Zucchini Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

zucchini nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Zucchini is a summer squash. Summer squashes are members of the gourd family, cousins of winter squash. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Zucchini, yellow crookneck, and pattypan (scallop) squash are common varieties of summer squash. Zucchini is also called marrow (vegetable marrow or Italian marrow) and courgette, depending on where in the world you are located.

Zucchini is easy to find in most markets and provides micronutrients, such as vitamins C and B6. This versatile vegetable (that is technically a fruit) is low in calories and makes a great addition to most healthy diets.

Zucchini Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (124g) of chopped zucchini.

  • Calories: 21
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 9.9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.9g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Sugars: 3.1g
  • Protein: 1.5g

Carbs

According to USDA data, if you eat a cup of zucchini, you will consume only about 21 calories and less than 4 grams of carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrate is sugar, but you'll benefit from 1.2 grams of fiber.

The estimated glycemic load of a single serving of zucchini is 2, making it a low-glycemic food. Glycemic load takes serving size into account when estimating a food's impact on your blood sugar levels.

Fats

There is less than one gram of fat in a single serving of zucchini.

Protein

A serving of zucchini provides 1.5 grams of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is a good source of vitamin B6. You'll also get smaller amounts of vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, and thiamin.

Minerals in zucchini include manganese, potassium, and small amounts of magnesium and phosphorus.

Health Benefits

The nutrients in zucchini may provide certain health benefits.

Cell Protection

Zucchini provides about 24% of your daily needs for vitamin C in a one-cup serving. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is important in boosting immunity, repairing cells, and slowing down the aging process. 

As an antioxidant, vitamin C is believed to prevent oxidative stress caused by exposure to free radicals in our environment (such as cigarette smoke) or free radicals made by the body. Experts recommend that we consume antioxidants in foods such as fruits and vegetables, rather than taking an antioxidant supplement.

Cancer Prevention

Some research has suggested that diets that include more fruits and vegetables are associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers, most notably lung, breast, colon or rectum, stomach, oral cavity, larynx or pharynx, and esophagus.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some studies suggest that vitamin C may be responsible for this benefit due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But the organization also notes that more evidence is needed to fully understand this potential benefit

Better Skin

The vitamin C in zucchini is also responsible for the production of collagen, the main protein in your skin. Vitamin C may also assist in antioxidant protection and protect against age-related skin decline and UV-induced photodamage.

Authors of a research review published in a 2017 issue of Nutrients noted that healthy skin is positively associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake in a number of studies. Although they note that the active component in the fruit and vegetables responsible for the observed benefit can't be identified, they note that vitamin C availability may be a factor.

Reduced Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms

The vitamin B6 in zucchini may help reduce symptoms of PMS, according to some studies. But research is limited. Also, the NIH states that most studies showing a benefit have been poor quality and more evidence is needed to establish that vitamin B6 can provide this benefit.

Less Morning Sickness

Preliminary studies also show that vitamin B6 may also help to reduce morning sickness felt by women during the early stages of pregnancy. However, study results have been mixed. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) does suggest that vitamin B6 is a safe, over-the-counter treatment that may be tried for morning sickness, but the organization does not discuss food sources. 

Allergies

People with oral allergy syndrome (OAS) may experience symptoms when consuming zucchini or yellow squash, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. OAS is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen (such as birch, ragweed, or grass pollens), raw fruits, vegetables, or nuts. The organization says that cooking zucchini may help you to avoid symptoms.

If you suspect an allergy to zucchini or if you experience itchiness in the mouth or throat area after eating it, seek the care of a qualified medical professional.

Adverse Effects

Zucchini contains cucurbitacins which are bitter compounds that are sometimes added to certain types of insecticides. However, under normal circumstances, cucurbitacins are produced at low enough concentrations that they are not perceived as being bitter by humans.

In some cases, factors such as high heat can cause cucurbitacin-containing fruits to have a bitter taste. Occasional cases of stomach cramps and diarrhea have occurred in people ingesting bitter zucchini. There are no FDA regulations or guidelines specific to the presence of cucurbitacins in food.

Varieties

There are different varieties of zucchini. They range in size from very small (about the size of a hot dog) to exceptionally large. Some varieties, (eight ball zucchini) are even round. Almost all zucchini are green, but some are green and white. There are also certain people who refer to yellow squash as yellow zucchini, but technically the yellow variety is a different kind of summer squash.

Most zucchini has a similar taste, but they are often used in different ways. The long thin varieties can be sliced and added to soups, salads, or a veggie tray. While round or thicker varieties are great for stuffing and roasting.

When It’s Best

In the United States, summer squash is available all year long in most grocery stores. But the best zucchini is available in the summer.

When purchasing any summer squash, look for shiny skin that is free of blemishes, bruises, nicks, and soft spots. The skin should be firm to the touch, especially the stem, and should feel heavy for their size.

Storage and Food Safety

Keep zucchini whole and unwashed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before slicing, make sure you wash the skin thoroughly with a vegetable brush and cold water.

To freeze summer squash, slice it, cube it, or grate it, spread it on a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze, and then pack in a freezer bag. Frozen vegetables usually last about one year in the freezer. Note that frozen squash tends to be very mushy and its texture typically works well for making soups or baked goods.

It is perfectly safe to eat raw zucchini and to eat the skin when you consume it. In fact, eating the skin maximizes the antioxidant content. In addition, the seeds are edible, too.

How to Prepare

If you consume raw zucchini, you can dip it in your favorite dipping sauce or chop up and add to a salad.

You can also add this tasty vegetable to add to any meal. It has a thin skin and soft, moist flesh that lends itself well to steaming, grilling, roasting, baking, and sauteing. At breakfast time, add to your egg scramble. Grated zucchini is used to make zucchini bread.

Play with the shape of your squash—dice it, julienne it, cut it into cubes, or get fancy and make pasta. Summer squash is a fantastic low-carb pasta option.

Recipes

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Squash, summer zucchini, includes skin, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Updated April 1, 2019.

  2. Vitamin C. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated February 27, 2020

  3. Antioxidants: In Depth. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Updated November 2013

  4. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of vitamin C in skin healthNutrients. 2017;9(8):866. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

  5. Vitamin B6. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated February 24, 2020

  6. Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Copyright December 2018

  7. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome. Updated March 21, 2019.

  8. Dolan LC, Matulka RA, Burdock GA. Naturally occurring food toxinsToxins (Basel). 2010;2(9):2289–2332. doi:10.3390/toxins2092289