In the last few years, zucchini has earned some serious street cred. It's a low-carb hero - standing in for pasta in a dish that was once carb-heavy and serving as a delivery device for our favorite foods and ingredients.
But zucchini merits accolades for more than just its low-carb status - as, with most vegetables, it is also a source for nutrients. A cup of zucchini is brimming with vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. And you get a bit of folate, too.
In addition to all those amazing vitamins and minerals, zucchini also provides compounds called carotenoids - lutein and zeaxanthin in particular. It is those compounds that appear to give added, impressive health boons to zucchini.
Helps protect your skin
Just as those carotenoids build up in the zucchini's skin, as we eat carotenoid-rich produce daily, they also build up in our skin. According to scientific research, this coating protects our skin from UV rays and toxins, which can even delay skin aging by helping to maintain the skin hydrated and elastic.
Eating carotenoid-rich foods may delay or decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. But the key phrase is to eat carotenoid-rich foods and not take supplements. Even the potassium you get in zucchini is good for the blood pressure, just as fiber is good for your heart health.
Promotes healthier and stronger bones
In a study of young adults, those with elevated carotenoid levels in their eyes (a way for researchers to calculate long-term dietary intake of carotenoid in humans) often tended to have denser, thicker bones. So, this means that eating carotenoid-rich foods regularly - like zucchini - could be healthy for our bones. Additionally, an animal study showed lutein directly promoting bone formation.
Healthier body weight
Long-term research have shown that people with higher levels of carotenoid usually have lower BMIs than people with lower levels of carotenoid. And there were also these findings from a study of zeaxanthin and mice: The carotenoid curbed the detrimental health effects of consuming a high-fat diet while mice were given a high-fat diet and administered with zeaxanthin. And we all know that eating loads of vegetables ‚ which are low in calories and rich in nutrients and nutrition, is ideal for controlling weight.
While all this research shows a lot of promise, bear in mind that it all looks at carotenoids, not actually zucchini. To put it another way, zucchini is not a cure-all - at least not yet. But it's low-calorie and low-carb and filled with lots of vitamins and nutrients, so tuck it into quick bread, pancakes, and quesadillas, as well as making it a mealtime star in various dishes.