By Christine Zellers, MPP, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences
Late August in New Jersey provides local gardeners, farms stands and produce markets with an abundance of zucchini and summer squash every year. Often the excess amounts of summer squash leave folks wondering what to do to enjoy the sweet vegetable before it spoils. Using it wisely while it is in season can provide a family with a nutrient dense, great tasting healthy vegetable.
There is a difference between zucchini and squash, but they are grown very much the same, look the same and have similar vitamins and minerals. Yellow squash has a bulbous end and more of a bright yellow skin, but zucchini can also have a yellow color. Both yellow squash and zucchini have a variety of nutrients that promote good health. Both are high in Vitamin A which supports the immune system and good vision, in fact one cup of zucchini has 40% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Both contain B & C vitamins which help the body’s ability to heal and maintain good cell energy while also boosting energy levels. One of the b vitamins in squash is folate which is important for cell development. Magnesium is an important mineral because it supports bone strength and helps the body’s ability to process fats and carbohydrates and is also found in squash and zucchini. Summer squash and zucchini are vitamin packed vegetables that support a healthy lifestyle.
In addition to multitude of beneficial vitamins and minerals offered by zucchini and squash their preventative properties are outstanding too. Both contain many of the protective essentials of a cancer prevention diet such as vitamin b, antioxidants, lutein, and folate. The high-water content in these veggies means low calories and in turn these vegetables create a filling sensation which can exhaust the need for high calorie foods. Zucchini and squash also boast a high fiber content. High fiber diets keep everything moving through the body properly but according to a study titled Dietary Fiber and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies there is a reduction in heart disease related death and risk when a high fiber diet is consumed. Zucchini and squash contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut and makes more friendly bacteria which in turn produces short chain fatty acids that nourish gut cells and support overall good health. Choosing vegetables like zucchini and summer squash is easy during the height of the grow season and is the perfect choice to balance out a summer meal.
When looking for a recipe for zucchini or summer squash be sure to find one that is not full of fat, sodium, and sugar. It is counterproductive to add high calorie low nutrient ingredients to such a wonderfully healthy veggie especially when zucchini and squash are sweet and great tasting. When choosing a zucchini bread try to use a recipe that focuses on the natural flavor of the vegetable to add sweetness without adding a lot of sugar and fat. Zucchini can be used as a main dish and a side dish and is easily cooked in just a few minutes. Shredding zucchini and adding it to salad is another way to use it and add nutrients and taste to salad. Both veggies can be boiled, sautéed, baked, or eaten raw and are a tasty nutritious addition to your meal. Zucchini and squash are the perfect addition to a summer menu, enjoy them now while they are fresh and in season. For more information visit the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County website.
Parmesan Garlic Zoodles
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic
4 oz low fat or fat free cream cheese
3-4 tablespoon fat free milk
¼ cup of fresh parmesan cheese
10 slices cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 prepacked container zoodles or 2-3 zucchinis made into zoodles\
- If you didn’t buy pre-packed zoodles, then use 2-3 zucchinis to make your own zoodles with a zoodle maker
- Half the cherry tomatoes and set aside
- In a large pan, melt butter over medium low heat
- Add minced garlic to melted butter
- Let the garlic and butter cook together for a minute until soft
- Add cream cheese and milk lower heat so that the cream cheese melts but the heat isn’t so high it scorches the milk
- Allow the cream cheese to melt and start forming a sauce
- Add in all the zucchini noodles. Toss the zoodles to coat with the sauce
- Add Parmesan cheese and cook until the noodles are barely fork tender and all the cheese has melted
- Top with halved cherry tomatoes and stir them in
- Plate and serve right immediately and enjoy!