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Cucumber vs Zucchini - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Cucumber
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Zucchini

Summary

In summary, zucchini is slightly richer in calories, almost two times richer in protein and fats.

Zucchini contains two times more dietary fiber, whereas cucumber contains 1.5 times more net carbs.

Zucchini contains 6.4 times more vitamin C, four times more vitamins E and B6, 3.4 times more folate or vitamin B9, almost three times more vitamin B3.

Cucumber is 3.8 times richer in vitamin K.

Zucchini is relatively richer in most of the minerals as well.

Introduction

Cucumber and zucchini are well-known and widely used foods. These foods belong to the same family, and this article will compare their nutritional values, as well as provide information about the health benefits and potential risks.

Classification

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) belongs to the Cucumis genus, whereas zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), also known as courgette, or baby marrow, is a summer squash and belongs to the Cucurbita genus.

Both cucumber and zucchini belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, also known as cucurbits or the gourd family. The family includes luffas, squashes, pumpkins, melons, and watermelons.

Appearance

Green cucumbers are the most common; however, cucumbers can be white, yellow, and orange as well. Regular cucumbers have green stripes on darker green skin.

The ordinary zucchini fruits are striped or uniform-colored and can be any shade of green, whereas the golden zucchini has a deep yellow or orange color.

Taste and Use

Cucumber is best eaten raw. It is used in a variety of salads, sandwiches, burgers, side and main dishes as well. Cucumber smoothies are widely known and used; they can include lemon, watermelon, spinach, avocado, strawberry, pineapple, mint, tomato, and other fruits and greens.

Cucumber can also be used in alcoholic drinks, such as margarita, gin, martini, collins.

Zucchini is served in a variety of ways. In salads, zucchini is eaten raw, sliced or shredded, or lightly cooked. Depending on the country, it can be cooked, boiled, grilled, baked, fried, barbecued, or incorporated in other recipes.

Zucchini noodles or zoodles are made from zucchini as a substitute for spaghetti. Zucchini can also be used in breadmaking.

Cucumbers can have a mildly sweet or bitter taste. There are different ways of reducing bitterness, for example, removing the skin, cutting the ends, or cutting the cucumber lengthwise, adding salt, and rubbing the parts against each other.

Zucchini has a mild flavor, slightly bitter but also slightly sweet. However, its sweet taste becomes more noticeable when cooked.

Varieties

The two main types of cucumber are slicing and pickling. Pickling cucumbers are shorter, with thinner skins and spines, when compared to slicing cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers often have dark green to light green stripes, whereas the majority of slicing cucumbers have a dark green color.

Some of the common cucumber varieties are English, Armenian, Kirby, Lemon, Persian, Japanese or Kyuri, American, Gherkins, Bush Champion, Ashley, etc.

English or seedless cucumber is long, with thin dark green skin. This cucumber has a very mild flavor and can be found in most supermarkets the whole year.

Armenian or snake cucumber is long and curves at the end. This variety has thin skin and soft seeds.

Kirby cucumber is also known as pickling cucumber. It is short, with bumpy skin and small seeds.

Lemon cucumber looks like a lemon - yellow and round. Yellow cucumber has a sweet taste and soft seeds.

Persian cucumber looks like the English cucumber; however, it has a greater range of lengths. It is also sturdy enough for stir-frying.

Zucchini has a wide range of varieties, such as Black Beauty, Dunja, Gourmet Gold, Cocozelle, Gadzukes, Caserta, Ronde de Nice, Golden Egg, Crookneck, Pattypan, Rampicante, Magda, Zephyr, Raven, Fordhook, Summer Green Tiger, Bush Baby, etc.

Black Beauty is one of the most popular and easy-growing varieties of zucchini. It’s dark green to almost black from the outside and with creamy white flesh inside.

Dunja is straight and has dark green glossy skin. This variety is quick and easy to harvest.

Cocozelle produces darker green streaks and is less watery compared to the other varieties.

Gadzukes is a dark green zucchini with light green ridges and star-shaped slices.

Caserta color varies from light green to grey, with alternate dark green stripes.

Nutrition

The nutritional values in this article are presented for raw cucumber and raw zucchini.

Macronutrients and Calories

Cucumber and zucchini have similar nutritional contents. Both of them consist of 95% water; zucchini is slightly denser.

One serving size of cucumber is half a cup, slices, equal to 52g, whereas one serving size of zucchini is one cup, chopped, equal to 124g.

