Own a spiralizer and unsure of what to do with it? Notice all of the recent cook books and Instragram pictures featuring use of low-calorie vegetable “noodles” and ready to give them a try yourself? Well then, welcome to the world of zoodles!
“Zoodles” is a nickname for zucchini noodles, or spaghetti-like strands made from spiralized, raw zucchini and other squash. They contain no flour or wheat whatsoever and are very low in both calories and carbs. While it’s possible to find pre-made zoodles in some grocery stores, most people prefer to make them fresh at home, especially considering they can take just a few quick minutes to prepare.
What are some creative zucchini noodle recipes you can try at home, particularly to replace high-calorie foods like spaghetti or other noodles? Some popular ways to use zoodles include tossing them in an Asian peanut sauce, adding them to chicken soup, or sprinkling on some parmesan cheese, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
What Are Zoodles?
Zoodles are strands of zucchini that are made into the shape of noodles, such as spaghetti, linguine or soba noodles. The uniform shape of zoodles is possible because of the work of a spiralizer. You can use either a simple, inexpensive, handheld spiralizer to shape your zoodles or a more expensive and professional spiralizer.
While zoodles might be the most popular, zucchini is not the only vegetable that you can turn into noodles. The types of sophisticated spiralizers found in cooking stores or restaurants will cost you more, but they have the advantage of being durable enough to spiralize other tougher vegetables that can be difficult to slice thinly when raw — such as beets or butternut squash.
5 Benefits of Zoodles
1. Very Low in Calories
What draws most people to zoodles is that they’re very low in calories, especially compared to noodles made wheat flour, rice or other grains. In fact, you can eat approximately five cups or more of zoodles for the same number of calories that you’d get from just one cup of regular wheat-based noodles!
2. Low in Carbs
All types of summer squash, including green zucchini and yellow squash, are lower in calories and much lower in natural sugars and starch than grains or even some other root vegetables, so they have lower scores on the glycemic index. This is ideal for people who need help normalizing blood sugar levels, especially those who are diabetic or prediabetic.
Zucchini is also a favorite among those following a low-carb diet, even very low-carb diets, such as the ketogenic diet. In fact, because it can be hard to get enough electrolytes, antioxidants and fiber when low-carb dieting, consuming non-starchy veggies (like zucchini, broccoli or leafy greens, for example) is essential in order to feel your best and prevent side effects.
Squash groups are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium and other essential nutrients. Just two cups’ worth also provides about 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber needs. Here are some of the benefits associated with the various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that zucchini provides:
- Vitamin A benefits include enhanced wound healing and skin regrowth; support of all epithelial cells and structures that form soft connective tissue; help with production of collagen within skin, organs and the GI tract; protection against free radical damage; reduced inflammation; and protection of eye health and vision.
- Like vitamin A, vitamin C is associated with anti-aging effects and improvements in health of the skin, eyes and immune system. Consuming vitamin C may help reduce the frequency of common colds and can reduce the adverse effects of exercise-induced reactive oxygen species, including muscle damage, immune system dysfunction and fatigue.
- B vitamins, including vitamin B6, are critical for maintaining high energy levels, cognitive functions and a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B is needed to make hemoglobin that carries oxygen in red blood cells throughout the body. It helps prevent anemia and plays a role in distributing energy to cells that’s taken in from the foods you eat.
- Potassium is an important electrolyte and the third most abundant mineral in the body. Benefits of consuming enough include help with regulating heartbeat rhythms and nerve impulses, normal muscle contractions, preventing muscle aches or spasms, supporting digestive health, controlling blood pressure, and boosting energy levels. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that many adults don’t even get half of the daily potassium they need, which is a real problem considering that low potassium contributes to problems like high blood pressure and kidney dysfunction.
- Antioxidants found in zucchini and summer squash (other than vitamins C and A, which have certain antioxidant properties) include superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase and glucose-6-phosphatase. Carotenoid antioxidants called alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are also found in summer squash, which are highly protective of skin, eye health and vision. Because the pigmented skin of zucchini and summer squash is where most of the valuable antioxidants are found, make sure to leave the skin/peel on before making your zoodles.
4. Helps Increase Your Vegetable Intake
Most health authorities, including the USDA, recommend eating four to five servings of vegetables every day to maintain a healthy weight and satisfy all nutrient requirements — yet the majority of both children and adults fail to make this happen on a regular basis. (1) Zucchini isn’t the only vegetable you can turn into no-grain noodles. Other types to try include yellow summer squash, butternut squash, beets, turnips and carrots.
Even if you find that having zucchini or other veggie noodles in place of pasta is not a realistic fix for you, you can cut back on the amount of pasta you need to eat in order to feel satisfied by “bulking up” your pasta recipes with lots of spiralized veggies. This allows you to “sneak in” some daily veggies and more dietary fiber, while also drastically reducing the number of calories in your recipes. Adding more high-volume, high-fiber, low-calorie foods to your diet is one of the best ways to feel fuller for longer and to avoid overeating empty calories. The fiber found in vegetables that you can spiralize is also good for digestion, heart health and gut health.
5. Very Simple and Fast to Make
If you don’t have much time for, or interest in, cooking then you’ll be happy to know that zoodles are basically foolproof. Because zoodles can be made with raw zucchini and/or other veggies, it takes just a few quick minutes and only one piece of equipment to spiralize a big bowl. Lack of time is one of the biggest obstacles that many families face when it comes to preparing and eating a healthier diet, however incorporating more raw veggies into your recipes is a good way to get around this problem.
