Courgettes are a delicious and versatile veggie that can work well in so many recipes, but did you know this summer squash also boasts many impressive health benefits?
Whether you love yours in stews or soups, roasted, grilled or pickled, there are plenty of health benefits to eating delicious courgettes. Here we look at just a few of them…
What is a courgette?
Believe it or not, courgettes aren’t a vegetable, but a fruit because they are full of seeds. This cucumber-looking and shaped veg is part of the Cucurbit family, which also happens to be home to squash and cucumbers.1
It’s possible to get courgettes in all different shapes and sizes, including curly courgettes, which are called Tromboncino or Tromba courgettes.
In the UK, courgette season is from June to October. When choosing courgettes, select ones that are small and firm with unblemished skin. They should also feel quite heavy for their size too.
What’s the difference between a courgette and a zucchini?
Courgette? Zucchini? Are they the same thing? Or are they two completely different things? Courgettes and zucchinis are in fact the same thing, it’s just that in some countries, they go by a different name.2
Zucchini comes from the Italian word ‘zucchino,’ which means ‘tiny squash’ or ‘undeveloped marrow.’
Meanwhile, courgette means the same thing, but in French. Zucchini is the common term used in American English speaking countries, while courgette is the more common term among French and British English speaking people.
Can courgettes be eaten raw?
Yes, absolutely. It’s not uncommon for young courgettes to be eaten raw. They can be shaved into ribbons or finely sliced into salads.3
Other recipe ideas include dressing them with chilli, chopped mint, lemon and extra virgin olive oil.
They can also be sautéd, roasted, grilled or barbecued. Meanwhile, given their size, larger courgettes can be stuffed. Courgette flowers are also edible and can be filled with ingredients, such as ricotta and mint.
Are courgettes fattening?
Courgettes contain minimal calories and lots of water, making them far from fattening. While they aren’t packed full of nutrients, they do contain plenty of Vitamin C, which is good for supporting the immune system, and potassium, which can help maintain normal blood pressure.4
- Courgettes aren’t a vegetable, but a fruit because they are full of seeds
- Courgette and zucchini are the same thing
- They can be eaten raw and are far from fattening
Are courgettes good for you?
Are you looking for more reasons to enjoy courgettes? Here are some of the most significant health benefits of eating them.
Courgette nutrition – at a glance: 5
One cup of (223g) of cooked courgette contains:
As you’ll see from the nutritional overview above, there are a lot of plus points to eating courgettes.
They are low in calories and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fibre, carbs and protein. They happen to be full of water too (more on this below).
9 benefits of courgettes
High in antioxidants
We’re all trying to eat more antioxidant-rich foods, and courgette is a great way to boost your intake. Courgettes contain plenty of carotenoids, such as lutein and beta-carotene, which can boost your eye, skin and heart health.6
There’s plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre in courgettes, which is excellent news for gut health and digestion.
Soluble fibre can feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, which can, in turn, help reduce the incidence of gut disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s.7
Meanwhile, insoluble fibre helps add bulk to stools and makes digesting and passing food more straightforward.8
With lots of immune system-supporting Vitamin C, particularly in the skin, eating courgettes may help to protect cells and keep them healthy.
Vitamin C is also essential for maintaining healthy skin and bones. Because our bodies can’t store Vitamin C9, you need to make sure you’re getting enough in your daily diet.
Hitting your Vitamin C levels shouldn’t be too tricky, but incorporating a few tasty courgettes into your weekly routine is a great way to boost your intake.
Handpicked content: Vitamin C: Are you getting enough?
Courgettes also contain significant levels of potassium.10 Most of this is in the dark green skin of the vegetable, so be sure to use the whole thing in your recipes.
Potassium is good for controlling blood pressure and can also help maintain healthy water levels, digestion and heart health.11
Your body can’t produce potassium naturally, so you must make sure there’s plenty in your diet; courgettes are a fantastic source!
One of the biggest benefits associated with courgettes is their high water content.
They happen to be made up of around 95% water. That’s 3% more than watermelons and 1% less than lettuces.12
Water is essential for overall good health. It’s key for muscle flexion, transporting oxygen to the cells, and a host of other biological functions.
Courgettes are an excellent way to rehydrate, as well as take on natural sugars and electrolytes, such as potassium, that are lost during workouts.
Blood sugar levels
Courgettes may potentially help lower blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes due to the fact they’re so low in carbs.
The fibre that’s found in courgettes can also reportedly help stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent spikes. It can potentially increase insulin sensitivity too, which can help even out blood sugar.13
The fibre that’s present in courgettes can reportedly help reduce the risk of heart disease. Courgettes contain the soluble fibre, pectin, which has been found to be effective at reducing bad cholesterol levels.14
A review of 67 studies found that consuming around 2 to 10g of soluble fibre a day for around 1 to 2 weeks can reduce, on average, total cholesterol by 1.7mg/dl and ‘bad’ cholesterol by 2.2mg/dl.
