Zucchini: properties, benefits, how to cook them - Video

Fresh and thirst-quenching, courgettes give their best in the summer season, from June to the end of September. Versatile and appreciated for their properties dietary and purifying, they marry easily with many ingredients, they lend themselves to preparing light and quick dishes, both cooked and raw. Let's find out together with the doctor Sara Valente, a nutrition biologist in Rome, what are the nutritional properties of this seasonal vegetable that contains a mine of antioxidants in the pulp and peel.

Many varieties of zucchini

The courgette arrived in Europe relatively late, in the middle of the sixteenth century, along with peppers, aubergines and potatoes, which began to be imported following the discovery of the American continent. Its botanical name is Cucurbita pepo because it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same as the pumpkin, cucumber, melon and watermelon.

Over the centuries, different cultivars have developed from the one originally imported and today it is possible to buy classics elongated courgettes, of an intense and decisive green color, the white-green ones with a more rounded shape, those “baby”, that is, small and round, and those of an intense yellow color, grown mainly in the Veneto region.

Some of these yellow ones are defined eccentric because they have a particular shape, round with a long "swan neck" protuberance like the rugosa Friulian variety, whose flavor is very reminiscent of that of pumpkin and is therefore mainly used in risottos.

«The colored courgettes light green, mottled with white, typically have a sweeter and more delicate flavor, while those Bright green, with an elongated cylindrical shape, are slightly more fibrous and bitter, given the high quantity of vegetable fibers concentrated in the peel », explains Dr. Sara Valente.

Valuable for those on a diet

“Whichever variety you prefer, courgettes have lots of arrows in their bow. They contain 84,2 percent water and are therefore among the most diuretic plants on the market: counteract water retention, The legs "deflate" and are indicated for those suffering from recurrent cystitis and kidney stones».

Low-calorie, are low in sugar and fat, providing only 17 calories per 100 grams of edible portion. For their ultralight profile, among the vegetables they are placed in second place, immediately after lettuce which provides only 15 calories per hectogram. This is why courgettes are suitable for those who follow a low-calorie diet.

The satiating power of fibers

We said that the zucchini are rich in fiber (1,3 g per 100 g) which are abundant mainly in the peel and in the more mature varieties. For this they have a high satiating power, even if consumed "natures", simply read. "In 95 percent of cases they have insoluble fibers (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignins) which, if consumed together with plenty of water, form a mucilaginous compound that boasts a marked anti-inflammatory action»Explains Dr Sara Valente again.

«Very digestible, so much so as to make them the protagonists of hospital menus, the mucilaginous fibers of zucchini adhere to the intestinal mucosa, protecting and burning it. They are therefore a lot indicated for those suffering from gastritis, irritable colon or constipation chronic. Furthermore, fibers slow down the absorption of sugars and tend to keep cholesterol in check ».

A pool of antioxidants

And we come to the antioxidanti, healthy molecules able to protect cells from the assault of free radicals that cause their degeneration, making us age earlier. Zucchini bring Vitamin C, provitamin A and some of the group B. They are also a valuable source of potassium (264 mg per 100 g) and di magnesium (40 mg per 100 g), two mineral salts useful for regulating blood pressure which in summer can become a "ballerina".

«The courgettes also boast a good content of phosphorus, useful for the functioning of the nervous system and for slowing down cognitive decline, di folic acid (or vitamin B9) valuable in pregnancy and for anemic subjects, and of chlorophyll, lutein e astaxanthin, which are gods carotenoids whose powerful antioxidant action is particularly useful for protecting vision from blue light of the computer and from solar radiation. For all these reasons, courgettes prove to be a very suitable food for the diet of athletes who need to fill up on shield molecules to protect themselves against the chain reactions triggered by free radicals ».

Excellent to consume raw zucchini

Like all vegetables, courgettes should preferably be eaten raw, so as not to lose their wealth of minerals and vitamins in the cooking water. Cut into cubes, they are the ideal complement to cold pastries, homemade with smooth penne, cherry tomatoes, tuna, basil, emmenthal and diced ham. All seasoned with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

«For those on a diet, I suggest you try the zucchini spaghetti, cheerful stringy strips that are obtained by shredding them with a practical tool called a sharpener », suggests Dr. Valente. “They marry very well with shrimp or freshly blanched Argentine prawns, sesame seeds, cherry tomatoes, lime and mint (those who don't like it can replace it with a pinch of saffron). Or the zucchini spaghetti can be sautéed for a few minutes in a pan together with shrimp and crispy bacon cubes, to combine diet and flavor ».

Cut into julienne strips, raw courgettes are the “must have” of rich salads while you dig and put a few minutes in a boiling oven, just to soften them a little, they are ready to accommodate any type of filling: from the one consisting of minced meat, eggs, parmesan, parsley and breadcrumbs stuffed with canned tuna, chopped anchovies and capers up to the vegetarian stuffing, obtained with chickpeas blended together with the pulp of the courgettes, tomato sauce, garlic and onion, salt and pepper. A single dish easy to prepare, very nutritious and tasty, suitable for vegans and non-vegans.

June 2021

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