Zucchini : A Multi Health Benefit Powerhouse


  Zucchini : A multi health benefit powerhouse

Zucchini or courgette is a summer squash belonging to the species Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini can be dark or light green. Botanically, however, zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.

In North America, Australia, Germany and Scandinavia the plant is commonly called a zucchini. The name is derived from the word, zucchina (small pumpkin). A zucchini with the flowers attached is a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and is especially sought by many people for its sweeter flavor. Unlike cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It is prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés.

The zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, with or without fresh herbs. The skin is left in place. Quick cooking of  zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moment of frying when the water has dried, prior to serving. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad, as well as lightly cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes. Mature (larger sized) zucchini are well suited for cooking in breads.

 

Zucchini should not be stored for more than three days. They are prone to chilling damage which shows as sunken pits in the surface of the fruit, especially when brought up to room temperature after cool storage.



According to the USDA: One cup of sliced, boiled zucchini with skin has 27 calories, 2 g protein, 2 g fiber, 5 g carbohydrates and 1 g fat. Vitamins and minerals include 2,011 international units (IU) vitamin A, 23 mg vitamin C, 50 mcg folate, 0.3 mg manganese, 475 mg potassium and 32 mg calcium.

 

Counting Health Benefits of Zucchini


According to the USDA: One cup of sliced, boiled zucchini with skin has 27 calories, 2 g protein, 2 g fiber, 5 g carbohydrates and 1 g fat. Vitamins and minerals include 2,011 international units (IU) vitamin A, 23 mg vitamin C, 50 mcg folate, 0.3 mg manganese, 475 mg potassium and 32 mg calcium.

Low Calorie Food

One cup of zucchini has 36 calories and 10% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and curbs over-eating.  A healthy serving of this vegetable delivers less than 25 calories, an almost unheard of number in the general roster of calorie counts. 


Lower Cholesterol Level


The dietary fiber in zucchini helps lower cholesterol by attaching itself to bile acids that the liver makes from cholesterol for digesting fat. Because fiber binds so well with bile acid, thus crowding its ability to immediately digest fat, the liver is charged with producing more bile acid. The liver then draws upon even more cholesterol to produce bile acid, consequently lowering the overall cholesterol level in the body. Furthermore, the high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A prevent cholesterol from oxidizing in the body's blood vessels, thus hampering the onset of atherosclerosis.
 

  Zucchini : A multi health benefit powerhouse An Antioxidant


 

Because dietary fiber promotes healthy and regular bowel movements, the high amounts of fiber in zucchini also help prevent carcinogenic toxins from settling in the colon. Moreover, the vitamins C and A, as well as folate, found in zucchini act as powerful antioxidants that fight oxidative stress that can lead to many different types of cancer.}
 

Zucchinis, especially golden skin varieties, are rich in flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease processes.

 


Anti-Inflamatory


Vitamins C and A present in Zucchini not only serve the body as powerful antioxidants, but also as effective anti-inflammatory agents. Along with the copper found in zucchini, these vitamins prevent the development of  hyper-inflamatory disorders, including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention
 

A one cup serving of zucchini contains over 10% of the RDA of magnesium, a mineral proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Zucchini also provides folate, a vitamin needed to break down the dangerous amino acid homocysteine, which - if levels in the body shoot up - can contribute to heart attack and stroke.


Lower Blood Pressure

Along with magnesium, the potassium found in zucchini helps lower blood pressure. If unchecked, hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to arteriosclerosis (blood vessel damage), heart attack, stroke, and many other serious medical conditions. Both the potassium and magnesium in zucchini, however, can help alleviate the stress on the body's circulatory system.
 

One cup of zucchini contains 19% of the RDA of manganese, which helps the body metabolize protein and carbohydrates, participates in the production of sex hormones, and catalyzes the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol. The manganese in zucchini also increases the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), the enzyme responsible for protecting mitochondria against oxidative stress. Finally, manganese is essential for the production of proline, and amino acid that allows collagen to form, thus allowing for healthy skin and proper wound-healing.



High Water Content

 

Hydration is another important element of diet. Eating cheesy, doughy foods with high sodium levels or other processed choices can leave your body gasping for water. This doesn’t happen with zucchini and other green vegetables that have a lot of water in them (One cup of sliced, boiled zucchini has 171 g water).
 


Concentrated Source of Vitamins & Minerals

  Zucchini : A multi health benefit powerhouse Moderate source of folate,  zucchini provides 24 µg or 6% of RDA per 100 g. Folate is important in cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately before pregnancy, it can help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. Zucchini is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressure-effects of sodium. Another element that zucchini has is beta-carotene. This essential vitamin is found in the rind of the zucchini, so do not skin this plant before cooking it. Do wash the rind thoroughly before cooking. Zucchini  contain moderate levels of B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.


Popular varieties of Zucchini

  • Golden zucchini features brilliant golden-yellow skin that retains its color even after cooking.

  • Round varieties are dense, heavy, and nearly seedless with smooth surface.

  • Tatume, which is common in Mexico, has similar features of round variety but has the large oval shape.

  • Costata romanesco also known as cocozelle is a long, narrow variety with the slight bulge at the bottom end. It features pale raised ribs in mottled green skin. When solid and young, this squash is juicy and sweet.

  • Middle-Eastern types are stocky, pale green, tapering ends with a thick dark-green stem. They have smooth shiny skin and solid, crispy and flavorful flesh.


Cooking Around the World

  •   Zucchini : A multi health benefit powerhouse In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas. The fruit is used in stews, soups (i.e. caldo de res, de pollo or de pescado, mole de olla, etc.) and other preparations. Both the flower and the fruit are eaten readily throughout Mexico.

  • In Italy, zucchini is served in a variety of ways, especially breaded and pan-fried. Some restaurants in Rome specialize in deep-frying the flowers, known as fiori di zucca.

  • In France zucchini are a key ingredient in ratatouille, a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and cooked for an extended time over low heat. The dish, originating near present-day Nice, is served as a side dish or on its own at lunch with bread. Zucchini are stuffed with meat with other fruits like tomatoes or bell peppers in a dish named courgette farcie (stuffed zucchini).

  • In Turkey, zucchini is the main ingredient in the popular dish mücver, or "zucchini pancakes", made from shredded zucchini, flour and eggs, lightly fried in olive oil and eaten with yogurt. They are also used not infrequently in kebabs along with various meats.

  • In the Levant, zucchini is stuffed with minced meat and rice plus herbs and spices and steamed. It is also used in various kinds of stew. Stews that have low salinity are favorable in such cooking. It can also be stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat and eaten with yogurt.

  • In Greece, zucchini is usually fried or boiled with other fruits (often green chili peppers and eggplants). It is served as an hors d'œuvre or as a main dish, especially during fasting seasons. Zucchini is also often stuffed with minced meat, rice and herbs and served with avgolemono sauce. In several parts of Greece, the flowers of the plant are stuffed with white cheese, usually feta or mizithra cheese, or with a mixture of rice, herbs and occasionally minced meat. Then they are deep-fried or baked with tomato sauce in the oven.

  • In Bulgaria, zucchini is fried and then served with a dip, made from yogurt, garlic and dill. Another popular dish is oven-baked zucchini—sliced or grated—covered with a mixture of eggs, yogurt, flour and dill.

  • In Egypt, zucchini is cooked with tomato sauce, garlic and onions.

    How do you like Zucchini, do share with us.


 

Dated 29 January 2013

 

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