Enjoy the taste and health benefits of winter squash
Summer squash lovers have no fear! Winter squash varieties are delicious, easy to store and prepare, and offer numerous health benefits that may help reduce the risk of many diseases.
September 24, 2012 - Author: Kris Swartzendruber, Michigan State University Extension
For those of us who love the taste and texture of summer squash have no fear! Fall harvest squash varieties are now available and the nutrients and health benefits that these vegetables provide far outweigh their summer cousins!
Squash varieties, harvested in the fall, are known as winter squash. Winter squash tends to include darker varieties such as pumpkin, spaghetti squash, acorn squash and butternut squash. Each type exhibits differences in shape, color, size and flavor but all have shells that are hard and more challenging to cut and/or peel – this allows winter squash to have a longer storage life.
Squash provides numerous health benefits that may help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart and respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis:
- High levels of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A
- Good source of Vitamin C
- Healthy source of fiber
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds
- Polysaccharides that help regulate and/or control blood sugar
Winter squash can be baked, boiled or steamed. Make sure the squash is rinsed under running water before it is peeled or cut. The quickest and healthiest way to prepare winter squash is to steam it. If you choose to steam winter squash, make sure it is peeled, the seeds are removed and it is cut into cubes; steaming time takes about seven minutes. If you decide to bake your squash, it doesn’t need to be peeled. Remove the ends and cut the squash in half, lengthwise down the middle. Pierce the meat of the squash a few times and bake in a pan until tender. The seeds and skin can be easily removed after it has been baked.
Don’t forget to save the seeds that you scoop out of your winter squash! Seeds are a healthy and delicious snack food and can prepared the same way as pumpkin seeds. Squash seeds need to separated from the pulp before baking. Lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 160 to 170 degrees, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.
For more information about winter squash, check out the following websites:
- American Institute for Cancer Research
- University of Illinois – “Watch Your Garden Grow”
- United States Department of Agriculture SNAP-Ed Connection