Summer squash: Health benefits plus sub it in for pasta

Fight cardiovascular disease, improve eye health and beat diabetes with this end of summer veggie!

Summer squash

Julie Daniluk

Though summer’s on it’s way out (we still have a few weeks left) there’s still time to enjoy the last of the season’s bounty.

One of the tastiest, and lesser known, vegetables to enjoy this time of year is the summer squash. The soft and delicate nature of this squash is distinguished from the more familiar, harder winter squashes (butternut, acorn, spaghetti) as its rinds are edible. For this reason it has a much shorter shelf life.

Popular summer squash varieties include pattypan squash (scallop or sunburst squash), yellow crookneck squash, yellow summer squash and the ever popular zucchini (courgette). My personal favourite is the pattypan. It’s round and shallow and often a bright yellow colour with scalloped edges. These gems resemble flying saucers and have the sweetness of a winter squash with the convenience of a zucchini.

Summer squash provides us with a great combination of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and many other health benefits. Read on for the five main health reasons to enjoy summer squash:

1. Summer squash can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. High levels of magnesium, when combined with the potassium, in summer squash make it helpful in reducing high blood pressure. Summer squash contains substantial amounts of vitamin C, which help to mitigate the oxidation of cholesterol. The vitamin C may also help reduce the hardening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis) because only oxidized cholesterol builds up in blood vessel walls.

2. Summer squash contains nutrients that play a key role in the fight against inflammation. The presence of anti-inflammatory carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene in the skin of the squash, along with omega-3 fatty acids found in the seeds, makes it a perfect anti-inflammatory vegetable. Studies of these anti-inflammatory properties show great promise in the areas of cardiovascular disease and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

3. Summer squash is full of antioxidants that help to protect the eyes from age-related conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. High levels of vitamin C along with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin help to fight the damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants superpowers are found mostly in the skin of summer squash so try to purchase organic and leave the skin on!

4. Summer squash is low in calories and high in fibre. One cup of summer squash or zucchini contains only 36 calories but has 2.5 grams of fibre, which will keep your digestion in check and leave you feeling satisfied.

5. Eating summer squash can help to protect you from developing diabetes. Studies show that the high levels of polyphenols, flavonoids and vitamin C in the peel of summer squash provides protection against diabetes by helping to regulate glucose levels in the blood.

Summer squash can help to regulate blood sugar and insulin offering natural protection against diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies show that summer squash contains a unique polysaccharide composition with an unusually high amount of pectin. Pectin is a water-soluble fibre that has been linked to balancing insulin metabolism and blood sugar regulation.

Summer squash stir fry recipe

Summer squash stir fry recipe

Summer squash stir-fry recipe
I like to use summer squash as a substitute for lasagna noodles, cut up on veggie platters and grilled for vegetarian antipasti. This side dish is extremely easy and fast. It also is tasty marinated over a day or two so it is nice for entertaining.

6 cups pattypan squash, sliced thin
2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 cups red pepper, sliced
1 cup dill weed, chopped
1/3 cup mustard
½ tsp sea salt

1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat and add squash and mushrooms, stirring gently until cooked.

2. Add to a large bowl and add cherry tomatoes, red pepper strips, dill weed, mustard and sea salt.

3. Stir well to combine.

Yield: Makes 10 servings

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. She is the author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.