Whether you call it zucchini or courgette, this vegetable brings a lot to the table. You’d be surprised at how beneficial zucchini can be!
Zucchini is not only rich in nutrients and antioxidants, but it is also safe during pregnancy and has anti-cancer and anti-genotoxicity potential. Zucchini can also be cooked in many different ways – even as a dessert!
Read on to learn how can you prepare it at home, eat it in salads, and whether the flowers are edible and safe!
The Benefits of Eating Zucchini During Pregnancy
Zucchini or courgette is a variety of summer squash. It’s a great source of nutrients and antioxidants like carotenoids, vitamin C, minerals, and phenolic compounds.
During pregnancy, carotenoids can help lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
Carotenoids are also involved in fetal growth and development, especially when it comes to the brain and macular development (source: eFood).
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It is important during pregnancy because it helps in the formation of collagen, healing of wounds, absorption of iron, and overall antioxidant activity (source: USDA).
Minerals are also essential during this time because they help decrease fetal and maternal complications.
Mineral deficiencies increase the risk of developing malnutrition, anemia, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, pre-eclampsia, labor complications, fetal growth restriction, pre-term delivery, and miscarriage (source: Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research).
Phenolic compounds and polyphenols prevent oxidative stress and inflammation. In pregnancy, they are particularly helpful because they prevent pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and intrauterine growth restriction.
They also positively affect fetal health and nutrient bioavailability (source: Human Reproduction Update).
In folk medicine, zucchini has been traditionally used to relieve aches and symptoms of colds because of its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiviral, antimicrobial, and even antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects.
In a study on zucchini’s potential anti-cancer properties, it was found to have a direct cytotoxic effect, improved and strengthened by its antioxidant functions.
The study concluded that zucchini and its components are not only safe but are also able to prevent the multiplication of tumor cells and encourage their apoptosis or cell death (source: Nutrients).
Like most summer squash, zucchini is commonly served cooked. It doesn’t have a strong flavor and cooks quickly, which makes it perfect for quick weeknight meals. Zucchini can also be added to salads and eaten raw, like in Vietnamese or Thai dishes.
In Italy, zucchini is baked, boiled, fried, or added to pasta. In France, it is an ingredient of ratatouille. In Greece, it is fried, boiled, or stuffed with meat or rice. It is also served as the main course, particularly during traditional fasting periods.
Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Serbia prefer their zucchini coated in semolina or flour and then baked or fried using vegetable oil. It is served with sour cream.
In Turkey, zucchini is commonly made into pancakes. Like Greece, many Middle Eastern dishes call for zucchini to be stuffed with meat, rice, and herbs and steamed (source: Characteristics of Zucchini).
Can I Eat Raw Zucchini When Pregnant?
You can eat zucchini raw if it is thoroughly washed and handled properly. This doesn’t guarantee total protection, but it does decrease the risk of contracting pathogenic microorganisms.
When buying zucchinis, make sure they’re fresh, or at least close to fresh, and are stored properly. Select zucchini without discolorations or bruises. To clean zucchini, you can use a vegetable brush to scrub it and wash it under running water (source: FDA).
For more information on the best way to clean produce during pregnancy, read this article here!
Is Fried Zucchini Safe for Pregnant Women?
Fried zucchini is safe during pregnancy. Many countries cook their zucchini by frying it. But we recommend consuming friend zucchini in moderation due to its fat content.
Consuming too much fat during pregnancy can lead to weight gain, too much cholesterol, and too much leptin in the blood. This can also affect overall central nervous system function in babies, as well as negative behavioral changes when they are born (source: Nutrition Reviews).
Are Zucchini Flowers OK to Eat During Pregnancy?
The flowers of the zucchini can be stuffed and deep-fried. In some parts of Greece, flowers are stuffed with white cheese, or with minced meat, herbs, and rice then deep-fried. If not, they are covered in tomato sauce and baked in the oven (source: Characteristics of Zucchini).
When zucchini is stuffed with meat, the meat has to be cooked at a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 °C) for ground meat and 165 °F (73.9 °C) for ground poultry. Additionally, make sure any cheeses that are added are safe for pregnant women.
Can I Eat Zucchini Bread or Cake When Pregnant?
Like carrots, zucchini can be baked into bread or cake. These products are safe for pregnancy because they are baked. In fact, the temperature inside the oven is more than enough to kill any bacteria lurking in the cake or bread mixture.
Just make sure the other ingredients in the recipe have no contraindications for pregnancy.
You can safely enjoy zucchini in salads, main courses, or desserts, provided you handle it properly. Even during pregnancy, it’s a healthy and versatile addition to your plate!