So plentiful now, quick-growing summer squash come in many shapes and sizes. The most common are zucchini, yellow (straight-neck and crook-neck) and patty-pan.
Summer squash are excellent sources of Vitamin C, potassium and phytochemicals. One cup contains fewer than 20 calories, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, which attack healthy cells and change DNA, allowing tumors to form and grow. Free radicals are by-products of our normal chemical processes. They also are present in cigarette smoke, air pollution and ultraviolet light from the sun, says the National Institutes of Health. We need Vitamin C to make collagen, a protein needed to for wound healing. It also helps us absorb iron from plant-based foods and helps our immune system work.
- Potassium, a mineral, helps nerves and muscles communicate, according to the US National Library of Medicine. It also helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. A diet rich in potassium helps to offset some of sodium’s harmful effects on blood pressure.
- Phytochemicals (also called phytonutrients) only come from plants. (Generally, they are not available in supplements.) Get them by eating generous amounts of a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans. Phytochemicals can decrease the risk of developing certain cancers as well as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease.
Summer Squash Smarts
At the grocery store or farmers’ market, choose summer squash that is firm and has unblemished skin. At home, store it in the refrigerator and eat it within a week. Don’t wash the squash until right before you begin preparation.
Italian-Style Summer Squash, courtesy of the Connecticut Food Policy Council, is a quick, easy recipe that’s perfect for the busy mid-week. If you want to embellish the dish, add cut-up fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, eggplant or other in-season summer veggies.
Per serving: 110 calories, 9 grams of fat, 115 grams of sodium
Serves four. Serving size: one half-cup.
2 Tbsp., vegetable oil
1 summer squash (large, thinly sliced)
1 Tbsp., water
salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
1 tsp., sweet basil, fresh
6 Tbsp., Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
- Using a large, ovenproof frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil to medium high.
- Arrange squash in pan, add water and season lightly with salt, pepper and basil.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until tender-crisp.
- Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with remaining oil. Place the pan under a preheated broiler and broil until cheese melts and browns slightly.