Researched & Written by: Robyn Theuer, Penn State University Nutrition Student Edited by: Heather Mangieri, RD
Many of us think of zucchini as the overcooked, mushy veggie that we were forced to eat when we were little. Others may think of the popular appetizer, fried zucchini. As a food and nutrition nut, neither of those fit my standards for healthy & delicious food. Luckily, there are many other delicious ways to eat zucchini which allow us to get all of the great health benefits it has to offer. I’m going to share how you can make this simple vegetable into a tasty and nutritious snack that everyone will enjoy!
First, as always, I have to give you a little zucchini background! Zucchini and all other squash originated in Northern and Central America thousands of years ago. Researchers have actually found a squash seed in a Mexican cave that dates back 10,000 years! The Native Americans feasted on squash during Thanksgiving and the early explorers brought it back to Europe during the 1500s. There, it gained popularity and was called a zucchino. European immigrants then brought zucchini back to the Americas in the 1920s where it regained popularity. The rest is history!
The zucchini, which is actually a fruit, belongs in the same family as winter squash and cucumbers, the Cucurbita family. These plants grow best in the summer and are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, often providing more zucchini than growers know what to do with! But don’t throw this bountiful vegetable away! A 1998 study done on the pigments of various fruits and vegetables demonstrated high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin found in zucchini, both pigments which play major roles in eye health. Another study done in 1991 concluded that zucchini contains high levels of ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant!), found in vegetables. This high level of ascorbic acid may explain the rapid growth of zucchini plants. Ascorbic acid oxidase allows for cell wall expansion, and thus, very large zucchinis that grow within days. So don’t waste your bountiful harvest and enjoy all of the nutrients zucchini has to offer!
Not only are zucchinis very high in Vitamin C, they also contain many other beneficial nutrients. According to the USDA’s Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, a ½ cup of zucchini contains:
- 11.1 mg of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- 124 IU of Vitamin A
- 162 mg of Potassium
- A good source of folate and fiber
Zucchini is a great source of antioxidants and vitamins and is simple to cook and delicious to eat. Forget about the way you once ate zucchini and give these scrumptious, simple recipes a try!
Ingredients:-2-3 medium sized zucchini -Bread crumbs -2 eggs for an egg wash
- Preheat oven to 350 ⁰F
- Cut the zucchini lengthwise in half and then slice the halves so you get a thin slice
- Mix eggs and 1TBSP of water for an eggwash and dip the zucchini in
- Lightly and evenly coat the zucchini in breadcrumbs and place on greased pan
- Cook zucchini for 15-20 minutes, turning once while cooking
- Serve with marinara sauce!
Check out our video on making baked zucchini here.
Ingredients:-2-3 small zucchini -1/4 Cup Mozzarella cheese -1 TBSP Olive oil -Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, etc) -4 TBSP breadcrumbs -cherry tomatoes
- Preheat toaster oven to 375⁰ F
- Cut zucchini lengthwise and scoop seeds from middle, creating a boat
- Mix olive oil and seasonings and brush a light amount onto zucchini
- Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place in zucchini boats
- Sprinkle enough mozzarella cheese on the boats to evenly cover tomatoes
- Sprinkle 1 TBSP of breadcrumbs on top of the boats
- Place boats in toaster oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown (time will depend on the size of the zucchini)
- Remove from oven, serve and enjoy!
Check out the video on making zucchini boats here.