Are you looking to upgrade your diet and add a few green veggies? You might want to consider adding cucumbers and zucchini. If you are looking for a comparative analysis of cucumber versus zucchini before you do, look no further!
In the land of food, two vegetables are commonly confused as identical twins. We are talking about cucumbers and zucchini. These vegetables have the same shape, color, and pale flesh! Because of these similarities, people wonder, ‘Is a zucchini a cucumber?’
Like twins, food items, too, are never 100% similar in nature. They have their unique characteristics. While they might look indistinguishable to an untrained eye, there are some significant differences between them.
Table of contents
- Food Wars: Cucumber Versus Zucchini
- Vegetable or Fruit?
- What Is a Cucumber?
- What Is a Zucchini?
- What Are the Different Varieties of Zucchini and Cucumber?
- What Are the Nutritional Values of Zucchini and Cucumber?
- Who Should Include Zucchini or Cucumber in Their Diet?
- What Are the Health Benefits of Cucumbers and Zucchini?
- Do Zucchini or Cucumber Have Any Downsides?
- Zucchini or Cucumber – Which Is the Best for You?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about cucumbers vs zuchhini
If you’ve never eaten zucchini or cucumber, you probably must have heard of it. Thanks to our health-conscious era, green veggies and smoothies now have a place in our diet plans.
This post is for you if you find yourself in the supermarket trying to find the difference between zucchini and cucumber. You won’t have to turn to Google anymore; we got your back!
Before we hit the ground running, let’s clear a common misconception – You might ask if cucumbers and zucchini are…err… vegetables or fruits?
Food Wars: Cucumber Versus Zucchini
Let’s tackle the main question first – How to tell the difference between cucumber and zucchini? We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the cucumber versus zucchini battle to uncover their differences!
There are six major distinguishing factors between cucumber and zucchini. These are origin, size and shape, taste, nutritional content, texture, and use.
Cucumbers are native to India. They have been a source of food for over 3,000 years. In Ancient India, people added cucumbers to their cuisine. As time passed, India started trading with other countries.
During the 1st century B.C, India developed trading relations with the Middle East and Europe. It was around this time that other countries came to know about cucumbers. By the 2nd century B.C, China started growing cucumbers as well. Slowly, cucumbers spread to other regions – Canada, Rome, Greece, etc.
Zucchini finds its origin in Italy. The name comes from the Italian word for ‘squash’ called ‘zucca.’ The plural form for the word ‘zucca’ is zucchini. Though squash originated in America, it was in Italy that the world saw the first variety of zucchini. By the 1920s, Zucchini had made its way to America.
2. Size and Shape
Cucumbers and zucchini are usually green in color and have a long, cylindrical shape. However, you’ll notice minor differences depending on the variety of zucchini and cucumbers you’ve purchased.
Cucumbers have limited growth. They can grow only up to 1-2 feet. Moreover, they can be oval, short, or even round in shape.
Though it is usually green in color, you can also find white, yellow, or orange cucumbers. They have a duller complexion and don’t have any stems. When you cut it open, you’ll clearly see the seeds in the center of the cucumber. These seeds are long and smooth.
Zucchini is usually longer than cucumbers. They can grow up to 2-5 feet in length. On the one end, it has a woody stem. Sometimes, there’s a flower on the other end of the vegetable.
Their color ranges from light to dark green. When you cut it open, you’ll see that the flesh is whitish yellow. Moreover, it has tiny seeds that blend into the flesh. Zucchini seeds are not as visible as cucumber seeds.
What’s the difference in taste? They both come across as somewhat flavorless. However, if you pay close attention, they might have a hint of flavor.
Raw cucumbers are refreshing and cool. They are juicy, and have a melon-like aroma. They might have a sweet or bitter taste that’s not too overpowering. You can cook cucumbers, but it is better to eat them raw. When you cook cucumbers, they wilt and become soft. Moreover, once cooked, it will lose its taste (if it has any).
On the other hand, zucchini has a more prominent flavor. They are not as juicy as cucumbers. They can be mildly bitter or sweet. Though you can eat raw zucchini, it is best to cook them. When cooked, it takes on the flavor of the other ingredients. Finally, cooked zucchini is slightly sweet.