Calories

Both cucumber and zucchini are very low-calorie foods.

A 100g serving of cucumber, with peels, contains 15 calories, while peeled cucumber contains only 10 calories. A 100g serving of zucchini contains 17 calories.

Protein and Fats

These cucurbits are not particularly rich in macronutrients; however, zucchini contains more protein compared to cucumber.

Both of the foods have some amounts of all essential amino acids.

They have a very low-fat content as well. Even though zucchini contains three times more fats, 100g of each of the two foods covers only 3% of the daily fat need.

Cucurbits are absent in cholesterol and trans fats.

Carbohydrates

Cucumber is slightly richer in carbs compared to zucchini and peeled cucumber.

While zucchini contains two times more dietary fiber, cucumber contains 1.5 times more net carbs.

Peeling the skin off of cucumber doesn’t negatively affect the dietary fat content.

Vitamins

Zucchini is richer in most vitamins.

Zucchini contains 6.4 times more vitamin C, four times more vitamins E and B6, 3.4 times more folate or vitamin B9, almost three times more vitamin B3. Zucchini is richer in vitamins A and B1 as well.

Cucumber contains 3.8 times more vitamin K. It is also richer in vitamin B5.

Both of the cucurbits are absent in vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Vitamin B5 +27%
Contains more Vitamin K +281.4%
Contains more Vitamin C +539.3%
Contains more Vitamin A +90.5%
Contains more Vitamin E +300%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +66.7%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +184.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +360.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +307.5%
Contains more Folate +242.9%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 10% 7% 1% 0% 7% 8% 2% 16% 10% 0% 41% 6%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 60% 12% 3% 0% 12% 22% 9% 13% 38% 0% 11% 18%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +27%
Contains more Vitamin K +281.4%
Contains more Vitamin C +539.3%
Contains more Vitamin A +90.5%
Contains more Vitamin E +300%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +66.7%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +184.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +360.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +307.5%
Contains more Folate +242.9%

Minerals

Cucumber contains 1.5 times more selenium and four times less sodium.

On the other hand, zucchini is richer in iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus.

Cucumber and zucchini are equal in calcium.

One serving of these foods covers less than 7% of the daily mineral needs.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains less Sodium -75%
Contains more Iron +32.1%
Contains more Potassium +77.6%
Contains more Magnesium +38.5%
Contains more Copper +29.3%
Contains more Zinc +60%
Contains more Phosphorus +58.3%
Equal in Calcium - 16
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 11% 5% 13% 10% 14% 6% 11% 1%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 14% 5% 24% 13% 18% 9% 17% 2%
Contains less Sodium -75%
Contains more Iron +32.1%
Contains more Potassium +77.6%
Contains more Magnesium +38.5%
Contains more Copper +29.3%
Contains more Zinc +60%
Contains more Phosphorus +58.3%
Equal in Calcium - 16

Glycemic Index

Both cucumber and zucchini are low glycemic index, diabetes-friendly foods.

Low glycemic index diets reduce fasting blood glucose levels, therefore positively affecting glycemic control and may lead to weight loss in people with diabetes or prediabetes (1).

Acidity

Both cucurbits are acidic foods.

The pH value of cucumber falls from 5.12 to 5.78, making it from strongly to moderately acidic. The pH value of pickled cucumber is 4.20 - 4.60, making it highly acidic.

The pH value of zucchini is calculated for the cooked food, ranging from 5.69 - 6.10, which makes zucchini from moderately to slightly acidic (2).

The PRAL or potential renal acid load value of cucumber is -2.4, and the PRAL value of zucchini is -4.2, making it more alkaline. The negative PRAL values of these foods mean that they are base-producing.

Weight Loss & Diets

Both cucumber and zucchini are great for weight-loss diets.

Being lower in calories and fats, cucumber is a better choice for low-calorie and low-fat diets, whereas zucchini is preferred for a low-carb diet.

Both of the foods fit into keto, Atkins, and Mediterranean diets.

They can be consumed during the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet as well.

Cucumber and zucchini are allowed during the second (Cruise) PV (protein and vegetables) phase, third (Consolidation), and fourth (Stabilization) phases of the Dukan Diet. Gherkin (a variety of pickled cucumber) is allowed in moderation during the first (Attack) and second PP (pure protein) phases too.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Cucumber and zucchini contain some levels of dietary fiber, which is reported to lower coronary heart disease risks (3).

