Dietary fiber plays an important role in wellness, influencing everything from bowel function to blood glucose control and heart health. Although fiber recommendations vary from 21 g a day for older women to 38 g a day for younger men, the average American takes in only about 14 g a day of dietary fiber. Zucchini and other types of squash provide dietary fiber, particularly when their skin and seeds are intact.
A cup of sliced raw zucchini with skin intact delivers 1.1 g of fiber in only 19 calories. A large raw zucchini has 3.2 g of fiber in 55 calories, a medium contains 2 g in 33 calories and a small raw zucchini delivers 1.2 g in 20 calories. If you boil and drain zucchini slices with the skin intact, you get 1.8 g of fiber in 28 calories. One cup of mashed, boiled and drained zucchini provides 2.4 g of fiber in 36 calories.
Zucchini doesn’t meet the criteria of 3 g to 5 g of fiber per serving for a high-fiber food, nor does it qualify as the 2.5 g to 4.9 g per serving for a “good source of fiber.” However, it does contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in a low-calorie package with some fiber. Choose fresh, raw zucchini when possible and leaves the peel and seeds intact when preparing your serving. Watch out for overly-processed zucchini. A ½-cup serving of canned Italian style zucchini, for example, has no measurable dietary fiber.
Combine ½-cup sliced raw zucchini with other high-fiber vegetables to create a high-fiber meal or snack. Add 1 cup of dark greens, such as Swiss chard, collard or beet greens, for an additional 8 g of fiber. Toss in ¼-cup of fresh or frozen green peas to add 2.3 g of fiber, and add ¼ cup of black beans for 4.9 g more. Your salad will deliver 15.8 g of fiber while adding only 138 calories to your daily intake.
Plant fiber from zucchini and other vegetables enters your intestines relatively intact and isn’t absorbed the way protein, fat or carbohydrates are. The fiber stays in your bowels to bind with water and form softer, larger stools that pass easily through your intestines and out of your body. A high-fiber diet prevents constipation that can lead to hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, diverticulitis and other chronic gastrointestinal disorders.
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- Cleveland Clinic: Fitting Fiber In
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Continuum Health Partners: Bowel Function & Dietary Fiber: Fiber Chart