19 Jun

Beyond Zucchini: Delicious & Healthy Summer Squash

One of the tastiest vegetables to enjoy this time of year is the summer squash. The soft and delicate nature of this squash is distinguished from the more familiar, harder winter squashes (butternut, acorn, spaghetti) as their rinds are edible. For this reason it has a much shorter shelf life.

Popular summer squash varieties include pattypan squash (scallop or sunburst squash), yellow crookneck squash, yellow summer squash and the ever popular zucchini (courgette). My personal favourite is the pattypan. It’s round and shallow and often a bright yellow colour with scalloped edges. These gems resemble flying saucers and have the sweetness of a winter squash with the convenience of a zucchini. Be sure to use only organic or locally grown summer squash. GMO summer squash is now on the market in the US and is being imported to Canada. For more information, click here.
 
Summer squash provides us with a great combination of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and many other health benefits. Here are five main health reasons to enjoy summer squash:
 
1. Summer squash can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke: High levels of magnesium, when combined with the potassium, in summer squash make it helpful in reducing high blood pressure. Summer squash contains substantial amounts of vitamin C, which help to mitigate the oxidation of cholesterol. (2) The vitamin C may also help reduce the hardening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis) because only oxidized cholesterol builds up in blood vessel walls. (3)
 
2. Summer squash contains nutrients that play a key role in the fight against inflammation: The presence of anti-inflammatory carotenoids like lutein (4), zeaxanthin and beta-carotene in the skin of the squash, along with omega-3 fatty acids found in the seeds, makes it a perfect anti-inflammatory vegetable. Studies of these anti-inflammatory properties show great promise in the areas of cardiovascular disease and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
 
3. Summer squash is full of antioxidants that help to protect the eyes: Antioxidants protects your eyes from age-related conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. (5) High levels of vitamin C along with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin help to fight the damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants superpowers are found mostly in the skin of summer squash so try to purchase organic and leave the skin on!
 
4. Summer squash is low in calories and high in fibre: One cup of summer squash or zucchini contains only 36 calories but has 2.5 grams of fibre, which will keep your digestion in check (6) and leave you feeling satisfied.
 
5. Eating summer squash can help to protect you from developing diabetes: Studies show that the high levels of polyphenols, flavonoids and vitamin C in the peel of summer squash provides protection against diabetes by helping to regulate glucose levels in the blood. (7) (8) Summer squash can help to regulate blood sugar and insulin offering natural protection against diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies show that summer squash contains a unique polysaccharide composition with an unusually high amount of pectin. Pectin is a water-soluble fibre (9) that has been linked to balancing insulin metabolism and blood sugar regulation.

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References:
 
1. Canadian Biotech Action Network: http://www.cban.ca
 
 
3. Inhibition of serum cholesterol oxidation by dietary vitamin C and selenium intake in high fat fed rats: Menéndez-Carreño M1, Ansorena D, Milagro FI, Campión J, Martínez JA, Astiasarán I: Lipids. 2008 Apr;43(4):383-90. doi: 10.1007/s11745-008-3163-8. Epub 2008 Mar 12.
 
4 .Lutein: more than just a filter for blue light: Kijlstra A1, Tian Y, Kelly ER, Berendschot TT: Prog Retin Eye Res. 2012 Jul;31(4):303-15. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 Mar 21.
 
5. A review of the evidence germane to the putative protective role of the macular carotenoids for age-related macular degeneration: Sabour-Pickett S1, Nolan JM, Loughman J, Beatty s: Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Feb;56(2):270-86. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100219. Epub 2011 Nov 25.
 
6. A place for dietary fibre in the management of the metabolic syndrome: Delzenne NM1, Cani PD: Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2005 Nov;8(6):636-40.
 
 
8. Protective role of three vegetable peels in alloxan induced diabetes mellitus in male mice: Dixit Y1, Kar A: Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Sep;65(3):284-9. doi: 10.1007/s11130-010-0175-3. 
 
9. Fiber and cardiovascular disease risk: how strong is the evidence?: Erkkilä AT1, Lichtenstein AH: J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2006 Jan-Feb;21(1):3-8.
 
 

Comments  

# Annie Deeter 2013-09-11 11:29
Great article Julie, and well researched. I really appreciate that you provided so many links to medical literature citations on pubmed. And thanks for being clear on the oxidized cholesterol issue, there are so many people who still believe the general idea that "high cholesterol causes heart disease."
# Julie Daniluk 2013-09-11 11:57
Hello Annie,
Thanks for the great feedback and for noticing the work I put into backing up what I have to say. It is a very important part of my message.
Cheers, Julie

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