What’s more, the potassium content may help to lower blood pressure due to its ability to dilate blood vessels.
Handpicked content: What is cholesterol?
Courgettes contain Vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are recognised as being two important nutrients for eye health.15
On top of this, courgettes also contain two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. Research has found that these two antioxidants can help improve vision and reduce the risk of developing age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration.
What’s more, high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin may also reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts, which can lead to poor eyesight.
It’s believed that regularly eating courgettes may potentially help people lose weight. This is due to the fact they’re full of water and have a low calorie density, two things that can help us feel fuller for longer.
The fibre content can also potentially keep hunger at bay too.16
Why courgettes are bad for you
On the whole, there’s a lot to love about courgettes. They contain minimal calories, are full of water and are extremely versatile.
There aren’t many risks associated with eating courgettes however, there are reports of the impact it may have on the body due to the fact it contains oxalates.
They’re naturally produced in the body, but large amounts of them can crystallise and turn into kidney stones. As a result, eating lots of courgettes in one go isn’t recommended.17
Meanwhile, courgettes can also be covered in pesticides, so it’s best you thoroughly wash them before eating them raw or cooking with them.
- Courgettes are low in calories and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol
- They are associated with lots of health benefits due to the fact they are high in antioxidants and contain fibre, potassium, Vitamin C and lots of water, among other nutrients
How to prepare and use courgettes
Courgettes are relatively easy to prepare.
Simply wash them before cooking and give the skin a light scrub where the prickles may have been.
Then cut off the top and the bottom; you don’t have to peel the skin, this can, and should, be kept on because that’s where a lot of the nutritional goodness (Vitamin C, potassium and fibre) is found.18
In terms of how you use courgettes, you can:
- Eat them raw in salads.
- Fry, bake, steam, boil or stuff them.
- Mix them with potatoes, carrots, asparagus or green beans in curries and stews.
- Chop, grate or shred them into bread or on to pizzas.
- Add smaller, finger-sized courgettes to stir fries.
Courgette recipes for you to try
Below are three recipes so you can enjoy courgette in its different forms and reap its health benefits!
Recipe 1: Courgette and mint soup
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Nutritional information: 297kcals, 24.6g fat, 11.6g saturates, 10.2g carbs, 8.1g sugars, 4.6g fibre, 6.3g protein, 0.5g salt
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 3 sliced garlic cloves
- 6 courgettes, halved lengthways and sliced thinly
- 750ml of vegetable stock
- 150ml of crème fraiche
- Small bunch of chopped mint leaves
- Lemon zest (optional) for serving19
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and cook the onion with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes until softened, but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook gently for a few minutes, then tip in the courgettes and cook gently for 20 minutes.
- Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil for a few minutes. Use a stick blender to whizz the soup until completely smooth, then stir in the crème fraîche and three-quarters of the mint and whizz again. Season.
- Spoon into bowls and top with more crème fraîche and mint leaves, and some lemon zest, if you like.
Recipe 2: Courgette fritters
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Nutritional information: 227kcals, 9.5g fat, 2.5g saturates, 20.4g carbs, 1.4g sugars, 2.1g fibre, 14.1g protein, 0.5g salt
- 50g of self-raising flour
- ½ tsp of ground turmeric
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds
- 3 eggs
- 1 courgette
- Spray oil
- Rocket dressed with olive oil and lemon juice to serve
- Hot sauce to serve (optional)20
- Tip the flour, turmeric, cumin seeds, 1 of the eggs and lots of seasoning into a bowl, then whisk in 50ml of water to create a batter that has a dropping consistency. Use a spiralizer to turn the courgette into long thin noodles, then gently fold into the batter.
- Spray a non-stick frying pan with oil and put over a medium-high heat. Divide the batter into 4 (snip any long courgette spirals) and, in batches, cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden and puffed, then flip and repeat. Keep warm in a low oven.
- Heat a large pan of water to a gentle simmer. One by one, crack the remaining eggs into a cup or ramekin, then gently pour into the water. Cook for 2 minutes until the whites have just set, then remove with a slotted spoon.
- Divide the fritters on to 2 plates, top with a poached egg and serve alongside dressed rocket and hot sauce, if you like.
There are lots of exciting ways to add courgettes to your diet.
Whether you dice them up and mix them into your go-to pasta sauce or experiment with pickling and fermenting to achieve a sharper flavour, use your imagination and make this easy-going fruit a staple part of your weekly diet.
Your body will thank you for it!
Last updated: 2 June 2021