Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Summer squashes belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants and are relatives of winter squashes (including pumpkins), melons (including watermelon), and even cucumbers. Summer squashes are typically much more delicate than their fellow Cucurbitaceae and are more often eaten fresh and shortly after harvest. All parts of summer squash are edible, including the flesh, seeds and skin. Some varieties of squash also produce edible flowers.
Nutritional Profile: Summer squash contains very little overall fat yet the fat it contains is composed of omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats and medium chain fats. Summer squash is an excellent source of copper and manganese. It is a very good source of vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B1, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, choline, and protein.
Antioxidants- As an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamin C, summer squash provides us with a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients. It also contains an unusual amount of other antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are especially helpful in antioxidant protection of the eye. To obtain full antioxidant benefits from summer squash, we need to eat not only the flesh, but also the skin and the seeds.
Blood sugar benefits- Metabolism of sugar in the body requires ample presence of many B-complex vitamins and fiber. These are found in valuable amounts in summer squash.
Anti-inflammatory benefits- The presence of omega-3 fats in the seeds of summer squash, the presence of anti-inflammatory carotenoids and the presence of anti-inflammatory polysaccharides make this vegetable a natural choice for protection against unwanted inflammation.
Selection and Storage: When purchasing summer squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Choose summer squash that are of average size since those that are overly large may be fibrous, while those that are overly small may be inferior in flavor.
Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will lead to decay. It should be stored unwashed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about a week. Since the skin of this food is particularly antioxidant-rich, it's worth leaving the skin intact and purchasing organic summer squash to help avoid potential unwanted contaminants.
Health Concerns: Summer squash is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings). When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating summer squash. Laboratory studies have also shown that oxalates may interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.
Recipe Suggestion: This recipe for grilled zucchini roll-ups with herbs and cheese from Ellie Krieger is really easy and so tasty.