Zoodles/Zucchini Nutrition Facts
Zucchini is a type of summer squash vegetable and a member of the Cucurbitaceae plant family, which includes other squash relatives like spaghetti squash, cucumbers and even fruits like melon. Cucurbitaceae fruits and veggies all have large, visible seeds and grow above the ground on short plants, which is one reason why they tend to be lower in starch — and therefore lower in carbs and calories too — than other types of veggies that grow below ground (like carrots or beets, for example).
One heaping cup of zucchini noodles (the amount you’d make with about one medium zucchini, served raw) has about: (2)
- only 30–40 calories
- 7 grams carbs (or just 5 grams net carbs, when taking into account fiber)
- 2 grams protein
- 2 grams fiber
- 3 milligrams vitamin C (56 percent DV)
- 4 milligrams vitamin B6 (21 percent DV)
- 3 milligrams manganese (17 percent DV)
- 3 milligrams riboflavin (16 percent DV)
- 514 milligrams potassium (15 percent DV)
- 57 milligrams folate (14 percent DV)
- 4 milligrams vitamin K (11 percent DV)
- 392 IU vitamin A (7 percent DV)
Zucchini come in a number of different colors, with dark green, light green or white spotted varieties being the most popular and widely available in grocery stores. Although the two have their differences, zucchini is related to the hybrid vegetable known as yellow squash (or “summer squash”) that has a bright golden or deep-orange color. You can also make “zoodles” out of yellow squash, although some find that those noodles tend to be less firm and soggier due to releasing more water than zucchini.
Zoodles vs. Other Flour-Based Noodles
Compared to regular pasta, zucchini pasta offers:
- Much less calories — As you can see above, one big cup of zoodles has only about 30–40 calories; compare that to regular spaghetti or linguini ,which has about 210 calories per cup! (3)
- A lot fewer carbs — Zoodles only have about five net grams of carbs per one-cup serving (net grams is the amount of carbs when fiber is taken into account and subtracted from total carbs). Regular (white) spaghetti has a whopping 40 grams net carbs per cup!
- More vitamins and minerals — Zoodles provide a good dose of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium and a modest amount of fiber in every cup. While flour-based pasta is higher in protein than zucchini is, it does not offer many nutrients that most children and adults are likely in need of.
- Much bigger portion size — You can feel totally fine about eating two or even three cups of zoodles, which still have only around 100 calories in total or even less. On the other hand, eating two to three cups of regular noodles — which is usually pretty easy to do, especially when served a huge portion at a restaurant — will set you back 400–600 calories.
- No gluten (gluten-free) — For anyone following a gluten-free diet, the Paleo diet or just a low-carb diet, zoodles can be a lifesaver. Because they’re made without any wheat, flour or grains at all, zoodles are a good substitute for people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity/intolerance.
Uses for Zoodles: How to Make and Cook Your Own
Here’s some tips regarding how to make zucchini noodles: (4)
- Spiralizers, or mandolins in some cases, are the machines responsible for uniformly slicing and spiralizing zucchinis and other veggies into thin strands. Before making zoodles (or other types of veggie “noodles”), purchase a spiralizer of your choice, which can range in price anywhere from $7–$40 depending on the type (inexpensive, but still effective, spiralizers can be bought online or in bigger home/kitchen stores).
- Use about 1 medium, washed zucchini for every 1-cup to 1.5-cup serving of zoodles.
- Hold one end of the zucchini (don’t cut it in half in order to leave enough room for you to hold it) as you spiralize the other end. Be careful to watch your fingers near the blade, especially as the zucchini gets shorter.
- While they can be eaten completely raw, you can also cook your zoodles to soften them up. Use a nonstick skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil, coconut oil or butter on medium-high heat and then stir-fry the zoodles, tossing frequently. They will release water and cook quickly, so only heat them for 2–5 minutes for best results to avoid sogginess.
Zoodle Recipe Ideas
A great introduction to making and cooking with zoodles is to make a simple, Raw Zoodle Salad. This can be made with a number of raw vegetables you’ve got on hand, including cucumbers, radishes, red onion, etc. Coating the zucchini noodle salad mixture with a delicious, Homemade Avocado Dressing gives you a filling dose of healthy fat and serves as a good alternative to pesto sauce served over regular noodles — an entree that typically clocks in around 600–800 calories or even more when prepared at restaurants!
Other ideas for cooking with zoodles include:
- You could even add your choice of protein to it, like grilled chicken or fish, to make it more filling.
- Try coating zucchini noodles in a creamy red pepper sauce, hummus dressing or garlic and ginger sauce.
- Make chicken caprese salad served on zucchini noodles, made with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
- Toss your noodles with turkey bacon bits, hard-boiled eggs, other veggies and some of your favorite cheese.
- To increase your children’s veggie intake, hide some zoodles in their pasta. Zucchini is suitable for babies, toddlers and children since it’s soft, mild-tasting and easy to disguise in lots of different recipes.
Precautions/Side Effects with Zoodles
A small percentage of zucchini grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered, so to be safe it’s recommended that you try to purchase organically grown squash whenever possible. If you’re buying pre-made noodles, look for a label stating the product is “Non-GMO Project Verified.”
Because of the presence of oxalates, if you have untreated kidney or gallbladder problems, you might want to avoid zucchini or speak with your doctor first. Oxalate foods can sometimes complicate these issues due to their impact on calcium absorption within the body, so use zoodles/zucchini sparingly.
Final Thoughts on Zoodles
- Zoodles are strands of zucchini that are made into the shape of noodles.
- They’re very low in calories, low in carbs, gluten-free, easy to use in many recipes to replace regular noodles and quick to make.
- Benefits of zoodles include providing vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Try them mixed into pasta to add more bulk with few calories, coated with your favorite homemade sauces or added on top of salads.