Food in the Spotlight

Zucchini in the Mediterranean Diet – Exploring the Healthy Benefits It Can Give

Did you know that you can get a lot of health benefits just by adding zucchini into your usual Mediterranean diet? So, while it may be true that zucchini and other summer squash have lower nutritional values as compared to winter squash, it still offers a lot of benefits from a nutritional point of view. Are you prepared to learn more about this? Well, keep on reading if you are! I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Zucchini Nutritional Profile

Zucchini belongs to the family of summer squashes under the family Cucurbitae. While it may not be one of the richest sources of antioxidants, zucchini contains significant amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidant nutrients that play a significant role in protecting your eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. These nutrients are also known to protect your body cells against the damaging effects of free radicals as well.

Additionally, zucchini contains significant amounts of vitamins C and B6, manganese and molybdenum. It also serves as a good source of vitamins A, B2 and K, fiber, protein, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and omega-3 fatty acids (mostly found in the seeds).

Health Benefits

Why should you include zucchini into your usual Mediterranean diet? Well, aside from protecting your eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, there are a number of reasons why doing so can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Here are some of them:

Zucchini can help you lose weight. Zucchini is low on calories and high on fiber and water content. As such, eating one cup of boiled zucchini (with skin intact) will give you about 171 grams of water and 2 grams of fiber. This can help you curb your appetite and hence, help you manage your weight more effectively.

It can provide ample protection against chronic inflammation. Zucchini is rich in vitamins A and C, two nutrients that can help prevent the development of several inflammatory medical conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, to name a few.

It can help you manage your blood cholesterol level. Studies show that the dietary fiber in zucchini effectively binds with the bile acids produced in the liver. As such, the liver is forced to draw in more cholesterol from the blood to produce more bile resulting in the lowering of the total cholesterol in the body.

It can likewise help keep diabetes at bay. Zucchini, like most summer squash, contains significant amounts of the B-complex vitamins, choline, folate, zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. Since these nutrients play a vital role in the metabolism of sugar in the body, it can therefore reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes. Considering the fact that the American Diabetes Association estimates that about 25.8 million people in the US or 8.3% of the entire American population has diabetes, this finding can be considered to be of vital importance indeed.

It can keep your heart in top condition. Zucchini contains significant amounts of magnesium and potassium – two of the most important nutrients that can help lower your blood pressure. As you may very well know by now, keeping your blood pressure in check can help reduce your risk of arteriosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.

It may help protect you against several types of cancer. Owing to the excellent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of summer squash, there is a great probability that adding it to your Mediterranean diet can help protect you against cancer. Its high fiber content can also help deter the development of colon cancer by preventing cancer-causing toxins from being lodged into your colon. While this is yet to be proven in large-scale human studies, there is a great possibility that zucchini can indeed be very helpful in this area.

Now, are you ready to start adding zucchini into your Mediterranean diet? Go ahead and enjoy it raw with your favorite dip, add it to your sandwiches and salads, grill it or use it in preparing casseroles, stir-fries and muffins. The possibilities are really quite endless so take your pick and go with it!

Did you find something useful in today’s post? I sure hope you did!

Enjoy better health by adding more zucchini to your Mediterranean dishes,

Ray Baker