7 Reasons to Eat More Winter Squash

If youíve been to a farmerís market recently, no doubt youíve seen the colorful tables full of winter squash. Itís an excellent time of year to stock up on this versatile vegetable and store some for winter. Squash can be steamed, roasted, or added to soups, stews and even pizza.

In addition to being plentiful and affordable, squash is also a nutritional powerhouse and has a wide range of health benefits. All the more reason to try some of those eye-catching gourds available at your local market.

1. Nutrient Density

Squash is likely most famous for its high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which gives squash its bright orange color. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that helps protect against aging, can prevent cancer and heart disease, and promotes healthy skin, vision, and immune function. Itís recommended to eat squash with a bit of healthy fat, such as olive or camelina oil, because beta-carotene and the other carotenoids in squash are fat soluble.

Many other nutrients are abundant in squash. A one-cup serving has about 400 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A. It boasts significant amounts of vitamins C, E, B6, niacin, thiamin and folate. The mineral content includes magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, calcium and iron. And squash is also a good plant-based source of omega-3 oil.

Perhaps best of all, a one-cup serving of winter squash only has 75 calories.

And donít forget to eat the seeds. Theyíre great separated from the pulp, then roasted on a cookie sheet in the oven at 160-175įF for 15-20 minutes. The low temperature will help minimize any damage to their healthy oils.

2. Asthma Prevention

The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume foods containing high amounts of beta-carotene. Also, research suggests that beta-carotene may help prevent exercise-induced asthma.

3. Bone Health

The vitamins and minerals in squash, particularly vitamin A, zinc, calcium and manganese, play an important role in the development and maintenance of bone matter and bone mineral density. Consuming adequate levels of these nutrients can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and has been shown to slow the development of osteoarthritis.

4. Cancer Prevention

The high levels of antioxidants in squash can reduce the risk of cancer by preventing free-radical damage to our cells. The nutrients in squash also boost out immune system and natural protection against cancers.

Studies at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii showed that beta-carotene and the other carotenoids in squash can help prevent the growth of cancerous cells. There is also evidence that a high dietary intake of vitamin A can lower breast cancer risk among pre-menopausal women with a family history of breast cancer.

Studies using purely synthetic beta-carotene supplements have often had inconclusive results on their effects against cancer. Some have even shown harm from over-supplementation. Whereas, the few studies available on the consumption of beta-carotene rich foods show much more definitive benefits.

5. Blood Sugar Regulation

The variety of B-complex vitamins found in squash are essential in the metabolic functions that regulate blood sugar. Squash also contains pectin, a type of dietary fiber that ensures the insulin and glucose activities in the body remain constant. These nutrients help prevent sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar, which can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or make the condition easier to manage in those who already have diabetes.

The high fiber in squash also assists with blood sugar levels in general. Studies have shown type 1 diabetics who eat high-fiber diets have lower blood sugar levels, and type 2 diabetics have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. A one-cup serving of winter squash has 24 percent of your daily recommended intake of dietary fiber.

The glycemic index (GI) of foods is another important aspect of blood sugar regulation. Foods with a high GI are absorbed faster by the body and can cause higher spikes in blood sugar. For instance, regular table sugar has a very high GI at 167. The GI of winter squash is 8, which means it has a significantly lower absorption rate and effect on blood sugar.

6. Neural Tube Development

Squash has high levels of folate, a vitamin essential for a fetusís neural development during pregnancy. Research has shown that folate can protect against the development of neural tube defects, specifically anencephaly and spina bifida. This makes squash an excellent vegetable to include in your diet during pregnancy.

7. Eye Health

Beta-carotene and vitamin A are both nutrients that are essential for eye health. High levels of dietary beta-carotene and vitamin A have been linked to reduced chances of macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.

Related
15 Vegan Squash Recipes for the Fall
10 Ways to Use Gourds and Winter Squash
Which Foods Have the Most Nutritional Bang for the Buck?

82 comments

Sonia M
Sonia M23 days ago

Good to know thanks for sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

thanks

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Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Good to know. Thanks.

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Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

What a useful article thanks. I'll point this out to hubby.

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Jessica K.
Jessica K2 years ago

Love all kinds of squash, interesting to hear about the calcium concentration. Thanks.

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Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez2 years ago

So love squash of all kinds. Will need to start preparing it more now that it is "fall" (temps for the rest of the week are to be in the mid 90's) is here! Thank you for the article! Yummmmm!

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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