Is Raw Zucchini Healthy?

Raw Zucchini is also known as courgette. Basically, it is a summer squash that has not a few culinary and health benefits.

Most users of zucchini eat it cooked, but some people also enjoy raw zucchini. But they’re not to blame. Raw zucchini is great when used in salads, as a wrap, with dips, or even in spiralized forms to make low-carb noodles.

However, there are fears in some quarters that raw zucchini has some negative effects on the health, and that is what this article hopes to address. So before you are done reading this article, you will know whether raw zucchini is edible and good for your health or not.

Raw zucchini
Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

Photo Credit: Two Peas & Their Pod

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF RAW ZUCCHINI?

Most people think of zucchini as a vegetable. However, it is a fruit, and just like other fruits, it is enriched with many nutrients that has numerous health benefits.

The following are some of the health benefits of raw zucchini:

  • It is loaded with nutrients. Raw zucchini is rich in minerals, vitamins, and a host of nutrients including polyphenols. The compounds present in raw zucchini have antioxidant properties which protect the body cells against the deleterious effects of free radicals (1, 2).
  • It boosts the activities of the digestive system. Raw zucchini is rich in insoluble and soluble fiber. It also has a high water content. With all these constituents, the risk of constipation is drastically reduced. Also, the soluble fiber nourishes the good gut bacteria (3, 4).
  • It may enhance weight loss. Zucchini has low-calorie content, yet it is high in water and fiber. These constituents curb appetite and enhance weight loss (5, 6).
  • Promotes healthy blood sugar levels. Zucchini does not have a high carb content. However, it is a good source of fiber. Foods high in fiber from vegetables and fruits regulates the level of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients (7).
  • Improves cardiovascular health. We have established that raw zucchini is loaded with soluble fiber, and other important nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C. all these have the potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (8, 9, 10).
  • Your vision receives a boost. Zucchini has some eye-loving nutrients such as vitamin V and beta-carotene. These promote healthy vision. Raw zucchini is also rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, both antioxidants, that minimizes the risk of age-related eye disorders (11, 12).

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RISKS OF RAW ZUCCHINI?

Frankly, raw zucchini is very safe to eat. It has very little side effects.

For one, you may come across one that is very bitter. Surely, you wouldn’t like the taste. The bitter taste of raw zucchini is caused by cucurbitacins. Cucurbitacins are phytochemicals of the cucurbitaceae family. They are present in gourds, zucchini, and squash (13, 14).

Studies have shown that eating foods with a high amount of cucurbitacins has been linked to poisoning and death in sheep and cattle. The same causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, and in some cases, death in humans (14, 15).

However, you should note that these effects were only present in members of the Cucurbitaceae family that contain high amounts of cucurbitacins, and not varieties that were commercially grown (16).

Curcubitacin poisoning may be dangerous no doubt. However, it rarely happens from store-bought zucchinis. Why? Because growers breed the varieties that are low in cucurbitacins. You should apply caution while eating wild zucchini. There’s every chance that this variety will have a high amount of cucurbitacin (15, 17).

If eat a raw zucchini and it has a very bitter taste, then spit it out throw away the remaining fruit to reduce the risk of cucurbitacin poisoning.

Bloating is another side effect of raw zucchini. The bloating effect of raw zucchini is caused by cellulose and soluble fiber. Cellulose is an important structural component of the cell walls of plant. Cellulose and soluble fiber are fermented by the gut bacteria. The side effect of this fermentation is the production of gas (4).

Finally, just like in all raw fruits, the fruit may be contaminated by parasites or bacteria (18).

To reduce the risk of food poisoning, make sure that you wash the zucchini properly. Wash with cold water and scrub the skin with a soft brush. If you cannot finish it, you may store it in the fridge (19, 20).

When you scrub the skin of your raw zucchini with a brush, you reduce the number of bacteria on the skin, and also the pesticides present on the fruit itself (21).

SAFETY TIPS

Summarily, the commercially produced varieties of zucchini can be eaten raw.

As a matter of fact, they are edible, good-tasting, and very healthy. You can enjoy them in many ways.

If in the course of eating raw zucchini, you taste some bitterness, then do well to dispose of it. The bitterness indicates that it is loaded with cucurbitacins, which may have some negative effects.

The chances of buying a bitter zucchini from the grocery are very slim. That notwithstanding, it is best you throw it out once you feel the bitter taste.

That said, zucchini’s bought from the supermarket can be eaten cooked or raw. They are safe and healthy.

Ensure that you wash it well before eating. This will reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. Zucchini is best stored in the refrigerator.

THE SUMMARY

The commercial variety of raw zucchini can be eaten without any health risk.

These varieties have a low amount of cucurbitacins. Cucurbitacins occur naturally in gourds, squash, and zucchini. These compounds may be toxic at high doses.

If feel a bitter taste in a zucchini, then dispose of the entire fruit. This will prevent the risk of cucurbitacin poisoning. Ensure that the fruit is properly washed to remove bacterial or parasitic contamination that also has the potential to cause food poisoning.

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