Can you eat squash raw?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat squash raw?” and discuss what are the risks of eating squash raw.

Can you eat squash raw?

Yes, you can eat squash raw. Squash may be eaten raw or cooked. By cooking squash, the amount of vitamin C in the squash is reduced, while the amount of beta-carotene is improved. 

However, raw vegetables may be contaminated with microorganisms and parasites and must, therefore, be thoroughly sanitized (2).

What happens when you cook squash?

When you cook squash, in addition to the destruction of microorganisms, significant nutritional changes occur.

It is generally recognized by numerous studies that common cooking methods do not lead to significant losses of macronutrients, such as carbohydrate, protein, and fat, or of minerals. However, significant losses are observed by the vitamins, especially the water soluble and heat labile vitamins. By cooking vegetables, vitamin C is one of the most affected vitamins.

Chlorophyll is converted to its reacted forms by cooking. Chlorophyll and its derivatives are recognized as health promoters due to its antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activities and to help by reducing hypertension. By cooking, chlorophyll and its derivative forms are also lost (7).

Many studies showed that cooking increased bioavailability of certain carotenoids and the killing of harmful microbes. In addition, legumes and certain tubers contain enzyme inhibitors, particularly protease inhibitors, which reduce the effectiveness of certain pancreatic enzymes. 

Although cooking diminishes the digestibility of foods such as legumes by forming Maillard reaction products, it also inactivates enzyme inhibitors, thus enhancing its digestibility through a different mechanism. Cooking may help decrease the level of pesticides in or on vegetables. 

Cooking vegetables causes an increase in the soluble dietary fiber content of vegetables and tubers and a decrease in insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to decrease insulin levels. Insoluble fiber decreases fecal transit time and increases binding and excretion of carcinogens (1).

On the other hand, when a vegetable is cooked, its microbial load is reduced, thus decreasing the risks related to the consumption of raw products.

What are the risks of eating squash raw?

The risks related to the consumption of squash raw is of having a foodborne illness. Raw or slightly cooked vegetables, although having their taste and their nutrient contents preserved, acts as a potential source of various food-borne infections and disease outbreaks (6).

Common methods of cooking are sufficient to reduce the microbial contamination of food in most of the cases. The mild heat treatment kills vegetative forms of microorganisms, although is not severe enough to kill bacterial spores.

Consuming raw vegetables increases the risks of a foodborne illness significantly, and therefore vegetables must be properly washed and cooked prior to the consumption by susceptible people.

Possible symptoms of a foodborne illness are diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramping, fever, and headache. However, many individuals suffering from food outbreaks are asymptomatic (2). 

Who should not eat squash raw?

People who are particularly susceptible to foodborne diseases should not eat raw squash. They are not recommended to eat any raw vegetables. These individuals include the very young, the elderly, and the immune compromised, as well as pregnant women, cancer patients, diabetics and patients submitted to dialysis treatments.

Because their immune system is weakened, they have increased susceptibility to foodborne diseases. Vulnerable individuals have a greater than 100-fold increase in susceptibility of having an infection through  ingestion of contaminated food (2).

How to prepare raw squash to maximize safety?

To prepare squash to be consumed raw, squash must be properly washed and sanitized. In addition, the best hygiene practices must be followed regarding personal cleanliness and sanitizing of the utensils used. Effective hand washing using soap and running water is required prior to the food preparation.

To avoid cross-contamination between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods, these should be well-separated. Food-contact surfaces and equipment, such as containers should be cleaned thoroughly. 

Squash must be washed in running water. Sanitize the vegetables by soaking them in a mixture of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water for 5-10 minutes. Rinse the vegetables again with clean water to remove any remaining bleach residue (8).

What are the nutrients found in squash raw?

The nutrients found in squash raw are vitamins, such as A, B6, and C, in addition to fibers, and minerals like iron, zinc, manganese, copper and potassium (3,4). 

100 g of raw squash contains 39 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of sugar per medium yellow squash, according to the USDA nutrition database. Aside from that, there’s a tonne of vitamin E and beta-carotene and lutein in there, as well.

What are the health benefits of eating squash raw?

The health benefits of eating squash raw are related to its vitamins, especially vitamin C which is preserved when the vegetable is not cooked. In addition, it contains carotenoids, which are potent antioxidants.

Because of its role as a free radical scavenger, vitamin C found in zucchini has been hypothesized to have a preventive role in cardiovascular disease. Free radicals promote aging and the progression of chronic diseases and vitamin C has a neutralizing effect on free radicals (3).

The antioxidant properties of the carotenoids protect the body from free radical damage, decrease cognitive decline and maintain a strong immune system while also promoting a healthy range of body parts and tissues such as the mucous membranes, hair, and skin. Carotenoids exert protective effects against several kinds of cancers, in addition to benefits to vision and skin (5).

Other FAQs about Squash that you may be interested in.

Can you eat yellow squash raw?

How to preserve yellow squash

Can you eat kabocha squash skin?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat squash raw?” and we discussed what are the risks and benefits of eating squash raw.


  1. Link, Lilli B., and John D. Potter. Raw versus cooked vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev, 2004, 13, 1422-1435. 
  2. Lund, Barbara M. Microbiological Food Safety for Vulnerable People. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2015, 12, 10117.
  3. El-Sahar, El-Sayeda GE, Hala RA Sopeah, and Mona S. Almujaydil. Study the Effect of Different Levels of Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo L.) on the Biological Indicators for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Rats Fed High-Fat Diets. Food Nutr Sci, 2020, 11, 63.
  4. Summer Squash. University of Florida. 
  5. Arumugam, T., C. Lincy Sona, and M. Uma Maheswari. Fruits and vegetables as Superfoods: Scope and demand. J. Pharm. Innov, 2021, 10, 119-129.
  6. Choma, C., et al. Prevalence, characterization and growth of Bacillus cereus in commercial cooked chilled foods containing vegetables. J Appl Microbiol, 2000, 88, 617-625.
  7. Turkmen, Nihal, et al. Effects of cooking methods on chlorophylls, pheophytins and colour of selected green vegetables. Int j food sci technol, 2006, 41, 281-288.  

McGlynn, William. Guidelines for the use of chlorine bleach as a sanitizer in food processing operations. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, 2004.