On a high-fat diet, one study on rats showed that increased zucchini consumption lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Study animals had decreased “bad” (low-density lipoproteins, total cholesterol, triglycerides) and increased “good” (high-density cholesterol) cholesterol levels (4).

Cucurbitacins are compounds found in cucumber, zucchini, and other members of the family. They have both toxic and beneficial impacts on health. One of the beneficial impacts is their therapeutic role in preventing or slowing down the process of atherosclerosis by modifying lipoproteins (5).

Cucurbitacin I and B potentially protect the heart against cardiac hypertrophy and oxidative stress (the disturbed balance between production and accumulation of reactive oxygen species); however, one study suggests that cucurbitacin I may lead to cardiac hypertrophy and cardiac cells death (6, 7, 8, 9).

One study concluded that cucumber lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure in older people. The potential mechanism is due to its diuretic effect that decreases circulating fluid in the bloodstream, reducing the heart’s workload (10).

Zucchini also shows hypotensive effects on blood pressure by inhibiting angiotensin I (11).

According to the DASH diet, another mechanism of lowering blood pressure is consuming vegetables rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber (10).

Diabetes

Both cucumber and zucchini are low glycemic index foods. They are low in sugar but rich in dietary fiber. They are used in weight loss diets and have low glycemic index values, reducing the risks of developing type 2 diabetes or medication.

Cucumber contains bioactive compounds with anti-diabetic, anti-hyperglycemic, and hypoglycemic or blood sugar lowering activities (12, 13). Several studies show that cucumber extracts decrease fasting blood glucose, low-density lipoprotein, and cholesterol levels (14, 15).

Another study concludes that cucumber extracts may have protective effects on the liver and pancreas against diabetes-induced tissue damage (16).

Aqueous cucumber extract may become an alternative treatment that induces insulin sensitivity and regulates fat metabolism (17).

One study concludes that cucumber has protective effects against diabetes complications by decreasing oxidative stress and carbonyl stress (18).

Zucchini is considered to be anti-diabetic food as well. Zucchini and other subspecies of Cucurbita pepo lead to an acute hypoglycemic response like a standard drug in temporarily hyperglycemic alloxan-induced animals (19).

Cucurbita pepo has been shown to increase blood insulin levels, as well as reduce glucose levels and improve glucose tolerance in diabetic animals (11).

Digestive Health

Dietary fiber from cucurbits is known to have protective effects against certain gastrointestinal diseases such as constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, duodenal ulcer, diverticulitis, obesity (20).

Dietary fiber increases mechanical stimulation or irritation of the colonic mucosa with increased secretion and peristalsis, which leads to increased fecal mass (21).

Dietary fiber fermentation leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids, which play a key role in maintaining homeostasis in the gut and other organs (22).

Both cucumber and zucchini are great sources of water. Epidemiological evidence indicates an association between dehydration and chronic functional constipation. In adults and the elderly, fluid restriction or excessive loss of fluids reduces the water content of the stool and hardens it, leading to constipation. Nonetheless, increased fluid intake has no effect on the treatment of constipation due to other causes (23, 24, 25).

Cancer

One of the beneficial effects of cucurbitacins is their anti-tumor effects. Cucurbitacins inhibit tumor cell growth, signaling pathways and induce the death of cancer cells. Different groups of cucurbitacins have antitumor activity on lung, pancreatic, colon, breast, and cervical cancers (5, 26, 27, 28).

A compound isolated from cucumber has shown an anticancer effect on liver cancer by inducing the death of cancer cells (29).

Zucchini has a potential anticancer activity as well due to its direct cytotoxic effect, which is later enhanced by its antioxidant properties (30).

The seed extract of zucchini inhibits the cell growth of fast-growing tumor cells, mostly showing its effect on breast, colon, and prostate cancers (31).

Hydration

Adequate fluid intake maintains homeostasis, bodily functions, and health.

Skin health - increased water consumption may improve the hydration of the epidermis layer, playing a key role in skin barrier function. Increased water intake hydrates the skin and reduces dryness as well.

Cognition - dehydration (when water deficits exceed 2% of body mass loss) impairs cognitive performance (attention, executive function, and motor coordination).

Mood and fatigue - dehydration is associated with increased negative emotions (anger, hostility, confusion, and depression), tension, fatigue, and tiredness.

Kidney stones - high fluid intake is associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation.

Bodyweight - increased fluid consumption contributes to the reduction in body fat and weight (32).

Downsides and Risks

Cucumber and zucchini may cause allergic reactions.