4. Nutritional Content
Who has the upper hand in the nutrition category? Zucchini or cucumber? Let’s see!
First, there are a few similarities between the two. Both have 95% water content. Also, they are packed with vitamins. Finally, they both are low in calories, sugar, and carbohydrates.
Zucchini has the upper hand in the nutrition category. Zucchini has more Vitamin A (10.0), Vitamin C (17.9), and dietary fiber (0.5) than cucumbers. It also has protein, fiber, manganese, folate, and potassium.
Cucumbers are more watery than zucchini. They contain less amount of Vitamin A and C than zucchini. The part of the cucumber with the most nutrition is its skin. The skin comprises beta-carotene and fiber.
Both cucumbers and zucchini are long, cylindrical in shape, and green-colored. Also, they both have a woody texture. When you pick them, they are somewhat hollow.
Usually, cucumbers have small ridges or bumps on their skin. They have tough, waxy, and bumpy skin. However, cucumbers do have variations. For example, English cucumbers have a smooth and cold surface.
On the other hand, zucchini has no ridges on its skin; it is smooth, dry, and almost wax-like in texture.
The final distinction is in how zucchini and cucumbers are used. The primary difference is that people cook zucchini while they have raw cucumbers.
We usually prefer having cucumbers raw. The meaty and soft flesh of the cucumber makes it easy to bite into it. If cucumbers are cooked, they wilt and become too soft. Hence, it is best to have cucumbers raw as they are crispy, cool, and refreshing.
If you like, you can consume raw zucchini. Since zucchini has a grittier texture than cucumbers, it is not easy to eat them raw. Hence, it is usually cooked. Cooking brings out the best in zucchini! It adapts and absorbs the flavor of the other ingredients and becomes sweet, crispy, and easier to eat.
Also, most nutrients are present in the skin of zucchini and cucumber. So, keeping the skin on is best for maximum nutrition!
Here’s a picture of zucchini vs cucumber that looks at their significant differences.
Vegetable or Fruit?
They are considered both –vegetable and fruit.
Are you getting confused? Don’t be! If you ask a nutritionist or a chef, they’ll consider these two as vegetables.
Contrarily, a botanist will call them fruits. But why? When it comes to plants, there are different schools of thought. So, the answer depends on who you ask. Botanists classify items as fruits based on their physiological structure.
For them, a ‘fruit’ grows from a plant’s ovary and has seeds. This definition considers cucumber and zucchini as fruits. Cucumbers grow from the cucumber flower plant, and it has seeds. Similarly, zucchini grows on the zucchini flower plant and has seeds too!
Chefs, nutritionists, or even dieticians classify items as vegetables based on their texture, taste, and appearance. For them, a ‘vegetable’ has a tough exterior, is bland in flavor, and is an additional ingredient while cooking. So, this definition classifies cucumbers and zucchini as vegetables since they have a tough exterior and are bland in taste.
While making meals, we usually add cucumbers and zucchini to our dishes. In the culinary world, what is necessary is the taste of the food item and not science.
If you prefer a chef’s classification of vegetables, you can stick with the culinary definition. Most probably, your mom and grandmother use the culinary definition too!
So, that might convince you to go for the culinary classification of zucchini or cucumber! Here is a visual representation of the fruits and vegetables’ botanical and culinary classification:
What Is a Cucumber?
Cucumber is a part of the gourd family (or Cucurbitaceae). Its scientific name is Cucumis sativus. You can identify a cucumber by its long, lean, cylindrical shape, bright green skin, and pale flesh.
Today, we cultivate cucumbers all around the world. However, it has its origins in South Asia. They have been a source of food for over 3000 years.
Also, cucumbers have a high water content – around 95%. Due to its high water content, it is pretty bland and melon-like in taste. Since they are refreshing and cool, it is best to eat cucumbers raw. However, sometimes cucumbers can also be bitter.
This is because cucumbers contain cucurbitacin. This compound is present in a plant’s stem, roots, and leaves. Sometimes, it spreads from the stem to the actual fruit/vegetable, making it bitter.
