This is the season of zucchini that, delicious and tasty, bring their cheerful and healthy touch to your preparations. So let's try to understand the properties of zucchinis and also of their flowers, which can now be purchased in all shops and markets.
Zucchini are the fruits of the Cucurbita Pepo plant and in this period they brighten up recipes with their sweet and exquisite taste. Zucchini are low in calories but rich in water, fiber, useful for nourishing the microbiota and also for improving intestinal function, vitamins, such as vitamins C and E, minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium, and antioxidants such as carotenoids and phenolic compounds (Kopczyńska et al, Antioxidants, 2020). Thanks to the substances it contains, zucchini is characterized by anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, analgesic and antimicrobial properties. Among the carotenoids contained in zucchini the most imporant are beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, with an antitumor and sight-saving action, since these substances help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Among the different variants of zucchini that can be found in the supermarket, light green or yellow, the light green zucchini showed the greatest anticancer action (Martines Valdivieso et al, Nutrients, 2017). Also noteworthy is the fact that magnesium and potassium contained in zucchini have a muscle relaxant action, useful in case of cramps, menstrual pain and abdominal pain. Not only that, zucchini also helps in case of insomnia (Fausto Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of food).
Zucchini flowers, a powerful source of healthy properties
Some flowers can be eaten! Indeed, in recent years, the habit of including edible flowers in recipes is rapidly growing. The flowers, in fact, give colors and joy to the dishes but, above all, precious properties for health. As is the case with zucchini flowers. These flowers are deep yellow in color with the typical star shape and are characterized by interesting health benefits. In fact, studies have observed that these flowers have a hypoglycemic and cholesterol-lowering action. Not only that, the laboratory analyzes also revealed the presence in zucchini flowers of precious antioxidants, such as catechins, epicatechins, rutin and syringic acid, which counteract free radical damage, inflammation and neurodegeneration (Morittu et al, Nat Prod Res, 2021 - Enogieru et al, Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2018). Finally, zucchini flowers contain phytosterols, such as the substance called spinasterol. Well, spinasterol, in addition to helping to keep cholesterol levels under control, has shown an important antitumor action (Villasenor et al, Teratog Carcinog Mutagen, 2000).
Zucchini and zucchini flowers for cooking
When zucchini are small and tender they can also be eaten raw and with the skin, in order to maximize their properties. Try simply slicing the zucchini and leaving it in a colander along with a pinch of coarse salt and a few drops of lemon juice. After an hour, wash the zucchini well, season with extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, almonds and pine nuts. Otherwise, in the case of larger and less tender zucchini, you can cut them into slices and cook them in a pan in extra virgin olive oil, thus preserving potassium and magnesium, or you can boil the zucchini. With boiling, the carotenoids of zucchini are partially lost but the presence of vitamin E is increased (Lee et al, Food Sci Biotechnol, 2018). Instead, as regards the zucchini flowers, after having gently cleaned them by removing the pistil, you can add them to salads, vegetables and, at the end of cooking, even to sauces.