The Amazing Benefits of Adding Zucchini to Your Diet
Pharmaceutical companies will have you believe that the only true medicine comes in the form of a little magic pill. But there are certain foods that prove that the best medicine we really need grows from the earth.
Case in point: the near magical abilities of zucchini.
Whether it’s yellow or green, zucchinis possess the ability to reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes; just ask my mom, she’s living proof. After her gestational diabetes evolved into a type 2 diabetes, she sought to take better care of herself and started monitoring her health closely. Soon after, she realized that her favorite breakfast, zucchini fried in a small amount of grass-fed butter, actually helped lower her blood sugar levels.
She found that before breakfast, her blood glucose was usually around 135 mg/dL and 105 mg/dL after a zucchini breakfast. Fast forward eight years, combined with a healthy diet, she has completely taken control of her health and has stabilized her blood glucose levels.
How could this be? How could one fruit -- yes it’s technically a fruit -- improve blood glucose levels in a diabetic after one meal, let alone be the catalyst for long term recovery?
It turns out that the manganese2, zinc, B vitamins, and fiber found in zucchini support blood sugar metabolism. But that’s not all, the pectin form of soluble fiber found in zucchini, known as D-galacturonic acid, helps keep insulin metabolism2 and blood sugar levels in balance, thus protecting against the onset of type 2 diabetes.
When you cut open a zucchini, the pectin is the glue-like substance around the seeds. The fresher the zucchini, the more this will be present. This slow moving fiber acts as a gel to decrease the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar, which aids in curbing blood sugar spikes, so if you like rice and bread, it may not be a bad idea to pair it with zucchini to prevent the carbs from turning into sugar.
Zucchini is a cousin to cucumbers and melons in the Cucurbitaceae family. This versatile fruit comes in two colors, yellow and green. While many gardeners attribute the green variety to be zucchini and the yellow as summer squash, they are both essentially the same thing. Because they are harvested before their rinds harden, zucchinis are referred to as summer squash. Yellow zucchini is often mistaken for yellow quash but yellow zucchini has a cylindrical shape whereas yellow squash is has a tapered neck and is typically curved with a tougher skin.
What makes zucchini so versatile is its ability to retain its antioxidants through a variety of cooking techniques. It can be served raw, roasted, or sauteed. They are also completely edible from inside out and if you get them from your local farmers market, you may be able to snag a few with the blossoms in tact, which can be stuffed or tossed in a salad.
Aside from keeping your blood glucose levels in check, here are other reasons to include this fantastic fruit in your diet:
Lowers blood pressure- Vitamin C found in zucchini helps the lining in your blood cells function better, lowering blood pressure and protecting against clogged arteries. 1
Decreased inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders- The combination of the mucilaginous fiber and antioxidants act together to cool and soothe the body, which decreases inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders including ulcerative colitis, gastritis, and leaky gut.
Lowers cholesterol- The pectin attaches itself to the bile acids that are produced by the liver for digesting fat.3
Antimicrobial and antiparasitic abilities- Traditional medicine has used summer squash seeds for medicinal purposes.
Lowers risk for heart disease and stroke- Paired with a diet low in sodium, an increased consumption can lower your odds of developing heart disease thanks to the potassium found in zucchini.4
There are a number of ways to enjoy the medicinal powers of this fruit, some of which include:
- Zucchini pizza bites: Using larger zucchinis, cut into “coins” and top with pizza sauce and cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350°
- Stuffed zucchini boats: Cut lengthwise in half, scoop out the seeds and stuff with bell peppers, cheese, and tomatoes and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350°.
- Zucchini pasta: Using a spiralizer or a julienne peeler, you can create zoodles to replace pasta loaded with carbs. You can roast, steam, or even eat the zoodles raw in a salad.
- Zucchini vegetable rolls: Slice the zucchini lengthwise and place a teaspoon of hummus on one end of the slice and top with shredded carrots. Then just simply roll the zucchini slices and secure with a toothpick.
- Baldec, J. (2014). Lose Pounds: Smoothies Made Easy.
- Plate It Up! Demonstration Guide. (2013, June 1).
- Press, M. (2014). Juicing for health: 81 juicing recipes and 76 ingredients proven to improve health and vitality. Mendocino Press.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Squash, Summer, Zucchini, Includes Skin, Raw