Fun Fact: In 2019, Scripps Research Institute in San Diego included cucumber in the superfood category!
What Is a Zucchini?
Often mistaken for cucumbers, zucchini is also a part of the gourd family (or Cucurbitaceae). The other name for zucchini is courgette. The earliest evidence of zucchini dates back to 1901 in Milan, Italy.
It is a type of summer squash. Summer squash vegetables are grown during the frost-free, warm season. You’ll find farmers harvest zucchini while it is still immature. It is tender, nutrient-heavy, and has tiny seeds.
How can you identify a zucchini? Well, it looks pretty similar to cucumbers. Zucchini has a long, lean cylindrical shape and pale flesh with a tinge of green.
When it comes to color, they are usually dark emerald green. However, there are exceptions. They can vary in color and range from yellow to dark green.
Zucchini is high in phytonutrients and water content. When compared to cucumbers, it has a more prominent taste. They can be slightly sweet or bitter.
If you cook zucchini with any other food item, it will take on the flavor of the cooked food. But be careful! If you cook it for too long, it will become soggy.
Fun Fact: Giovanni Scozzofavn holds the Guinness World Record for growing the tallest zucchini in the world. In 2014, Mr. Scozzofavn grew an 8 ft 3 inches zucchini. That’s taller than Michael Jordan!
What Are the Different Varieties of Zucchini and Cucumber?
By now, you have a faint idea about cucumber and zucchini. We have taken the first step in our analysis.
Let’s move on to discuss the main varieties of these two vegetables. Cucumbers have two main categories. However, zucchini has wide varieties and hence, has no particular classification.
Broadly speaking, there are two main types of cucumbers. These types are slicing and pickling cucumbers. What is the logic behind this classification? Well, it depends on how you plan to consume cucumbers.
You’ll most likely grow sliced cucumbers if you want to eat raw or fresh cucumbers. However, you’ll cultivate pickling cucumbers when you want to make cucumber pickles!
How do you differentiate a slicing from a pickling cucumber plant?
Slicing cucumber plants are longer than pickling cucumbers. They are around 7 to 8 inches long. Also, they tend to be leaner, thicker, and have dark green skin. Usually, cucumbers that you see at supermarkets belong to this category. Also, they take longer to bear fruits than pickling types. Here is what a slicing cucumber plant looks like:
Pickling cucumber plants are shorter than their counterparts. They are around 3-4 inches long. They are shorter, thinner, and have a crunchy texture. When it comes to their color, they can vary from dark green to light green.
Additionally, when compared to slicing cucumbers, they take a shorter time to bear fruits. Here is what a pickling cucumber looks like:
But, that’s not it! These types only cover the broad classification of cucumbers. You’ll find a vast number of cucumber varieties under them. Mostly, these varieties get their name from their place of cultivation.
Some cucumber varieties include English or European cucumber, Persian cucumber, Armenian cucumber, Japanese cucumber, American cucumber, etc. If you get a chance to look at these types, you’ll see that the main distinction between them is their appearance.
Just like cucumber, zucchini, too, has wide varieties. Since there are dozens of types, there is no broad classification for zucchini.
However, we can talk about the most popular varieties of zucchini. These include Black Beauty, Pattypan Squash, Gadzukes, Zephyr, Crookneck Squash, Caserta, Dunja Zucchini, Round Zucchini, Gourmet Gold, Magda, Zucchini Flowers, Golden Egg, Rampicante Zucchini, Cocozella, and Tromboncino Zucchini.
Yes, the list is exhausting! If you want to know the most popular variety of Zucchini, it is Black Beauty. Here’s what a Black Beauty zucchini looks like:
This type of zucchini is the most popular because it is relatively easy to plant or grow. When it comes to appearance, it is dark green, long, and thin. It finds a place in salads, gravies, and soups. Some people even enjoy eating it raw or using it to make pickles!
Gourmet Gold and Globe Zucchini are other popular types. Gourmet Gold is just like a regular zucchini. However, its color is sunny yellow!
Globe Zucchini, like the name suggests, is round in shape. It is also called an 8-ball zucchini. Usually, people scrape the inside, stuff it with other ingredients, and then roast it.
