Rosanna Davison's A to Z of superfoods: Z is for Zucchini
Zucchini, or courgette as it's more commonly known in this part of the world, is one of the very best foods for healthy and sustainable weight loss, thanks to its versatility and myriad of health benefits.
Sometimes called summer squash, courgette can be eaten hot or cold and works well in both savoury and sweet recipes. Extremely low in calories, with just 33 in a medium courgette, it's also a relatively good source of dietary fibre, with about 2.5g per cup. Together, this makes it an ideal vegetable for helping you to feel full without loading up on excess energy.
Courgette isn't a particularly rich source of protein, but it nonetheless contains all of the essential amino acids needed by our body each day for growth, repair and the production of enzymes, hormones and antibodies, amongst their many other functions.
As an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, with slightly smaller amounts of vitamin E, courgette is rich in antioxidant vitamins, to help protect your cells from damage by free radicals.
We usually associate dark leafy green veggies, berries, cacao and red and orange fruit and veg with antioxidants, but courgette contains key antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These are of particular benefit to eye health, which includes protection against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
A courgette's skin is especially antioxidant-rich, so it's worth leaving the skin intact, buying organic whenever possible and gently washing before eating.
In terms of essential minerals, courgette contains considerable amounts of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, with smaller quantities of calcium, iron and selenium. Pretty impressive nutrition for such a low-calorie vegetable. It even boasts small amounts of omega-3 fats, needed for a healthy brain and smooth, soft and youthful skin.
Spiralised raw courgette has soared in popularity in recent years, and makes a brilliant healthier alternative to spaghetti. But research indicates that courgette retains its antioxidants very well after steaming or lightly cooking, and this may suit some people better, as not everyone can efficient digest raw vegetables.
To enjoy the full antioxidant benefits of squash, aim to eat the skin, flesh and seeds.
This recipe for 'Creamy Courgette Noodles with Coriander Pesto' makes a healthy, filling and nourishing lunch or dinner dish that takes very little time to prepare. Courgette noodles can be made with a spiraliser or vegetable peeler, and make a great low-calorie alternative to regular noodles.
Home-made pesto sauces are so versatile, as they can be made from ingredients such as sun-dried tomato, basil, parsley and even rocket. Any fragrant herb works really well, and in this recipe, I used coriander blended with toasted pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, spices and seasoning.
Creamy Courgette Noodles with Coriander Pesto
30g fresh coriander
45g pine nuts
80ml unsweetened almond milk
1 clove of garlic
½ tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp smoked paprika and extra to garnish
½ tsp cumin powder
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 medium tomato, sliced, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Place the pine nuts in a small baking tray and toast at 180°C for 8-10 minutes until golden-brown.
3. Rinse the coriander and courgettes, top and tail them, then process the courgettes through the spiraliser.
4. To make the pesto, place remaining ingredients in the blender and combine until creamy.
5. Add another splash of almond milk and add extra seasoning, if desired.
6. Serve with fresh tomatoes and garnish with dried chilli flakes and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
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