Can you eat summer squash raw?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat summer squash raw?” and discuss what are the risks of eating summer squash raw. Summer squash is the juvenile fruit of the Cucurbita pepo plant, which belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. They’re a marrow squash variant. Cucurbits include cantaloupe and cucumber, which are both Cucurbits.

Can you eat summer squash raw?

Yes, you can eat summer squash raw. Summer squashes aren’t like other squashes. The seeds and skin are both soft and tasty. They are also known as “soft shell squash,” and they can be cooked or eaten raw. 

Unlike winter squash, which has hard seeds and a shell that must be removed, the entire squash is edible. Yellow squash and zucchini are the most common summer squashes.

What happens when you cook summer squash?

When you cook summer squash, the original properties of the vegetable change. The way and extent they change depends on the cooking method. In general, some nutrients are lost, especially the thermo-unstable vitamins and the plant tissue is softened.

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).

Studies conducted on various vegetables including gourd vegetables showed that total polyphenol content and antioxidant activity of the cooked vegetables could be higher or lower in comparison to fresh vegetables. 

Boiling and stir frying have been reported to reduce the total phenolic content but cause an increase in the free radical scavenging activity of the cooked samples of pumpkin (2).

What are the risks of eating summer squash raw?

The risks of eating summer squash raw is to have a foodborne illness due to the ingestion of pathogenic microorganisms or toxins produced by these microorganisms. 

In addition, the risk of consuming raw vegetables is of gastrointestinal issues due to the high levels of non-digestible carbohydrates, especially in the case of young children and elderly, who have non-optimal digestion capabilities. 

As a high fiber food, squash can cause diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal cramping, when consumed in large quantities by infants.

When should you not eat summer squash raw?

You should not eat summer squash raw when signs or deterioration of the vegetable are noticed. Wilting of the squash, red or white spots on the surface, rotting of the ends are some possible signs that the squash has been infected by fungus. Several notorious fungal pathogens are associated with Cucurbita species (3).

During storage, off-odors may develop resulting from the action of microorganisms. This leads to an increased bitterness of the vegetable after being cooked (7).

People who are particularly susceptible to foodborne pathogens includes people with primary immunodeficiency, patients treated with radiation or with immunosuppressive drugs for cancer and diseases of the immune system, those with acquired immune-deficiency syndrome and diabetes, people suffering from liver or kidney disease or with excessive iron in the blood, pregnant women,infants, and the elderly. These people should not eat raw vegetables, as they may be infected with pathogens (9). 

Squashes and fruit juices that contain non-digestible carbohydrates (fructose, sugar alcohols, pectins) may cause diarrhea, maldigestion and malabsorption of nutrients. Although these non-digestible carbohydrates are dietary fibers which may contribute to an improved health, they are not recommended for infants in large quantities (8).

What are the nutrients found in summer squash raw?

The nutrients found in summer squash are folate, potassium, and vitamins C and B6 and a high amount of vitamin A. Summer squash is a source of phenolic acids and beta carotene, which are potent antioxidant compounds and contribute to lower incidence for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, aging, and age-related degenerative processes (2).

How to cook spaghetti squash?

Summer squash can be cooked by steaming, boiling, baking, microwaving, stir-frying and included in the lasagna to be cooked. According to studies, pressure cooking and microwaving resulted in lower reduction of the antioxidant activity in the squash (2).

Before using, wash squash well with running water and trim the ends. Squash does not need to be peeled or seeded unless. 

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 summer squash raw?” and we discussed types of squash?


  1. Link, Lilli B., and John D. Potter. Raw versus cooked vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev, 2004, 13, 1422-1435.
  2. Baljeet, S. Y., Y. Roshanlal, and B. Y. Ritika. Effect of cooking methods and extraction solvents on the antioxidant activity of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) vegetable extracts. Int Food Res J, 2016, 23, 1531.
  3. Bognar, A. Comparative study of frying to other cooking techniques influence on the nutritive value. Grasas y Aceites, 1998, 49, 250-260.
  4. Summer Squash. University of Florida.
  5. Hunter, J.G. et al. Using and Storing Summer Squash. Clemson University. 2020.
  6. Molinar, Richard, et al. Summer squash production in California. University of California. 1999.  
  7. Mencarelli, Fabio, Werner J. Lipton, and Sharon J. Peterson. Responses of ‘Zucchini’ squash to storage in low-O2 atmospheres at chilling and nonchilling temperatures. J Am Soc Horticult Sci, 1983, 108, 884-890.
  8. Aggett, Peter J., et al. Nondigestible carbohydrates in the diets of infants and young children: a commentary by the ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. J pediatr gastroenterol nutr, 2003, 36, 329-337.
  9. Lund, Barbara M., and Sarah J. O’Brien. The occurrence and prevention of foodborne disease in vulnerable people. Foodborne pathog dis, 2011, 8, 961-973.

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