What Are the Nutritional Values of Zucchini and Cucumber?
We need to get a better idea about our analysis. So, it’s time to get a bit scientific and look at the nutritional chart of these two green veggies! We have pulled information from the USDA’s FoodData Central to create our data tables.
Let’s put on our nutritionist caps and decode them one by one. We’ll examine the values of zucchini and cucumber’s macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Based on the data, we might get a hint of who is leading in the cucumber versus zucchini food war!
First, we’ll look at the macronutrients in zucchini and cucumber. But wait. What are macronutrients, anyway?
Simply put, they are essential nutrients your body needs in large amounts to keep functioning. Here is what the macronutrients table for both these vegetables looks like:
* Do note that the table contains nutritional values for every 100 grams of zucchini and cucumber.
|Total Lipid (g)||0.3||0.1|
From the table, we can conclude that both vegetables have somewhat of a similar nutrient profile. Let’s summarize these values:
- Calories – Zucchini and cucumber are low-calorie vegetables. We can see that 100 grams of unpeeled zucchini and cucumber contain 17 and 15 calories, respectively.
- Carbohydrates and Fiber – If you look at the table, cucumber (3.6 g) has a higher dose of carbohydrates than zucchini (3.1 g). However, zucchini (1.0 g) has more fiber than cucumber (0.5 g).
- Protein and Fat – When it comes to protein and fat, zucchini trumps cucumber. Zucchini has over 1.2 grams of protein, while cucumber has 0.7 grams of protein.
- Sugar and Total Lipid: We can see that zucchini (2.5 g) has more sugar than cucumber (1.7 g). Similarly, zucchini (0.3 g) also has a higher total lipid percent than cucumber (0.1 g).
Here is a graph that shows the same macronutrient profile, have a look:
You need vitamins to keep your body healthy. They promote normal cell growth and perform hundreds of different functions to keep you going! Now, let’s move on and look at the vitamin composition of cucumber and zucchini:
We can see that zucchini and cucumber have a wide variety of vitamins. However, zucchini is more vitamin-rich than cucumber. Zucchini has more vitamin A, B-6, C, E, and K than cucumber. On the other hand, cucumbers contain more Vitamin K than zucchini.
Here’s a chart showing the vitamin profile for cucumbers vs zucchini:
Like vitamins, you need minerals to keep you healthy. Building strong bones, regulating your body’s health, or maintaining a stable heartbeat- minerals do it all for you! Here’s the mineral composition of zucchini and cucumber:
In the minerals department, zucchini and cucumber have the same amount of calcium. Additionally, zucchini and cucumber also have a low glycemic index. Low GI means they are a good food source for people with diabetes.
In general, zucchini also has the upper hand in the minerals section. It has more potassium, manganese, folate, niacin, choline, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and copper.
Here’s a chart showing the mineral profile for cucumbers and zucchini:
Here’s a picture of their noteworthy nutritional content:
Who Should Include Zucchini or Cucumber in Their Diet?
We’ve covered a lot! By now, you know the difference between zucchini and cucumber. Let’s cut to the chase and understand who stands to benefit from introducing zucchini and cucumbers into their diet.
First, you need to ask yourself – What is your health goal?
If you want to embark on a weight-loss journey, these green veggies are just what you need to get started!
When trying to shed weight, you look for food low on calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Cucumbers and zucchini fall right into that category.
Along with aiding weight loss, it has many vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Moreover, they are highly complementary to most dishes. You can have salads with cucumber and zucchini toppings. For cucumbers, you don’t even have to cook them!
Eating cucumbers raw is the norm, and you’ll save cooking time. Finally, if you are someone who has a sensitive stomach, these vegetables should be your go-to option. Cucumbers and zucchini are easy-to-digest and solve most of your stomach issues.
If you are looking for a cucumber zucchini salad, there’s an entire arsenal of salad recipes online! Here’s a video of how you can cook them at home – Cucumber Zucchini Ribbon Salad | Vegan, Paleo, Keto
Additionally, you might want to add other ingredients to your salad. If you are looking for zucchini cucumber tomato salad recipes, here are two easy-to-make tutorials – Zucchini Tomato Salad Recipe and Cucumber Tomato Salad Recipe.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cucumbers and Zucchini?
