Are Zucchini & Squash OK for Pregnant Women?

Women routinely are advised to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy. According to childbirth educator Amy Haas, writing in "Midwifery" magazine, pregnant women should eat at least three servings of vegetables daily -- two servings of green and one of yellow vegetables. Zucchini and most squash varieties are low in calories, fat and cholesterol, high in moisture content and loaded with beneficial nutrients, so they are good choices for pregnant women.

Sliced zucchini on wood table (Image: bit245/iStock/Getty Images)

Zucchini

Zucchini belongs to the summer squash family. It frequently is recommended as a good choice for pregnant women in fulfilling their green vegetable requirement, according to Haas. Zucchini contains folate, potassium and vitamins A and C. Select zucchini with smooth, dark green skin; wash it well but do not remove the skin, since that is where most of the nutrients are. One-half cup of raw zucchini contains only 13 calories; the same amount of cooked zucchini contains only 18 calories.

Squash

Winter squash varieties also are recommended for pregnant women; many of these meet the requirements for a yellow vegetable. Acorn squash is a common winter squash, and its nutritional value is representative of others in this category. It contains very little fat or sodium, is cholesterol-free and is an excellent source of dietary fiber. Winter squashes contain vitamins A and C, along with iron and calcium, all of which are key elements of the pregnant woman's nutritional requirements.

Preparing Zucchini and Squash

These healthy vegetables can be eaten fresh once they have been washed well. Slice and eat them raw or mix them into fresh salads. They also can be grilled or baked. Do remove seeds before consuming squash. If you opt for grilled or baked squash, avoid heavy seasonings and sauces: the first may cause heartburn, and the latter may add considerably to this otherwise low-calorie vegetable's overall calorie count. Pregnant women experience few, if any, side effects from squash; infrequent gassiness has been reported.

Possible Problems With Preserved Squash

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, past USDA guidelines about canning summer squash varieties have been withdrawn because current studies no longer support them. These low-acid vegetables need extended pressure canning to ensure that botulism-causing bacteria are completely destroyed, but studies do not agree on the optimal time for this process. Pregnant women should therefore avoid home-preserved squash and opt for fresh or frozen varieties instead.

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