertension, cancer, osteoarthritis and heart disease.
Here’s a tip to maximise the amount of vitamin C that you obtain from the vegetable: use zucchini within three to four days of its purchase and store it in a cool, dark place. Vitamin C degrades quickly when it’s exposed to air, light or heat.
It helps your eyes
Since it also contains about 4% of vitamin A, zucchini is considered to be beneficial for your eyes. The cells in your eyes need vitamin A and consuming enough of it leads to better vision in the long run. Also, zucchini can be used externally to remove puffy bags and dark circles around your eyes. These can be caused due to excessive water retention. The high water content in zucchini also helps to sponge out the swelling from around your eyes. The beta carotene, zinc and manganese in zucchini along with the vitamin C provide good antioxidant protection.
Your cardiovascular health improves
Zucchini is rich in magnesium, and one cup provides over 10% of the RDA (Recommended dietary allowance). This mineral reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Zucchinis also contain folic acid, a vitamin that is required to break down the dangerous amino acid homocysteine, a high level of which can cause blood clotting and heart attacks.
You can fight cancer with it
Apart from all these benefits, it also prevents carcinogenic toxins from accumulating in your colon and promotes healthy and regular bowel movements. Vitamins A and C, which are strong antioxidising agents, destroy the carcinogens that lead to malignant cancers.
Zucchini is not only healthy, but also tasty and fun to cook. It is a great ingredient and can be savoured raw, sautéed, stir-fried or in soups and salads! Now, isn’t all of this reason enough to include it in your diet?
Making Zucchini Taste Better
As the Indian grocery market embraces more foreign and exotic fruits and vegetables, it’s great that our choices have increased so drastically. Zucchini is one of the latest, once obscure foods that is now increasingly popular. But, if you’re not sure how to cook this exotic ingredient and want to know how to make it lip-smackingly delicious, we have a simple and healthy recipe you can try out to get started.
Sautéed Zucchini Burnt Garlic
Executive Chef Prem Pradhan at China1 gives us this simple recipe that should make you love zucchini.
180g red and yellow zucchini, 2g garlic (chopped), 10g butter, 5ml sesame oil, 5ml Chinese rice wine, 30ml cooking wine, fried burnt garlic
Wash the zucchini with cold water.
Chop the garlic into small pieces and add the zucchini to it.
Heat sesame oil in a pan, add the zucchini and garlic and cook for a minute.
Add the Chinese rice wine and cooking wine.
Put some corn flour starch for thickness.
Finish with burnt garlic and garnish with tomato and lettuce leaves.