We love summer squash because they're so versatile, simple to prep, and quick to cook, but how does their nutritional value stack up against other vegetables?

Summer squash, as their name suggests, are at their peak during the summer months and are easy to prep, quick to cook, and versatile to use. While we know they're tasty, are zucchini, yellow squash, and other types of summer squash worth seeking out for their health benefits? If you're wondering how do their nutritional values stack up against other summer vegetables, look no further: Here, we break down the health benefits of zucchini and yellow squash, looking at their pros and cons, and also provide you with plenty of cooking inspiration to get started.

late summer squash ten mothers farm vegetables
Credit: Ten Mothers Farm

Are Zucchini and Yellow Squash Good for You?

First, nutritional values do not vary much between the different varieties of summer squashes (the broader category in which zucchini and yellow squash live, along with many other types!), according to the University of Illinois Extension. On the whole, summer squashes consist of about 95 percent water. While this makes them a fantastic low-calorie vegetable (containing just about 20 calories per cup), it also means they're not the most nutrient-dense vegetables out there. Additionally, summer squashes are picked while they're relatively immature (hence the soft, edible skin and typically small seeds—as opposed to winter squashes with harder exteriors and large seeds), which also contributes to their lower nutritional values. But don't let that stop you—these vegetables still have plenty of benefits, both in terms of nutrition and culinary possibilities, and they definitely deserve a spot in your grocery bag.

Not only are summer squash low in calories, but they also have little to no cholesterol, fat, and sodium—all nutrients we should be limiting. On the flip side, both zucchini and yellow squash boast vitamins A and C, potassium, plus fiber. Like most produce, you'll want to avoid peeling the skin—that's where the majority of the nutrients are stored.

How to Use Summer Squash in Your Cooking

Another perk of zucchini and yellow squash is that they can be eaten raw or cooked, and they fit into just about any meal or time of day. Looking for a change in your breakfast routine? Grated zucchini adds nutrients and moisture to these warm-spiced breakfast muffins, and their mild flavor perfectly pairs with fresh herbs and fluffy eggs in a Herb Frittata. For lunch or dinner, try summer squash raw in a lower-carb Zucchini "Pasta" (by simply peeling zucchini into thin ribbons) or a light, fresh Quick-Marinated Yellow Squash Salad. You can even use them to make a Golden Gazpacho, which is just perfect for those hot summer nights when you don't want to turn on the stove or oven. Even dessert is an option when it comes to summer squash—try Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Zucchini Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze. You'll find that shredded zucchini keeps both desserts moist and tender as they bake.

The versatility of summer squash extends to cooking methods, too. Whether you want to grill, sauté, fry, braise, roast, purée, bake, or pickle it, this vegetable lends itself well to just about every culinary technique (with the exception of canning, which is not recommended), making the possibilities seemingly endless. Best of all, they're widely available in grocery stores or farmers' markets, especially during the warmer months. If you're lucky, you'll come across squash blossoms, which are edible raw or cooked and are often stuffed, battered, and fried to perfection.


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