Cucurbits may cause oral allergy syndrome (itching, burning, redness, and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and soft palate), nausea, diarrhea, asthma, rhinitis, watery eyes, or contact urticaria (33, 34, 35).

Other cucurbits or the gourd family members may contain the same compounds causing allergic reactions in cucumber or zucchini.

Both cucumber and Aspirin contain salicylate, and people allergic to Aspirin may need to avoid cucumbers, apples, almonds, oranges, berries, tomatoes, and some other foods as well (36).

Sources.

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/110/4/891/5543221
  2. pH values of foods and food products
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16407729/
  4. https://www.scirp.org/html/1-2702747_98189.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441156/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29682157/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26296085/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28390176/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27836799/
  10. EFFECT OF CUCUMBER JUICE ON LOWERING BLOOD PRESSURE IN ELDERLY
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/cucurbita-pepo
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33966619/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8569244/
  14. https://academicjournals.org/journal/JMPR/article-abstract/A2CA70948393
  15. https://www.banglajol.info/index.php/JSR/article/view/10252
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33214339/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746747/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4916550/
  19. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6cbf/3a7850edbd4a9e85e38bf41aa1d2f0db6e3c.pdf
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24876314/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28731144/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27113407/
  23. https://www.nature.com/articles/1601907
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28450053/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15654804/
  26. https://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/69/14/5876
  27. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep36594
  28. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000927971400163X
  29. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303121869
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537869/
  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26976217/
  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356561/
  33. Prevalence of tomato and cucumber sensitization among greenhouse workers
  34. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091674900886935
  35. Food allergy preceded by contact urticaria due to the same food
  36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1805260/pdf/bullnyacadmed00102-0098.pdf
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSU
Last updated: December 01, 2021

Infographic

Cucumber vs Zucchini infographic
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Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
9
Cucumber
16
Zucchini
Mineral Summary Score
8
Cucumber
12
Zucchini

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
4%
Cucumber
7%
Zucchini
Carbohydrates
4%
Cucumber
3%
Zucchini
Fats
1%
Cucumber
1%
Zucchini

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Cucumber Zucchini
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in price Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Cucumber Zucchini
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is richer in minerals?
Zucchini
Zucchini is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Zucchini
Zucchini is lower in glycemic index (difference - 6)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Zucchini
Zucchini is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Cucumber
Cucumber is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.83g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Cucumber
Cucumber contains less Sodium (difference - 6mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Cucumber
Cucumber is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.047g)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($0.4)

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Cucumber Zucchini Opinion
Calories 15 17 Zucchini
Protein 0.65 1.21 Zucchini
Fats 0.11 0.32 Zucchini
Vitamin C 2.8 17.9 Zucchini
Net carbs 3.13 2.11 Cucumber
Carbs 3.63 3.11 Cucumber
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 0.28 0.37 Zucchini
Calcium 16 16
Potassium 147 261 Zucchini
Magnesium 13 18 Zucchini
Sugar 1.67 2.5 Cucumber
Fiber 0.5 1 Zucchini
Copper 0.041 0.053 Zucchini
Zinc 0.2 0.32 Zucchini
Starch 0.83 0 Cucumber
Phosphorus 24 38 Zucchini
Sodium 2 8 Cucumber
Vitamin A 105 200 Zucchini
Vitamin E 0.03 0.12 Zucchini
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.027 0.045 Zucchini
Vitamin B2 0.033 0.094 Zucchini
Vitamin B3 0.098 0.451 Zucchini
Vitamin B5 0.259 0.204 Cucumber
Vitamin B6 0.04 0.163 Zucchini
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 16.4 4.3 Cucumber
Folate 7 24 Zucchini
Trans Fat 0 0
Saturated Fat 0.037 0.084 Cucumber
Monounsaturated Fat 0.005 0.011 Zucchini
Polyunsaturated fat 0.032 0.091 Zucchini
Tryptophan 0.005 0.01 Zucchini
Threonine 0.019 0.029 Zucchini
Isoleucine 0.021 0.044 Zucchini
Leucine 0.029 0.071 Zucchini
Lysine 0.029 0.067 Zucchini
Methionine 0.006 0.018 Zucchini
Phenylalanine 0.019 0.043 Zucchini
Valine 0.022 0.054 Zucchini
Histidine 0.01 0.026 Zucchini
Fructose 0.87 1.38 Zucchini

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Cucumber - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168409/nutrients
  2. Zucchini - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169291/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.