Let’s examine some health benefits of consuming zucchini or cucumber. Here are five science-backed reasons for eating these green veggies!
These health benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing type II diabetes, relieving gastrointestinal diseases, inhibiting tumor growth, and keeping you hydrated.
- Lowers Heart Disease Risk
Cucumbers and Zucchini reduce your risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. The reason is its high dietary fiber content.
According to a study, consumption of cucumbers and zucchini helps protect us against cardiovascular ailments. They reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Earlier in our post, we spoke about cucurbitacins in cucumbers. Evidently, cucurbitacins slow down atherosclerosis and reduce the risk of cardiac hypertrophy and oxidative stress.
That’s not it! Cucumbers and zucchini also lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Food rich in dietary fiber helps lower the chances of developing heart disease.
Also, zucchini contains a fiber called pectin. Pectin reduces your bad cholesterol and promotes good heart health. Finally, zucchini is high in potassium as well. It can help reduce blood pressure and peripheral artery disease.
- Reduces Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to regulate the sugar levels in your blood. Cucumbers and zucchini are veggies that have a low glycemic index.
Glycemic Index measures how much your blood sugar levels rise due to a particular food item. Since these vegetables have a low GI, they reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes.
Also, zucchini and cucumber plants have bioactive compounds. These compounds have additional nutritional constituents that help in maintaining good health. They lower your blood sugar and risk of developing diabetes.
Also, diabetes can damage your liver and pancreas. One study notes that cucumber extracts might protect your organs against tissue damage.
Cucumbers also reduce oxidative and carbonyl stress. Moreover, health experts advise keeping the cucumber peels on. It is said that most of the nutrients reside in the cucumber peel. So, it is best to have them unpeeled. They can reduce diabetes-associated markers.
Likewise, zucchini is also an anti-diabetic food as it helps break down the sugar in our blood. It is rich in Vitamin B-complex, dietary fiber, magnesium and zinc.
- Relieves Gastrointestinal Disease
For the unaware, plant food contains dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is also called roughage. They are an indigestible part of the plant that has many health benefits.
Zucchini and cucumbers, like other plants, have dietary fiber. Various studies note that dietary fiber protects us against a few gastrointestinal diseases and improves digestion.
These diseases are inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, obesity, gastroesophageal reflux, etc. Additionally, dietary fiber promotes good gut and organ health.
As we mentioned, cucumbers and zucchini are 95% water content. If you suffer from dehydration or chronic constipation, adding them to your diet will be helpful.
The increased fluid level can help increase the water content of your stool and reduce constipation.
- Inhibits Tumor Growth
Studies suggest cucurbitacins in cucumbers can help kill cancer cells. Cucurbitacins help fight lung, liver, colon, breast, pancreatic, and cervical cancer.
Zucchini has anti-tumor characteristics as well. Its cytotoxic effects can kill growing cancer cells. Hence, it works on breast, colon, and prostate cancer. However, zucchini and cucumbers are just a minuscule part of cancer treatment and can’t be a substitute.
- Keeps You Hydrated
A well-functioning body needs to be hydrated. Apart from water, we can consume food with rich water content.
Cucumbers and zucchini have over 95% of water content. How does this help? It helps improve your mood, cognition, skin health, and body weight.
We know that dehydration causes moodiness and fatigue. Refreshing and cool vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini help in keeping you hydrated, thereby improving your mood. Moreover, you can make summer drinks using cucumbers and zucchini.
Secondly, if you are worried about body weight, consuming these vegetables can help you feel fuller for a long time. Zucchini and cucumbers have satiating powers! Moreover, they are packed with nutrients and vitamins. So, you can lose weight and stay healthy at the same time.
Finally, increased water intake in the form of zucchini or cucumber has a positive impact on your skin as well. It keeps your skin hydrated and reduces dryness.
Here are some health benefits of zucchini or cucumber explained by Dr. Eric Berg DC and Dr. Shaunna on YouTube.
