Winter Squash Lasts Long, Provides Major Health Benefits

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • The American Council on Exercise’s most recent newsletter offered a list of super foods that are readily available during winter. One of these honorees is winter squash. I have to admit that I haven’t tried winter squash very often, but plan on doing so during 2013. So what’s so appealing about winter squash?

    Lots of Nutritional Value

    According to Self’s Nutrition Facts, butternut winter squash has proven to be a great source of vitamin A (457 percent of the daily value per one cup serving), potassium (17 percent of the daily value), vitamin C (52 percent of the daily value) as well as a good source of niacin (10 percent of the daily value), folate (10 percent of the daily value), calcium (8 percent of the daily value) and iron (7 percent of the daily value). This vegetable is low-calorie (82 calories per one cup), fat free and cholesterol free.  Other varieties of winter squash have equally impressive numbers.

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    The George Matlejan Foundation, which is a not-for-profit foundation that has no commercial interests or advertising, reports that researchers have found that winter squash provides extremely high levels of key antioxidants, including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin. Furthermore, the starch content in winter squash actually has key health benefits. These squash have pectins that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.

    Many Types to Select That Have a Long-Storage Life

    There are several different types of squash, with each having a different texture, aroma and flavor that can be prepared using sweet or savory flavors.  Varieties include pumpkin, spaghetti squash, acorn squash and butternut squash. This vegetable, which is widely available until late winter, should have a hard tough rind that still has the stem attached.  Furthermore, you should pick a squash that is heavy for its size. Don’t pick one that has cuts, punctures, sunken spots or moldy spots on the rind, which are signs of decay. On the other hand, a tender rind is a sign that the squash is not ripe and, thus, lacks flavor. The George Matlejan Foundation suggests that it may be important to purchase the organic version of these vegetables since some studies have shown that winter squash can be an effective crop grown to remediate contaminated soils.

    Squash can be stored in a cool dry place for up to three months. Try to store the squash with part of the stem still attached in order to help it retain moisture.

    Easy Preparation

    Winter squash can be baked, boiled or steamed, according to Michigan State University’s Extension.  The fastest (and healthiest) way to prepare this type of squash is to steam it; to do this, make sure to peel, deseed and cube the squash. However, if you bake the squash you don’t need to peel it.  The MSU Extension recommends removing the ends of the squash and then halving it lengthwise down the middle. Pierce the squash’s meat a few times, place it in a pan, and then bake it until tender. After it’s baked, you can remove the seeds and skins.

  • In addition, the seeds are edible. The George Matlejan Foundation recommends separating the seeds from the pulp, placing them on to a cookie sheet, and then roasting them at 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes. This level of roasting minimizes the damage to the seeds' healthy oils, which is important since the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid as well as oleic acid (which is a type of acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for approximately 75 percent of the seeds’ fat.

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    American Council on Education. (2013). Beat cold weather blues with 5 winter superfoods.

    George Mateljan Foundation. (nd).  Squash, winter.

    Michigan State University Extension. (2012). Enjoy the taste and health benefits of winter squash.

    PA Nutrition Education Network. (nd). The month of October: Winter squash.

    SelfNutritionData. (nd). Squash, winter, butternut, cooked, baked, without salt.

Published On: January 17, 2013