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Versatile Zucchini

History

A zucchini is a small summer squash that can be either green or yellow with a ridged shape like a cucumber. It has smooth skin that can be striped or speckled. Summer squash is native to the America’s finding its origins in Guatemala and Mexico several thousand years ago, growing wild throughout the region. The early explorers and conquistadors brought this vegetable back to Europe as part of their “treasure”, along with the spices, coffee and bananas. The name squash was adopted by the early colonists in New England translating from the Native languages. Interestingly, a sweeter version was brought back to the Americas from Italy in the early 1900s.

Archaeologists trace zucchini to Mexico where they were developed about 7,000 B.C. In addition to maize and beans, zucchini was an integral part of the Mexican/Mayan diet. Summer squash is a relative of both the melon and the cucumber. Unlike winter squash, the summer squash varieties can not be stored raw.

Uses today

Zucchini has grown steadily as a favorite vegetable because of its light, sweet flavor and delicate texture. It lends itself readily to a complete range of recipes from Soup to Dessert and everything in between. The edible flower of the zucchini has been cultivated for centuries and prized by many for its sweet taste and its delightful color.

The smaller immature fruit is prized for recipes that use zucchini raw as the whole squash is eaten. When they are 3 – 5 inches in length their skin is tender and easily digested. The larger zucchini while not as tender have conquered many cooks’ hearts because it is so versatile.

When choosing zucchini look for firm, bright green or yellow squash without dents or bruises. They will last about a week if washed and dried and stored in plastic in the refrigerator. Also when purchasing flowers from the zucchini – make sure there are no bruises or discolorations (these indicate older damaged flowers) as they will not last long and may spoil before you have a chance to cook them. The flowers are only served cooked.

Nutrition

This delightful squash is 95% water and very low in calories making it useful for almost any weight loss diet. There are only about 20 calories per cup of raw zucchini and 30 calories in 1 cup cooked.

Zucchini is a good source of Vitamin C, A, E, K and B6. It also contains Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Protein, Phytonutrients, Cartenoids (including beta-carotene), Leutine and Fiber. As submitted by the USDA.

Health Benefits

If you do a search on Google for Zucchini heart health you will find articles from:

University of Utah
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Heart & Stroke Foundation
Penn State
National Institute for Health
Nebraska Health & Human Services
Maine Medical Center
Nash County Health Department
Gabe Mirkin, MD - The Healthy Heart Miracle
Virginia Cooperative Extension
World's Healthiest Foods
Today's Dietitian
Federal Department of Health & Human services
New York City - Cardio - Healthy Heart
Palmetto Health
Heart Health Centers online
Cleveland Clinic
Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada
McConnell Heart Health Center
Ohio Health
And 338,000 more sites – indicating that this little versatile vegetable – the zucchini is not only delicious and nutritious it has positive advantages for your health.

Cancer-Preventive Effects

Although not as potent as root vegetables like burdock, garlic or onion, squashes have been found to have anti-cancer type effects. Although phytonutrient research on squash is limited, some lab studies have shown vegetable juices obtained from squash to be parallel to juices made from leeks, pumpkin, and radish in their ability to prevent cell mutations (cancer-like changes).

Prostate Health

In research studies, extracts from squash have also been found to help reduce symptoms of a condition occurring in men called benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH. In this condition, the prostate gland becomes problematically enlarged, which can cause difficulty with urinary and sexual function. Particularly in combination with other phytonutrient-containing foods, squash may be helpful in reducing BPH symptoms.

Well-Rounded Cardiovascular Protection

The traditional nutrients provided by summer squash are equally impressive. Our food ranking system qualified summer squash as an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C and a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A (notably through its concentration of carotenoids, including beta-carotene), fiber, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin, and phosphorous.

Many of these nutrients have been shown in studies to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash's magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. The vitamin C and beta-carotene found in summer squash can help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Since oxidized cholesterol is the type that builds up in blood vessel walls, these nutrients may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis. The vitamin folate found in summer squash are needed by the body to break down a dangerous metabolic byproduct called homocysteine, which can contribute to heart attack and stroke risk if levels get too high. Finally, summer squash's fiber has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels, which can help to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.

A Disease-Fighting Food

The nutrients in summer squash are useful for the prevention of other conditions as well. High intakes of fiber-rich foods help to keep cancer-causing toxins away from cells in the colon, while the folate, vitamin C, and beta-carotene help to protect these cells from the chemicals that can lead to colon cancer. The antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene also have anti-inflammatory properties that make them helpful for conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, where inflammation plays a big role. The copper found in summer squash is also helpful for reducing the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. And the fiber content may be helpful for reducing the uncomfortable diarrhea or constipation of irritable bowel syndrome.

Isn’t it time you paid more attention to Zucchini and included it in your daily diet?

http://collectedrecipes.com/zucchini

Submitted by:

Sherry Fields

Sherry Fields is a published author with books on Reiki, Qigong and most recently "Cooking with Zucchini". A long time health care practitioner, Sherry Fields is also a Reiki Master, a past life Regressionist and Qigong practitioner, who loves to teach about alternative health and nutrition. Learn more visit http://www.collectedrecipes.com/zucchini

This article may be copied and distributed provided the author's name and website are included.





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