This is a visual representation of the primary health benefits of cucumbers and zucchini!
Do Zucchini or Cucumber Have Any Downsides?
Zucchini and cucumbers are generally risk-free and safe. They mostly do not have any downsides. However, just like other food items, there are some exceptions.
If you are allergic to food items from the gourd family, it is best to avoid both. It might cause you to develop allergic symptoms.
Also, cucumbers have the compound salicylate, which is also a component of the anti-inflammatory drug, Aspirin. You might want to avoid these veggies if you are allergic to Aspirin.
Additionally, if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you might want to avoid zucchini. It can cause stomach cramps and nausea.
Zucchini might also not suit pregnant and lactating women, smokers, and people who have undergone angioplasty.
Finally, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says that if you are allergic to melon, bananas, sunflower, chamomile tea, or ragweed pollen, you might want to avoid consuming cucumbers or zucchini altogether!
Zucchini or Cucumber – Which Is the Best for You?
By now, you have learned the A-Z about cucumbers and zucchini. However, there is a final part left to discuss.
Which one should you choose? Zucchini or cucumber?
We’ve mentioned above that these vegetables are excellent for your weight loss journey. However, you might question which one is best for your overall health. Here’s our take on the benefits –
We’ve looked at the macronutrients, mineral, and vitamin contents of both cucumbers and zucchini. We can conclude that zucchini has a slight edge over cucumbers. It has more protein, fiber, minerals, and macronutrients.
However, the difference isn’t huge. Give zucchini a shot if you want to choose one over the other! Here are a few reasons to select zucchini over cucumbers –
- Low calories and carbohydrates – Zucchini is a perfect choice if you are on a low-carb or calorie diet. It has only 52 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrates (for every raw zucchini).
- High Fiber – Zucchini covers 14% of your daily fiber requirement. So, it is an excellent addition to your diet. It will help you feel full, promote digestion, improve your bowel movements, and reduce your craving for more food.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is where zucchini scores huge! It fulfills 92% of your daily requirement for vitamin C. It helps in boosting your immunity and has many anti-aging benefits.
- Vitamin K and Vitamin A – You need vitamin K to boost your bone health and maintain healthy blood clotting. Vitamin A helps maintain metabolism, vision, immune system, and cell development. Zucchini covers 17% and 13% of your daily vitamin K and A requirements.
- Folate – Folate is essential for healthy cell growth. It is a water-soluble form of vitamin B9. Zucchini covers 23% of daily folate requirements.
Well, zucchini will cover most of your dietary requirements! According to our analysis, zucchini has an advantage over cucumbers.
Here’s a picture of cucumber and zucchini that shows their defining characteristics:
By now, you probably have mastered understanding the difference between zucchini and cucumber! Though they look similar, they do have significant differences. While cucumbers are excellent if you opt for a low-fat and low-calorie diet, zucchini has an overall better nutritional profile.
Whether you are going on a weight loss journey or are simply wanting to stay healthy, you can’t go wrong with either one of them!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about cucumbers vs zuchhini
Yes! It is okay to eat zucchini raw. You definitely won’t get poisoned! However, eating them raw is not recommended as they are usually bitter in taste.
Yes! Cucumbers are good for your health. Cucumbers are rich in vitamin K and help in improving your bone health. Moreover, if you are looking to start your weight loss journey or want improved digestion, cucumbers should be your go-to option, along with zucchini.
Zucchini is a vitamin-packed vegetable. If you want to fulfill your daily requirement of vitamin C, then zucchini is more than sufficient. Other than that, it has other vitamins and minerals like manganese and potassium.
Yes. Zucchini can make you poop. This is because zucchini has high dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps in improving bowel movement and promoting your digestive health. Additionally, zucchini contains magnesium and water that pulls water into the intestine and softens the stool.
Zucchini is the most immediate vegetable to cucumbers. However, if you want to explore other options, you can go for vegetables like celery, squash, iceberg lettuce, Persian cucumbers, etc.
Zucchini is slightly more nutritious than cucumbers. The reason is that it has more protein, fiber, minerals, and macronutrients.