Zucchini

Zucchini, like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the Americas.  Almost all members of the squash family vegetables feature smooth skin, tender, crunchy flesh with small edible seeds and high moisture content. A popular summer squash, ranging in color from dark to light green with a bit of mottling. The flesh is white with a light and delicate flavor.

Zucchini is cylindrical but irregular, and is often 4 to 8 inches in length, but can be found very small or homegrown at lengths up to 2 feet and 6 inches in diameter. They are actually available through the year and are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. They are relatives of both the melon and the cucumber. They come in many different varieties. While each variety may have a distinct shape, color, size and flavor, all varieties share some common characteristics. Regardless of variety, all parts of summer squash are edible, including the flesh, seeds and skin. Some varieties of squash also produce edible flowers. Unlike winter squash, summer squash are more fragile and cannot be stored for long periods of time unless frozen.    

   

Botanically, zucchini are fruit, a type of botanical berry. Zucchini is one of the very low calorie fruit ; provide only 17 calories per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation and offers some protection against colon cancers. Zucchini is extremely low in calories, but it gives you the feeling of being full. Therefore, zucchini is a great way to satisfy your appetite without grabbing calories and starting a crash diet plan. Apart from the low calorie count, zucchini has a high water content and is rich in fiber. Hence, when you eat zucchini, your stomach is not empty, thereby making zucchini recipes perfect if you are on diet. Zucchini are usually picked when under 20 cm (8 in.) in length, when the seeds are still soft and immature. Mature zucchini can be as large as a baseball bat. The larger ones are often fibrous. A zucchini with the flowers attached is a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and it is especially sought after for its sweeter flavor. You may be used to seeing a it green and speckled, but there’s a yellow variety of zucchini, and it’s easy to confuse with yellow squash, a different type. Zucchinis, especially golden skin varieties, are rich in flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants.The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the shape. Yellow squash usually has a tapered neck, either crooked or straight, whereas zucchini of any color looks like a cylinder from end to end. Though not much is known about the difference between the varieties, some say golden zucchini has a sweeter flavor than the green kind. Because it retains its color after cooking, it also makes a sunny addition to any dish. It also contains vitamin A, which is beneficial for eye health ,developing the cells of your eyes, thus improving your vision. It can also be used externally to remove puffy bags around your eyes which can be caused due to excessive water retention and it has has a high water content that helps in removing the swelling around your eyes. It also contains magnesium, folate, potassium, copper, and phosphorus . Potassium is a heart-friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressure-effects of sodium. One should eat grilled zucchini as a source of magnesium. Magnesium plays a central role in muscle contraction -- the mineral supports the function of actin and myosin, proteins abundant in your muscle fibers. During a muscle contraction, actin and myosin protein chains shorten, temporarily reducing the length of your muscle fibers, and then lengthen so that the muscle fiber returns to its resting length. Magnesium also makes up a component of bone mineral, and consuming enough of the vitamin helps maintain strong bones. Each large zucchini contains 58 milligrams of magnesium -- 18 and 14 percent of the recommended daily intake, or RDI, for women and men.This summer squash also  has a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, niacin, and protein. Moreover, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, and calcium in zucchini assure optimal health. Zucchini is probably the best example of squash that has such a rich array of nutrients, including sugar, carbohydrates, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, minerals, amino acids and more. The folate ingredient of zucchini is highly commendable for pregnant women as well. Raw and grilled zucchini also benefit your health due to their folate, or vitamin B-9 content. Folate helps support your metabolism, aiding in protein and nucleic acid metabolism. Eating one large zucchini boosts your folate intake by 78 micrograms, or 20 percent of the RDI. This fruit has certain properties that effectively treat an ailment in men called BPH or benign prostatic hypertrophy. When the prostate gland becomes enlarged in an odd shape and size, which can cause trouble with both sexual and urinary function –  this is known as prostatic hypertrophy. A good treatment of this is seen in combination with other foods that contain phytonutrients; zucchini is said to be extremely useful in decreasing BPH symptoms. Beta-carotene and vitamin C also have anti-inflammatory properties, thereby naturally curing ailments like osteoarthritis, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis, where swelling is immensely painful. They also helps in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. The copper percentage in zucchini also helps in reducing the aching symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. most of these nutrients are shown to be effective in the prevention of diabetic heart disease and atherosclerosis. The magnesium content notably reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In combination with potassium, magnesium also helps in reducing high blood pressure. Zucchini is rich in nutritional value, especially during the summer, when it delivers countless advantages to the body. The food ranking system in zucchini-rich countries have declared this squash has abundant of manganese and Vitamin C that helps to keep the heart strong.Your overall health will surely improve if you consume zucchini regularly. It helps you prevent all kinds of diseases in a general sense.

Zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil with or without fresh herbs. The skin is left in place. Quick cooking of barely wet zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of frying when the water has gone, prior to serving. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded, in a cold salad, as well as lightly cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes. Mature (larger sized) zucchini are well suited for cooking in breads. 

When you buy zucchini, ensure that it’s young and sweet in taste. Check if the one you are buying is sleek, smooth and firm and has bright-colored skin. It is always advisable to store zucchini in perforated plastic bags inside a refrigerator drawer. Try not to keep zucchini fruit stored for more than 3 days, since they can get damaged in overly cold temperatures. If damaged, you will notice hollow pits in the skin surface of the fruit after you take it out of the refrigerator. Zucchini is usually served cooked well, some people like the raw taste too and when you  serve raw, the sliced zucchini pairs well with nutritious dips, such as hummus or guacamole, while the squash's mild flavor also blends well into fruit and vegetable smoothies. Grill your zucchini with healthy flavorings, such as extra virgin olive oil, pepper and a small amount of salt. Alternatively, spice your grilled zucchini by seasoning it with red pepper flakes or peperoncini, or marinate your zucchini in balsamic vinegar before grilling. If you're bored with the thought of eating grilled zucchini on its own, use the cooked squash as a salad topper, or add the zucchini to a sandwich or wrap.It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as souffles. Zucchini can also be baked into a bread similar to banana bread or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura. 

 

References taken from : bbcgoodfood, healthyrecipes, italianfood, health.com, wikipedia, nutrition-n-you,whfoods. 

(all the pictures are sourced from internet)

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