Use These Healthy Zucchini Nutrition Facts with Our Teriyaki Chicken with Carrots and Zucchini
Sometimes referred to as a courgette, zucchini is a rich source of vitamin C, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that has been shown to promote healthy skin and capillaries. Eating zucchini regularly may help reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can increase inflammation, particularly in the arteries. While zucchini is typically prepared and eaten as a vegetable, it is technically a fruit. More specifically, it’s the ovary of the zucchini plant, which makes it a berry, botanically speaking.
Zucchini and other varieties of summer squash have long been considered a good source of carotenoids, but studies have only recently confirmed just how rich a source of carotenoids these vegetables can be. It has been shown to be one of the top three food sources of lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin according to several studies. Lutein and zeaxanthin help promote eye health by filtering ultraviolet rays from the light that enters the eyes, minimizing damage. Zucchini ups the eye health ante with vitamin C, manganese, zinc, and beta carotene.
The antioxidants in squash are especially concentrated in the skin and seeds, so be sure to leave the skin on and eat the seeds. Reduce contaminants by selecting organic varieties whenever possible and wash well under cold running water with a natural bristle brush.
The majority of carbohydrates in squashes of all varieties are starches and starchy polysaccharides, which are generally considered to be of minimal nutritional value. However, the polysaccharides in squashes are especially rich in pectin. Research suggests can help regulate insulin production and protect against type 2 diabetes.
Pectin isn’t the only compound in zucchini that can help regulate blood sugar. Zucchini is also rich in many B-complex vitamins, especially vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, and choline, as well as zinc, magnesium and potassium. In fact, a zucchini contains more potassium than a banana.
One cup of zucchini contains 2.5 grams of fiber which, along with its high water content can help you fill up fast and feel full longer. The high fiber content helps stimulate your digestive tract, helping you lose weight faster, as well as helping to regulate your blood sugar. The water content can also help reduce water retention, bringing down swelling, especially around your eyes.
The seeds of summer squash contain omega-3 fatty acids and other anti-inflammatory compounds that can protect against excess inflammation. Research is still in the early stages, but preliminary studies have shown the anti-inflammatory compounds may help protect the cardiovascular system and the digestive tract and may even help protect against gastric and duodenal ulcers, which have been linked to cancers of the digestive tract.
The health impact of these zucchini nutrition facts depends heavily on how it is prepared. Microwaving or boiling summer squash can destroy some of the antioxidants in zucchini. To retain as many of the antioxidants as possible, consider steaming your summer squash instead. If you have a surplus of zucchini from the garden and want to preserve it, research shows that frozen zucchini retains its antioxidant content quite well. With the help of a mandolin slicer or julienne peeler, zucchini can be a great alternative to pasta. Zucchini pasta, sometimes called zoodles, can be sauteed, blanched, or even used raw.
The seeds of summer squash have been used in folk medicine as a treatment for parasites such as tapeworm. This use has not been studied, but is certainly worth mentioning.
As a summer squash, zucchini is best in late spring and early summer, but in most places it’s available (and still delicious) all year long. Look for zucchinis that are on the smaller side, 6-8 inches, while the seeds are still soft, with shiny brightly colored skin. The best zucchinis will be firm and heavy for their size. Don’t worry about minor scratches or small bruises, these are perfectly normal and do not affect the quality of the zucchini. Avoid very large zucchinis, as these may be past their prime and ones with soft or wrinkled ends, as these may be dry. Also avoid any that feel spongy. Store zucchini in a plastic bag in the vegetable compartment in your fridge for up to 3 days. The zucchini flowers are also edible, and considered delicacies in some parts of the world.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ¼ lb. organic baby carrots
- ½ zucchini, sliced
- ½ summer squash, cut into about ½ inch strips
- 2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
- 3-4 tbsp teriyaki sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts.
- Layer small baking dish with baby carrots, drizzle with olive oil. Place chicken breasts on top of carrots. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- Take baking dish out of oven. Place zucchini and squash sticks around chicken breasts. Cover with the garlic. Drizzle with remaining 1-2 tbsp teriyaki sauce.
- Place baking dish back in oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until chicken fully cooked.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Can serve with rice or other favorite side dish.
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.